By Bob Behre
The Diamond Jacks Super 16U squad had already limited four Fall Invitational opponents to six runs, so it needed one more strong pitching performance to close out what would be a memorable championship run.
That memory would become the front-and-center variety after righthander Chris Maldonado, a freshman at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, N.J., struck out eight All-Out Pack batters and walked one on the way to a no-hitter and a 3-0 victory. The whitewashing by Maldonado secured for the Super 16U squad the 16U Fall Invitational championship on Sunday at Diamond Nation.
“Chris was attacking the zone,” said Super 16U coach Travis Anderson. “He just filled it up, going strike one on every guy.”
Maldonado threw just 70 pitches, 50 of which were strikes, in the seven-inning effort. Besides the walk, two other All-Out runners reached base on Super 16 errors. But that was it as the Diamond Jacks capped a 5-0 tournament run with yet another dominant pitching effort.
Tom Delany’s gritty effort got off the Diamond Jacks off to a good start in the team’s Fall Invitational opener against Wladyka Baseball. Delany (Princeton High) struggled with his fastball in the early going, but gutted through five innings in which he allowed just one run on two hits. The righthander struck out seven and walked five in a game the Diamond Jacks would hold on to win 4-3.
“Tom has a good slider and he got his fastball command back in the third-through-fifth innings,” said Anderson. “He just did a better job making adjustments.”
Andrew Rubayo (Montgomery) toed the rubber next and pitched a six-inning complete game as Super 16U defeated Baseball U North Jersey, 10-2. Rubayo had two strikeouts and induced a pair of double plays in a tidy 79-pitch performance. “Andrew simplified things by going to the stretch and really did a good job locating the ball at the bottom of the zone,” said Anderson.
Matt Potok (Jackson Memorial) and Robbie Ford (Newton) combined to shut out Jersey Boyz Baseball, 3-0, in the third game of pool play. Potok allowed just two hits and struck out three batters over the first four innings and, as Anderson said, “was never in trouble.” Ford closed out the victory with three more scoreless innings of work. “Robbie looked real good, too,” said Anderson.
Matt Miceli (Somerville) took the ball for the semifinal opposite Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy Prospects and did not disappoint. Miceli worked the first four innings and combined with Matt Smoke (Bridgewater-Raritan) to strike out 11 batters. That important victory set up Maldonado for the championship crescendo.
Maldonado and Nick Czarnecki (Hunterdon Central) were named co-Most Valuable Players of the 16U Fall Invitational. Czarnecki, Alex Duffey (Seton Hall Prep) and Dom Carlucci (Seton Hall Prep) provided the big bats for the Super 16U squad, which outscored its tournament opponents 24-6.
All-Out Pack, not just a frequent visitor but a frequent winner at Diamond Nation, went 4-1 in the tournament and outscored its opponents 34-13.