By Sean Reilly
The Diamond Jacks Super 14s went into Sunday night’s final of the Diamond Nation 14U Grand Slam Tournament ready to pounce.
The 10-team tournament was divided into two pools, one with four and the other with six teams.
The Diamond Jacks were in the four-team pool, and won twice on Friday and again on Saturday to secure first place and a berth in the final.
Their championship opponent, Baseball U Anthracite from Pennsylvania, took a much different path. The six-team pool would have two winners, with those teams facing off in a playoff to decide the other spot in the title game.
Baseball U Anthracite began their weekend with two wins on a Saturday and then closed out pool play with a triumph over the Diamond Jacks 14U Gold. The teams then met immediately after in the playoff game, and Baseball U won again to make the final.
The result of all of that was a meeting between a well-rested Diamond Jacks Super 14U team and a Baseball U Anthracite squad playing a third game in five hours, leaving it low on energy and increasingly short on pitching.
“It’s hard,” noted Diamond Jacks Super 14 catcher Sandro Salomone. “They had two games against our Gold team and beat them, but we came here and were chilling, walking around Diamond Nation, got our rounds in and got BP before the game. It was an advantage, and we utilized it.”
But Baseball U Anthracite started strong, overcoming a double play to score three runs in the top of the first inning. The Diamond Jacks bats came alive, however, after a slow start to gain a 15-4 decision for the title in Flemington.
The Diamond Jacks scored seven times in the second inning and added eight more in the third to prevail in the four-inning game.
Salomone went 2-for-3 with five RBI, and Neo Diaz was 1-for-1 with a walk, hit by pitch and three RBI for the Diamond Jacks, which also got one hit and two RBI from both Tyler-Shea Corales and Luke Palermo. Tommy Denvir had a single and one RBI.
Baseball U Anthracite played all three of its Sunday games on Field 1 at Diamond Nation, and never had to leave the first-base side dugout. Its opener, at 4:30 p.m., was a 9-8 win over the Diamond Jacks 14U Gold. The teams had an immediate rematch in the semifinal game, and Baseball U moved on with a 1-0 victory.
The championship began around 8:50, and after a leadoff single followed by a double play, Baseball U got a walk and single from Cody Snyder, mixed in with a throwing error and stolen base, to put runners on second and third in the top of the first. The first run scored on a wild pitch with Jack Esposito at the plate. Esposito walked and stole second, and Mason Eckerd followed with a two-run double to right field.
The Diamond Jacks didn’t score in the bottom of the first, but Baseball U struck again by scoring on a first-and-third double steal for a 4-0 lead in the second.
After that, the Diamond Jacks took over. The seven-run second-inning included a two-run single by Salomone for a 6-4 lead.
Salomone added a single which scored three runs in the third as the Diamond Jacks pulled away. Diaz added a two-run hit in the inning.
The Diamond Jacks chose to give the tournament MVP award to the team. It was fitting after a well-balanced weekend, which concluded with hits coming from eight different players and three pitchers throwing in the four-inning final.
“After we got going, we wanted to just tack on runs,” Salomone said.