It can take a while for a team to unite in its effort to be a productive, winning entity. But the Diamond Jacks Super 14U team is showing an ability to shorten that time frame from weeks to days.
The Diamond Jacks built an early eight-run lead over Warstic Citius Blue and held on for a 9-5 victory in the 14U Spring Invitational championship game last night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The team’s longtime inspirational leader Austin Nace was named the 14U Spring Invitational tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Super 14U squad used dominant pitching and a lethal and deep lineup to cruise to the championship game where Warstic Citius Blue would provide its sternest test of the tournament.
The Diamond Jacks struck for four runs in the first inning, all with two outs, and four more runs in the second to build an 8-0 lead. Meanwhile, righthander Griffin Mills worked in and out of trouble to limit Citius Blue to two runs over the first three innings.
Will Ramsay delivered a two-run single and Justin Christensen followed with a ringing two-run grounds rule double down the left field line to stake Super 14U to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Mills, Ryan Jaros and Mark Giallus had set up the rally by drawing walks.
“We scored a lot of runs in the tournament,” said Super 14U coach Walter Cleary. “Our guys were swinging it real well.”
They continued to swing it well in the second inning when Mills helped himself with an RBI single, Jaros chased him home with a triple in the left-center field gap and Giallus and Robbie Carvelli followed with RBI singles.
“We’re coming together as a team pretty quickly, despite some new faces,” said Cleary. “We’re jelling. We really hit through the lineup this weekend.”
That was indicative in the long double to right field No. 10 hitter Rory Finn ripped leading off the four-run second.
Mills battled gamely the first three innings, though allowing eight hits and walking a batter. But Mills struck out eight Citius Blue batters and did so in a couple big spots.
George Krenkel, Michael Yeager and Jacob Ruiz opened the second inning with consecutive singles to the load the bases for Citius Blue, but Griffin wriggled out of the jam as he got the last two outs by strikeout.
Citius Blue struck for two runs off Mills in the third on Andre Modugno’s RBI triple and a one-out RBI single to right by Charles Battista. But Mills, again, minimized the damage. He stranded runners on second and third with a pair of strikeouts.
Caravelli’s RBI single through the left side boosted the Diamond Jacks lead to 9-2 in the fourth.
To Warstic Citius Blue’s credit it kept charging against the Diamond Jacks’ bullpen, striking for three runs in the top of the sixth to draw within 9-5. Citius Blue loaded the bases with no outs when Yeager drew a leadoff walk and Ruiz and Jake Sekinski singled. Nick Issa then drew a bases-loaded walk to force home a run, Erick Diaz singled to right to score another run. Modugno’s then hit a sac fly to left to shave the deficit to 9-5.
Modugno’s sac fly was actually a hard lined drive that left fielder Christensen had to reach high to snare and prevent further damage in the inning. Jaros, in his third inning of relief, got the next batter on a comebacker to short-circuit the rally.
Sekinski did a nice job in relief to keep Citius Blue in the game. The righthander allowed two runs on four hits over the final 3.2 innings. He struck out three and walked three.
Depth of arms proved critical to the Diamond Jacks’ fortune.
“We pitched well and didn’t allow many walks in the tournament,” said Cleary. “Our defense was strong. I don’t think we commit an error. We did have some miscommunication issues that we’ll work on.”
The Diamond Jacks (5-0) outscored their tournament opponents 57-7. Warstic Citius Blue (3-2) held a 44-28 runs advantage on its opponents.
Four other championships were contested during a busy weekend at Diamond Nation.
The Diamond Jacks 10U (4-0) squad nipped Landsharks Baseball Club (3-1), 2-1, in a 10U final pitting two teams that had dominated competition to that point. The Diamond Jacks outscored their opponents, 35-2 while Landsharks Baseball Club held a 44-6 runs advantage on its opponents.
NJ Renegades rolled to a 17-0 victory over Lincroft Lightning Blue in the 11U Spring Invitational championship game. The Renegades (4-0) outscored their opponents 58-4 while the Lightning held a 49-36 runs advantage on its opponents.
The Diamond Jacks Gold 12U survived a rollicking 10-9 affair with Blueclaws Baseball Academy in the 12U final. The Gold 12U (5-0) outscored its opponents 54-19 and the Blueclaws held a 38-14 runs advantage on its opponents.
Evoshield Canes-Scott edged the Northeast Nationals, 7-6, in the 13U Spring Invitational championship game. The Canes (5-0) outscored their opponents 55-20. The Nationals held a 49-27 runs advantage on its opponents.