By Bob Behre
Jackson Smallets lined a hard single down the left field line to score Jack Mustaro with the winning run as Tri-State Arsenal edged the Diamond Jacks Super 11U, 12-11, in a wild 11U Diamond Nation Youth World Series championship game on Monday in Flemington, N.J.
Smallets, hitless in his first three at bats, watched as the Diamond Jacks intentionally walked Arsenal’s No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Tyler Wiltsey and Braeden Lipoff, to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Mustaro had driven in Eddie Rosado with the tying run on a long fly ball to the center field wall that the Super 11U’s Joey Dwek nearly hauled in for the final out. But the ball fell as Rosado, who started the rally with a one-out double to deep center field, raced home from third.
Diamond Jack coach Walt Cleary then elected to walk Wiltsey and Lipoff who were a combined 6-for-6 to that point, including a two-run home run by Lipoff in the first inning and a total of four RBI.
“I had confidence in Jackson in that spot like I have all year,” said Arsenal coach Ed Rosado. “He was a little under the weather today so we didn’t have him in center field. I told him to just relax and take a deep breath and he came through.”
Smallets was named the 11U Youth World Series tournament Most Valuable Player.
It was Dwek who lined a rope through the middle of the diamond with two outs in the top of the sixth to score Ian Grenda and put the Super 11U in front, 11-10. Grenda started the Diamond Jacks’ rally with a two-out double to straightaway center field. Derek Ray Escobar was then hit by a pitch. Dwek stepped in and jumped on a high fastball to deliver Grenda.
Tri-State Arsenal (5-1) had reached the final via a walk-off sacrifice fly in the semifinal that gave the South Jersey club a 3-2 victory over the White Marsh Warriors. The dangerous Warriors (2-3) had defeated both Arsenal and the Super 11U squad earlier in the tournament.
Arsenal and the Diamond Jacks (4-2) would put on a hitting light show in the middle of the afternoon at Diamond Nation, neither backing down.
The Diamond Jacks jumped in front, 8-2, on the strength of a five-run top of the third inning, in a rally that began with two outs and nobody on base. Logan Raghunath and Matt Diskin singled home a run apiece, Andrew Parisi doubled in a run and two runs scored on Arsenal errors. Parisi, in fact, had given the Diamond Jacks a quick 3-0 lead in the first with a laser that just cleared the right field fence for a three-run home run.
Lipoff answered for Tri-State Arsenal in the bottom of the first with a two-run, opposite field blast to right field. Then Arsenal went to work in the bottom of the third to erase the six-run deficit with a seven-run outburst that staked it to a 9-8 lead. Tri-State Arsenal sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning and had six hits, including RBI singles by Mustaro, Lipoff, Smallets and Matt Duphorn and an RBI double by Jason Bogart.
“When we were down 8-2 we talked about how we were down last year against the Diamond Jacks and came back,” said Rosado. “We said we’ve been in this situation before and we can come back.”
Arsenal extended its lead to 10-8 in the fourth when Wiltsey singled off the left field wall with two outs and scored from first on Lipoff’s hard grounder through the vacated shortstop spot on a hit-and-run. Lipoff’s grounder shot right through the gap to the left field wall.
The Diamond Jacks, however, tied the game at 10-10 in the fifth. Leadoff batter Sal Garcia started the inning by hitting a long rainbow to left-center that easily carried the wall for a home run. Dylan Wayne then drew a walk, took second on a wild pitch and move to third on a fielder’s choice grounder. Parisi then hit a deep fly to right field as Wayne tagged and scored easily to tie the game.
“Everyone in our lineup contributed in the tournament,” said Rosado, “whether it was a bunt, a squeeze or whatever way they could find to get an RBI. They did the job they’ve been taught to do.”
The two teams mashed all tournament. Tri-State Arsenal scored 63 runs and the Diamond Jacks Super 11U scored 62 runs in their six games.