Wayne, Kozak, Gable guide DJacks to Slugfest crown

By Bob Behre | September 20, 2021

The fall season is still in its infancy and that shows in some of the inconsistent play we see at Diamond Nation as teams acquaint themselves with new teammates. The Diamond Jacks Super 15U squad, however, seems to be playing an advanced level of ball at the plate.

Using the loud and consistently lethal bats of Dylan Wayne, Joseph Kozak, Jayden Capindica, Anthony DeNora and a dugout full of fastball hunters, Super 15U smashed its way to the 15U Slugfest championship last night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Wayne had a single, double and triple and scored two runs in a 7-4 championship game victory over Baseball U. Pa.-Scranton while lefthander Brett Gable and righty Will Mahala combined on a one-hitter. Gable was terrific, stifling Baseball U. on no hits over five innings. He struck out nine and walked three but did allow two unearned runs.

Mahala closed out the final two innings, surrendering Baseball U. Pa.’s only hit, T.J. Mattia’s two-out RBI single to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Mahala allowed two runs, one of which was earned on one hit, struck out five, walked two and hit two batters.

Baseball U. Pa. actually brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh after Mahala plunked Jake Aftewicz with a pitch. But the Seton Hall Prep pitcher got Baseball U. Pa.’s No. 5 hitter to wave at a curveball on the outside corner for the final out and his third strikeout of the inning.

Gable, a freshman at Cherokee High School, touched 81 miles per hour several times, including on a two-strike heater for the first out of the game.

“The fastball is my strongest pitch,” said Gable. “My off-speed stuff was working well, too. My catcher (John Donahue) definitely set me up great. My curveball had better location than it’s had recently. I threw my changeup, too, to keep them off balance.”

Gable’s performance, as impressive as it was, could not completely overshadow the Diamond Jacks’ 11-hit attack. All 11 Diamond Jacks batters, in fact, made loud contact throughout the game and the Super 15U (4-0) outscored its four tournament opponents 48-14.

Wayne slashed a single to left field leading off the top of the first inning and that triggered a four-run outburst by the Diamond Jacks.

Capindica followed with a single to center field before a pair of wild pitches brought Wayne home. DeNora drew a walk and Mahala launched a deep enough fly ball to right to score Capindica with the second run. Donahue’s single through the left side scored DeNora and Kozak capped the inning with a two-out single to center field that brought Mahala home with the fourth run.

“I’m trying to keep my hands above the ball and drive it the other way,” said Wayne, who did just that on his triple to right-center in the third inning. “I’m just trying to see the whole field.”

Kozak, by the way, had a heck of a tournament and was named one of the three MVPs, along with Wayne and Gable. Kozak hit two home runs in the tournament, one over the fence and another inside-the-park. He also added three doubles, joining a group of Diamond Jack hitters whose hitting calculus seems to include decibel levels along with bat speed and exit velocity.

Dylan Wayne, Joseph Kozak and Brett Gable were named 15U Slugfest MVPs.

“I think we had at least 10 hits in every game,” said Diamond Jacks Super 15U coach Walt Cleary. “We must have had 14 or 15 in the semifinals.” The Diamond Jacks won that one 11-2 over Powerballers. “We’re getting real good at bats and making loud contact. That four-spot in the first inning was huge.”

Gable got two quick outs in the bottom of the first but a walk to DiMattia and a pair of infield errors produced a Baseball U. Pa. run. Gable really locked in from there, retiring nine straight batters while striking out six of them.

“Brett was dominating tonight,” said Cleary. “And I don’t think he had his best stuff. He has a great fastball-changeup mix. He definitely missed some bats. His pitches were moving and he was spotting up his fastball.”

Gable would have been out of the fourth with a 10th straight out but center fielder Capindica dropped Thomas LaCoe’s shot in the right-center field gap for a three-base error. It was a hard luck error for Capindica (2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs), who made a valiant dash into the gap, made a fine grab but couldn’t squeeze it for the out. LaCoe scored moments later on an infield throwing error, shaving the deficit to 6-2.

The Super 15U had tacked on a run in the third on Wayne’s triple to right-center and Capindica’s subsequent RBI single. And it added a run in the fourth on J.R.Rosado’s RBI double to left. Jake Yang had started things when he was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt.

Yang doubled home Joseph Barca in the sixth to extend the lead to 7-2. Barca had singled through the left side with two outs. Gable was robbed of an extra-base hit leading off the sixth courtesy of center fielder LaCoe’s fine running catch in right-center. Kozak followed with a hard liner to left but Tate Pentasuglio did a nice job preventing an extra-base hit.

Reliever Mahala quickly put Baseball U. Pa. in business in the bottom of the sixth when he walked Mattia and LaCoe around a plunking of Aftewicz. But Mahala bore down with the bases loaded and struck out the next two batters. He then hit Hunter Pentasuglio with a pitch to force home DiMattia and trim the lead to 7-3. Mahala got out of it from there.

Mattia (1-2, RBI, 2 runs) singled home a run with two outs in the seventh to break up the Diamond Jacks’ no-hit bid. Mahala then hit Aftiewicz with a pitch again before ending the game with a strikeout.

NOTES: There were two close scorekeeping decisions that may have been debatable. Wayne got caught between bounces on a grounder behind second base hit by LaCoe in the first inning. He had a possible force at second or a tough throw to first. And Mahala air-mailed a throw to first on Brock Pentasuglio’s lead off bunt in the seventh. Pentasuglio was close to beating it out.

… DeNora launched a no-doubt-about-it shot down the left field line in the third with a runner aboard. But the shot, well over the fence, was foul. He then patiently worked a walk. DeNora finished the championship game with two walks and a double in four at bats. … Baseball U. Pa.-Scranton (3-1) outscored its opponents 36-16.

Slugfest recaps

10U

NJ RENEGADES

The NJ Renegades defeated Uncommon Baseball, 16-8, in the 10U Slugfest championship game. The Renegades (4-0) outscored their opponents 55-17. Uncommon Baseball (3-1) held a 39-30 runs advantage on its opponents.

11U

SPORTIKA BASEBALL ELITE

Sportika Baseball Elite defeated Uncommon Baseball, 10-6, in the 11U Slugfest championship game. Sportika Baseball (4-1) outscored its opponents 50-40. Uncommon Baseball (3-2) held a 57-41 runs advantage on its opponents. 

13U

LONG ISLAND TITANS

The Long Island Titans defeated the Diamond Jacks Super 13U, 5-2, in the 13U Slugfest championship game. Ryan Yormack of the Titans was named the 13U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Titans (4-0) outscored their opponents 40-14. The Super 13U (3-1) held a 19-7 runs advantage on its opponents.

14U

DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 14U

The Diamond Jacks Super 14U defeated the Long Island Body Armor Titans, 3-1, in the 14U Slugfest championship game. Keith Mann and Luke Borgmann of the Diamond Jacks were named the co-MVPs of the 14U tournament. The Diamond Jacks (4-0) outscored their opponents 28-5. The Titans (3-1) held a 27-7 runs advantage on their opponents. 

16U

MA SHOW 2024 NATIONAL

MA Show 2024 National defeated the Diamond Jacks Super 16U, 5-2, in the 16U Slugfest championship game. Daviel Fernandez of MA Show was named the 16U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. MA Show (4-0) outscored its opponents 48-6. Super 16U (4-1) held a 34-15 runs advantage on its opponents.

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