Tournaments | Story | 10/22/2017

Diamond Jacks find way to Final 4

Bryan Cooney        
Photo: Perfect Game

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Offenses ruled the day at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Sunday at the WWBA Freshman World Championship, as the final four teams standing combined for 38 runs in their quarterfinal victories to march on to Monday’s semifinals.

One team had to fight to stay alive just to get into the quarterfinals, as the Diamond Jacks Super 15’s found themselves in unfamiliar territory in their Sunday opening round playoff game against the Chicago Scouts Association after going a perfect 3-for-3 in their pool play games. Defensive miscues gifted four unearned runs to CSA and the Diamond Jacks trailed 5-0 heading into the sixth inning, needing a big rally to keep their tournament going.

The Jacks pushed three runs across, all coming with two outs in the sixth inning to close the margin to 5-3, but still needed more in the seventh.

After drawing to within 5-4, The Jacks took full advantage of a batter reaching after a strikeout with the ball getting away that could have ended the game. Matt Miceli (2021, Branchburg, N.J.) would cash in on the opportunity by lining a game-winning two-run double that sent the Jacks to the quarterfinals. Miceli would again be in the middle of the action with two more RBI as the Diamond Jacks cemented their place in the semifinals with a 7-4 victory over the Louisiana Knights.

“We pride ourselves on usually playing some pretty good defense, but we kicked the ball around this morning and gave the other team runs and we were down in the dumps,” Jacks coach Travis Anderson said. “In that sixth inning, we got a little sense of hope and thought that we could do it. We got a fourth out to work with and our depth and team speed kicked in. We have done well late in games and finish games off strong.

“We did it in the morning at the end and we just spun that momentum into the afternoon.”

The Jacks had a tough task with the Knights in the early stages of the quarterfinal contest, as Josh Pearson (2022, West Monroe, La.) went the opposite way with a long double into the left field corner to put Knights ahead 1-0.

Nicholas Czarnecki (2021, Flemington, N.J.) would have the answer as his two-out single to right field scored Miceli to even the game up at one apiece.

After a Kyle Adorno (2021, Clark, N.J.) RBI single in the second inning forged the Jacks ahead, a five-run third inning gave the Jacks a comfortable 7-1 advantage, with Adorno again bringing in a run on an infield hit and Miceli’s two-run single to left being the big hits in the frame.

Adorno had a solid performance on the mound as well, as he would go 4 1/3 innings allowing two runs (only one was earned) while striking out five. Jacks reliever Alex Duffey (2021, Bernardsville, N.J.) wriggled in and out of trouble to lock down the Jacks’ spot in Monday’s semifinal.

Anderson knows that his club, as likely the case with the other three semifinalists, is low on pitching heading into Monday, but knows his kids will have fun trying to piece it together to be the last team standing at the end of the day.

“We’re playing with house money at this point, Anderson said. “The other teams are going to have to try and do the same thing. The kids are pumped to live another day and we will see what happens in the morning.”

The Jacks will have another tough opponent in that semifinal in the Canes Black 2021’s, who hung on for a 4-3 victory in the first round of the playoffs before busting out 11 hits and 11 runs in an 11-6 quarterfinal victory against the US Elite 2021’s.

Brayden Luikart (2021, St. Joesph’s, Mo.) worked 4 1/3 quality innings, striking out six to pick up the victory in the morning contest. His Canes’ teammates came out swinging in the afternoon as they manufactured two first inning runs before tacking on five more in the second inning with Luikart’s three-run triple into the right field corner being the big blow.

The Canes would add another run in the third and push three more runs across in the fourth as Austin Pounce (2021, Chesapeake, Va.) and Ryan Williams (2021, Kansas City, Mo.) would collect RBI hits. The pair each drove in two runs on the afternoon for the Canes, who, despite committing five errors in the game, were able to seal their berth in Monday’s quarterfinals.

On the other side of the bracket, the top-seeded Dirtbags continued their run of fine play Saturday by earning a 6-2 victory over the Diamond Skills Dodgers in round one of the playoffs. They then broke out the bats again as they scored all 10 of their runs in the first four innings to defeat FTB Tucci Black 15u, 10-2, in five innings to forge their way into the semifinal round.

Carson Kelly (2021, Sanford, N.C.) tossed six strong innings in the early contest, striking out six to pick up the victory. In the second contest, Dirtbags leadoff man Tommy Hawke (2021, Oak Island, N.C.) led off the game with a triple the opposite way to left-center field and came into score on a steal of home to open the scoring.

The Dirtbags were far from finished as Dylan Hatfield (2021, Vinton, Va.) brought in another run on a sacrifice fly with Jacob Cozart (2021, High Point, N.C.) bringing in two more runs on a booming triple to right-center field to put the Dirtbags on top, 4-0, in the first.

After adding on two more runs in the second, the Dirtbags hung up three in the third and one more in the fourth with Mason Albright (2021, Thurmont, Md.) crushing a two-run triple to dead center in the third and Cozart bringing in another run on an RBI hit in the fourth.

In the midst all of the offense, Carter Holton (2021, Guyton, Ga.) was equally impressive on the mound as the lefthander scattered three hits while surrendering two runs, striking out 10 batters in the complete game effort.

The Dirtbags will take on 5 Star National Gold in the other semifinal matchup, as 5 Star got a combined two-hit shutout from Matthew Anderson (2021, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) and Colton Webb (2021, Lagrange, Ga.) in their 4-0 victory over Gatorball 15u and ran out to a 9-0 lead after three innings on their way a 10-2 defeat of DBacks Langley Blaze in the quarterfinals.

Treyson Hughes (2021, Valdosta, Ga.) had a huge hit in the second inning. After 5 Star had pushed across a run to take a 1-0 lead, Hughes sliced a fly ball that landed just inside the left field line for a double that cleared the bases to give his team a 4-0 lead.

5 Star would score five times in the third, with RBI singles coming off the bats of Brodie Chestnutt (2021, Wray, Ga.) and Gage Carter (2021, Jacksonville, Fla.). Ethan Campbell (2021, Youngstown, Fla.) capped off the inning with a two-out, two-run single to right field.

Nine different players accounted for 5 Star’s 12 hits for the game, and Landon Tucker (2021, Lagrange, Ga.) drove in the clinching run on an RBI single to send 5 Star on to Monday’s action. Miguel Denson (2021, Tampa, Fla.) went four innings and surrendered just one hit for 5 Star National to pick up the win on the mound.

The title game at the WWBA Freshman World Championship will begin 30 minutes after the completion of the event’s two semifinal games, which will begin at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning.

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