By Bob Behre
It’s always gratifying to make a deep run in a tournament, be it on your home turf or on the road. It speaks to the success of your program.
The Diamond Jacks Super 15U team had flexed its baseball muscles locally this fall, building team chemistry and polishing skills along the way. Then the team flew south to Florida and proceeded to make a name for itself nationally.
Steered by consistently strong pitching and a deep and aggressive lineup the Super 15U went 5-1 to place third in a 56-team field at the WWBA Freshman World Championships staged at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach on Oct. 20-23.
“This team reminds me of our current Super 17 team, which has eight Division 1 kids,” said Super 15U coach Travis Anderson. “This team has a chance to be really good.”
The Super 15U was really good at the event conducted by Perfect Game, showing they were capable of winning in very different ways. They pitched two shutouts and came from behind to win two other games, one in walk-off fashion.
Matt Miceli gave the Super 15U a huge jump-start in the tournament when the righthander pitched a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over the Cangelosi Sparks. Miceli struck out three and walked two. Dom Carlucci went 3-for-3 with a double and drove in a run and Nick Czarnecki chipped in with an RBI triple.
In the team’s second of three pool play games; it was the bats that would prove the difference against Hit Factory PRO. Czarnecki stayed hot, going 3-for-3 with another triple and a pair of RBI as Super 15U mashed 13 hits on the way to an 8-4 victory. Chris Markovich was 2-for-3 with two doubles and drove in three runs. Alex Duffey and Haydn Strycharz each chipped in with a double.
The pitching was solid, too as Chris Maldonado and Tom Delany combined for the victory.
Righthander Matt Potok made sure the Super 15U would reach the playoffs by putting forth a remarkable pitching performance in a 1-0 victory over the Orlando Scorpions in the third and final game of pool play. Potok pitched a two-hitter, struck out eight and walked one in a miniscule 77 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. The game was played in a lightning quick hour and 15 minutes.
Robbie Ford set the game’s only rally in motion with a one-out single in the top of the third inning. Miceli stepped in with two outs and worked the count to 3-1 before ripping a double to score Ford from first base. “We had Ford moving on the pitch, he got a great jump and scored easily,” said Anderson. “We have great team speed and we take advantage of that as much as possible.”
The Super 15U squad found itself backed into a corner in its first playoff game as the Chicago Scouts Association struck for two runs in the first and three in the third to build a 5-0 lead. Worse, the score remained 5-0 when the Super 15U came to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
“This team doesn’t quit,” said Anderson. “They kept grinding.”
Delany led off the sixth and reached on an error. Carlucci was hit by a pitch with one out and Maldonado, igniting a fire, laced a double to score both runners and shave the deficit to 5-2. Markovich followed with a clutch single to chase Maldonado home with the third run of the rally.
But the Super 15U would still trail, 5-3, entering its final at bat in the bottom of the seventh, its tournament run facing extinction. “My kids were not scared,” said Anderson.
Potok led off with a single and scored on Delany’s one-out double. The Super 15U were within a run. But Ford made out before Carlucci came up with two outs and actually struck out on a ball in the dirt. But the ball got away, allowing Carlucci to reach first as Delany moved to third. Anderson, at that point, inserted the blazing Kyle Adorno to pinch run for Carlucci.
Miceli came to the plate with everything on the line and calmly ripped a double over the left fielder’s head. Potok trotted home from third with the tying run and Adorno raced home from first with the winning run. It was a scintillating 6-5 victory that epitomized the Super 15U’s gritty tournament performance.
Adorno and Duffey combined to scatter eight hits in the Super 15U’s 7-4 victory over the Louisiana Knights, a quarterfinal round playoff victory that sent the team into the semifinals. Adorno permitted two runs on five hits over the first 4.1 innings, striking out five and walking three. Duffy, who has earned the nickname “The Wiggler” from his teammates for his penchant for wiggling out of trouble, worked the final 2.2 innings. He permitted one earned run on three hits.
Adorno and Miceli each had two hits and a pair of RBI and Czarnecki had two hits and an RBI as the Super 15U build a 7-1 lead after three innings. Five of those runs came in the third when Adorno delivered a two-run single, Miceli ripped an RBI double and Maldonado tacked on an RBI single.
The Super 15U’s great tournament run came to an end in a 9-0 loss in the semifinals to Virginia-based Evoshield Canes. The loss ended a 10-game winning streak in Perfect Game tournaments for the Super 15U. The team lost its first two games in the 14U WWBA Perfect Game showcase in Georgia in August before winning its next five games.
The Canes would fall in the championship game, 6-5, to the North Carolina-based Dirt Bags Baseball. The Super 15U was the only team playing on the last day of the tournament with a roster of players all from the same state.
“Through the spring, summer and fall we played a lot of close games,” said Anderson. “And lot of those games we blew teams out late. This team is so fast and our pitching depth is really good with Potok, Maldonado, Miceli and Czarnecki, a very good lefty who was not available to us in the tournament.
“Finishing third was really cool. The kids did it. They deserve the credit. Now they have to continue to develop. They’ve had a great start to their high school years. They are a great group of kids. I couldn’t have asked more from them.”
(Matt Miceli's two-run walk off double in first playoff game)
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 15U ROSTER
Coach Travis Anderson
Coach Kevin Cust