Brian Quebec’s supplied the first RBI single of the game for Diamond Jacks 16U Gold.
By Rich Bevensee
When it comes to describing the thrill and pressure which comes with pitching in a tight ballgame, Diamond Jacks 16U Gold southpaw Nolan Fuller may have said it best.
“Obviously the adrenaline is running because you’re trying to shut the door,” Fuller said. “One-run games are so much fun. It’s fun to beat a team 10-0 but when you can pull out those one-run games it shows who you are as a team.”
The Diamond Jacks and Jersey Boyz Baseball showed plenty of character in a splendidly pitched game on Saturday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Justin Silvius and Fuller combined for a four-hitter over seven innings while three Jersey Boyz pitchers allowed just five hits in a contest where a loss would be hard to swallow for either team.
Fuller’s two-out RBI single in the top of the sixth inning provided an insurance run for the Diamond Jacks and proved to be the winning run in a 3-2 victory in the 17/18U Wood Bat division of ‘The Nation’s’ Fall Brawl Tournament.
“Winning a one-run game is about toughness,” Diamond Jacks coach Chris Brown said. “It takes guts, it takes timely hitting, and it’s usually a two-out, RBI hit in a one-run game that makes the difference.”
The starters for each team were tremendous.
The Gold 16U’s Silvius, a right-handed sophomore at Notre Dame in Bethlehem, Pa., allowed two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts in 5⅔ innings. More importantly, he did not allow a single walk.
“Justin was awesome,” Brown said. “The story of the game is zero walks. You don’t give free passes, you’re gonna give yourself a chance to win.”
Silvius, a 5-11, 140-pound righthander, utilized a five-pitch arsenal to slow the Jersey Boyz – a fastball, curveball, change, cutter and splitter. He said he has a slightly different approach to pitching in a close ball game compared to his teammate Fuller.
“I don’t worry about the score. I just go inning by inning,” Silvius said. “It’s harder to do that in a close game but you gotta try to block it out. When it’s close, I just try to throw strikes and get us out of the inning.”
Jersey Boyz right-hander Noah Kasper, a senior at Morristown-Beard, was equal to the task in terms of quieting a usually lethal Diamond Jacks lineup.
Kasper, firing a fastball in the low 80s as well as a changeup and curve, allowed two earned runs on two hits with eight strikeouts. Perhaps his undoing was his three walks and three hit batsmen. Two of the batters he hit eventually scored.
“My curve was kind of working especially on two-strike counts, but I got a little out of it with the four seam so I went with the two seam,” said the 6-1, 165-pound Kasper. “Today I was just off a little bit. I’m usually more on that. It was kind of an off-day.”
Kasper got some big-time help from the Jersey Boyz bullpen. A.L. Johnson freshman Brody Gulbin pitched two innings and surrendered one run on two hits and a walk with three strikeouts. His older brother, Jackson, a senior at Johnson, pitched the seventh and permitted just one hit and struck out two.
The game’s most crucial moments occurred when Silvius handed the game over to Fuller with two out in the bottom of the sixth. The Jersey Boyz had just scored to make it a one-run game when leadoff man Jaden Carpien (Scotch Plains) cracked a one-out double, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
Silvius got a strikeout for the second out but committed a throwing error on Jackson Gulbin’s tapper, allowing the potential tying run to reach. Fuller took over for Silvius and Gulbin stole second and third. After hitting Alex Acosta (Rutherford) with a pitch to put the go-ahead run aboard, Fuller got a check-swing strikeout to escape further damage.
Fuller returned for the seventh and struck out the side to earn the save.
“My two-seam was working in the pen so I figured I’d work that. Two- or four-seam, whichever was working,” Fuller said. “The slider was working, too. I was trying to get ahead with the fastball early, and then occasionally get over my slider.”
The Diamond Jacks drew first blood in the top of the first when Chase Koplitz was hit by a pitch and eventually came around to score on a Brian Quabeck single.
The Jersey Boyz tied the game in the bottom of the first when Jackson Gulbin blasted a triple to right center and scored from third when Acosta reached on a two-out error.
Fuller was hit by a pitch in the third and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-1 Diamond Jacks lead. Fuller figured into the scoring again with his two-out RBI single in the sixth.
The Diamond Jacks Gold team finished 2-1 for the weekend after bowing to Complete Performance Baseball 9-0 in their Saturday doubleheader nightcap.
The Diamond Jacks beat Prospects Baseball Academy, 5-4, on Friday evening, prompting coach Brown to congratulate his team on their mental toughness after the one-run victory over the Jersey Boyz.
The Jersey Boyz enjoyed competitive games in all three weekend contests but left Diamond Nation without a W. They lost to Complete Performance 3-1 on Friday, and got swept by the Diamond Jacks program in their Saturday doubleheader. Following the loss to the 16U Gold team, the Jersey Boyz fell to Diamond Jacks Super 16U, 4-1.