Nate McGann belted a two-run HR to boost the Diamond Jacks Super 11U over Ridgewood Raiders.
By Rich Bevensee
Shortly after the Diamond Jacks Super 11U flexed its offensive muscles and steamrolled their way to a mercy-rule victory, coach Jairo Labrador was quick to point a spotlight on an early defensive gem, since it may have been overshadowed by the scene of all those Diamond Jacks racing around the bases.
Ridgewood Raiders Black, making its first tournament appearance of the season, hoped to send a jolt into the hosts when the game’s second batter, Nolan Semeniak, ripped a double to center field and spied center fielder Ian Peras chasing the ball to the wall. Semeniak never broke stride as he turned for third, but a perfect pair of relay throws, from Peras to shortstop Logan Koziupa to third baseman Ryan Nigro, cut down Semeniak.
The Diamond Jacks dugout exploded, and that was pretty much the end for the Raiders.
Riding high from that terrific defensive play, the Diamond Jacks scored 10 runs in the second inning and raced to a 15-1 pool play victory in three innings in the King of the Diamond tournament on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“This is a group that has been getting better and better and better,” Labrador said. “I told the boys the most important thing about that game was not the score. It was that relay play in the first inning. Everybody knew what they were going to do with the ball. To me, that showed they’re involved because they wouldn’t have done that Week 1.”
It wasn’t too long after their defensive gem that the Diamond Jacks went to work with the bats. They scored four runs on four hits in the first inning and the highlight was Nate McGann’s two-run home run to left field. McGann, who chalked up his first homer of the season after hitting 15 last spring and summer, also walked and was hit by a pitch.
“When you finally hear it off the bat and your hands won’t rattle, you know it’s going,” McCann said. “You just keep your head level and swing as hard as you can. You know by the sound of the bat that it’s gone.”
Also in the first inning, Koziupa doubled and scored, Tim Donohue had an RBI double and Jack Suarez singled in a run.
The Raiders nibbled back in the top of the second when Mickey Sanfilippo walked, reached third on a Maxwell Medina double and scored on a wild pitch.
That was the only run allowed by Diamond Jacks hurler Tyler LaGanga. He surrendered two hits, two walks and a hit batsman and struck out three in three innings.
“It’s a good mindset to know that if you give up a run, your team has got your back,” LaGanga said. “Knowing we can score a lot of runs gives me confidence going into the next inning.”
Medina was cut down at the plate not long after Sanfilippo scored when he rushed home on a wild pitch. McGann, the Diamond Jacks catcher, alertly scrambled after the ball and flipped to LaGanga covering home to nail Medina.
The Diamond Jacks broke open the game in the bottom of the second by sending 15 batters to the plate and scoring 10 runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batters.
The big blow in the second was Suarez’ two-run double which gave the Diamond Jacks a 10-1 lead. Nino Sivio batted twice in the inning and collected two hits and an RBI and scored twice. LaGanga had two hits and scored once in the inning. Koziupa, Nigro, Donohue and Josh Labrador all drove in a run in the big rally.
Later on Sunday, the Diamond Jacks eventually fell 8-7 in the semifinals to the Warrior Baseball Academy, the eventual tournament champions. The Diamond Jacks are 5-3 on the season at Diamond Nation.