Silvius’ four strong, big bats guide DJacks Gold 16U in Super 17 World Series

By Bob Behre | July 27, 2023

Owen Melchione scores winning run for Diamond Jacks on a double by C.J. Banos.

An aggressive approach at the plate and the steady arm of Justin Silvius proved plenty as the Diamond Jacks Gold 16U defeated Complete Performance Baseball Academy Blue, 9-1, in the Super 17 World Series on Thursday morning.

Silvius surrendered just one run on three hits over four innings, striking out four and walking two. More importantly, he kept the Gold 16U in position to win the game as Complete Performance’s Matt Bond was also quite vexing.

“I switched my fastball grip to get more movement,” said Silvius, a rising junior at Notre Dame (Pa.). “My spin rate with it was low, so I had to try something. My curveball started well. I just made simple changes and pretty much stayed with those two pitches.”

Bond shut out the Diamond Jacks over the first three innings, enabling his team to strike first with a run in the top of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead. Bond did allow two runs in the bottom of the inning as the Diamond Jacks took a 2-1 lead, but both of those runs were unearned courtesy of an infield error that triggered the rally.

Bond permitted five hits and no earned runs over four innings, striking out seven, walking none and hitting a batter as he utilized a tantalizing sweeping curveball. But when Complete Performance turned the game over to its bullpen, the Gold 16U feasted, striking for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 9-1 lead and end the game via the 8-run mercy rule.

“We had good at bats early,” said Diamond Jacks coach Chris Banos, “even though their guy was doing a great job on us. I thought our approach was still good and that showed when we eventually broke through.”

Nolan Fuller started the two-run rally in the second with an innocent grounder to shortstop that was mishandled. Fuller stole second and reached third on Owen Melchione’s one-out single to left field. He’d score the tying run shortly after on a wild pitch. Melchione, who had stolen second, took third on the wild pitch.

C.J. Banos, who had a terrific all-around game, then guided a fielder’s choice bouncer to the right side to score Melchione and put the Diamond Jacks in front, 2-1. Banos also made a couple nice plays at third base, including a nifty backhand and throw to get Complete Performance’s Ewan Colgan for the first out of the second inning.

Prior to the Diamond Jacks big rally in the last of the fifth, Silvius and reliever Ryan Ciesla would each get out of sticking situations in the fourth and fifth innings.

Matt Dunphy drew a one-out walk for Complete Performance in the top of the fourth and Austin Blessing followed with a bloop single to right field. Colgan then hit a bouncer over third base and into left field for a single that scored Dunphy from second with the game’s first run. But Silvius induced Bond to hit a bouncer toward the middle. Shortstop Noah Mednick snared it, stepped on second and fired to first to barely get Bond for an inning-ending double play.

“Justin did a good job,” said coach Banos. “All their hits were singles, he threw strikes and gave us a chance.”

Ciesla wasn’t hit hard in his one inning of work, but found himself in a pickle courtesy of Drew Geerlof’s infield single, Nick Caruso’s bouncer over third base and the two-out walk he issued to Max Zisa to load the bases. But the rising Somerville junior got the next batter to bounce out hard to first baseman Luke Hahn (Princeton Day) to escape the threat.

With Bond exiting after four strong innings of work, the Diamond Jacks jumped on the Complete Performance pen to wrest control of the game.

Justin Silvius, left, and Jesse Allen played major roles in the Diamond Jacks Gold 16U victory.

Jesse Allen, who had singled in his first at bat in the third, kicked off the rally in impressive fashion, slashing a triple to the gap in left-center field.

“Two games ago, we faced a kid throwing in the upper 80s,” said Allen, a rising junior at Hunterdon Central. “We weren’t aggressive that game and coach Banos wanted us to get in an aggressive mindset. I only saw two pitches today. Two first-pitch fastballs. I was focused on staying on top and being direct to the ball.”

Allen rocked both of those offerings and set his team up for a big fifth inning.

Mednick followed with a single to right that scored Allen to extend the lead to 3-1. The shortstop from Jefferson then stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch. Leadoff batter Chase Koplitz drew a one-out walk and Liam Coyle reached on a third strike that got away.

That’s when the fireworks began.

Fuller (Easton, Pa.) singled to right for another run, then Evan Shak, the catcher from Nazareth (Pa.), unloaded a two-run triple down the right field line to suddenly put the Gold 16U ahead, 7-1. Melchione (Somerville) then torched a shot to straightaway center field that went for an RBI triple to put the Diamond Jacks within a run of ending the game via the mercy rule.

Banos stepped in and, like many of his teammates, didn’t waste time. The rising Somerville junior jumped on the first pitch and lined it into the left-center field gap as Melchione trotted home with the game-ending run.

The Diamond Jacks Gold 16U concluded the Super 17 World Series at 3-0-1 and having outscored its opponents 25-8. The undefeated record and low run count gives the Gold 16U a chance to finish in the top five in the standings, which would qualify the team for the Super 17 Top 25 Tournament on Aug. 14-18 at Diamond Nation. Complete Performance ended its week at 1-3.

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