By Rich Bevensee
From the first pitch of the game, when Daniel Millison whipped a triple into right center field, it seemed 3Up3Down was primed for revenge.
The 10U ballclub lost a slugfest to Renegades Blue a day earlier and were wasting no time in revving its offensive engine.
But the Renegades were not intimidated, not after averaging over 13 runs per game this weekend. The Yonkers, N.Y.-based program simply answered the challenge by swinging a few big bats of their own.
Roger Rodriguez doubled twice, tripled and drove in three runs, four teammates collected an extra base hit, and Renegades Blue flexed its collective muscle in a 13-6 victory in the championship game of the 10U Halloween Mash tournament on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“It’s just amazing to watch these kids hit,” Renegades coach Marvin Rozon said. “I practice with them two or three times a week, and it’s all about hitting. I tell them, put a good swing on it and the ball’s gonna fly, especially with these bats nowadays.
“We actually had two players missing today, but 1 through 11, every one of them can hit. And half of these kids are 9 years old, so it’s amazing to see these ballplayers grow and play.”
It’s the first title for the Renegades this year. The team’s only other appearance in a Diamond Nation final occurred last month when it lost to Dream Chasers Academy in the Fall Classic.
“Last time we came here (in a final) we lost to a great organization, so this means a lot to us,” Rozon said.
Rodriguez, who was also the winning pitcher after surrendering four earned runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“The championship is very important because we’re happy and it makes us better friends. We can all bond together after this,” Rodriguez said.
The Renegades, who defeated 3Up3Down, 14-10, a day earlier in pool play, averaged 13.5 runs through four games this weekend.
Of their 11 hits in the final, eight were for extra bases. Ryan Calderon was 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and two RBI. Sam Tukhin was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Cole Rothstein tripled and scored, and No. 9 hitter Ryan Campbell doubled and scored.
“Their 1 through 9 can hit the ball. There’s no weakness in their lineup,” 3Up3Down coach Matt Burkhart said. “That’s tough at this age. Usually when you get toward the bottom of a team’s lineup, especially with a good pitcher, you can kind of mow through it. You can’t do that with them.”
Rodriguez, the Renegades’ leadoff man, was relentless. After reaching on an error and scoring in his first at bat, he had an RBI triple and scored in the second inning, he had an RBI double and scored in the third inning, and he doubled and scored in the fifth inning.
“All I’m thinking is, make contact and score the run that’s on the bases,” said Rodriguez, who said his dad (also named Roger) taught him how to hit. “He said hit the ball, have contact and have power.”
Burkhart’s son Logan got 3Up3Down on the board with an infield RBI single in the first, as Millison beat a throw home after a chopper to third.
The Renegades quickly countered with two runs in the bottom of the first. Calderon drilled a grounds-rule double to center to tie the game, and Tukhin gave the Renegades the lead for good when he plated Calderon with another double.
The Renegades posted a five spot in the second inning for a 7-1 lead, with Rothstein’s triple and Rodriguez’ first double serving as the big blows.
Millison knocked an RBI double in the third to spark a three-run rally for 3Up3Down. Gabriel Banas added an RBI single to bring their team to within 7-4.
Rodriguez continued his offensive onslaught in the bottom of the third by belting an RBI double and later scoring on a passed ball for a 9-4 Renegades lead.
3Up3Down scratched out its final runs in the fifth, as Callan Merritt scored on an infield error and Liam Good plated him with a fielder’s choice.
Calderon keyed the final Renegades rally with an RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth. Tukhin singled him home and later scored on an error, and Gabriel Olivo tacked on an RBI single.