UNION — Team Jersey Boyz an elite club baseball team, based out of Union is testing their abilities to compete among the nation’s best. Team Jersey Boyz has participated in some of the finest showcases the nation has to offer, ranging from Perfect Game to Jack Cust’s Diamond Nation. The Boyz started out their summer showcase campaign in May, where they captured their first Perfect Game title by winning the 2010 Northeast Memorial Day Classic in Bristol, Connecticut. In six games, they outscored their opponents 50 to 9. The offense was sparked by leadoff hitter, Joe Santoro, who batted .650 with 11 RBI’s and 1 HR. Santoro, who is headed to The Delbarton School in the fall, was awarded the Tournament MVP and the Championship MVP for batting 2 for 4 with 3 RBI’s.
After their success in Connecticut, the Boyz traveled back home to participate in Diamond Nation’s 2010 All-Star Tailgate Showcase in June. The Boyz had it tough right from the start with their first pool play game against their in-state rival, South Jersey Young Guns. However, the Young Guns’ offense proved to be no contest for the Jersey Boyz starting pitcher, Matt Littrell. The future Marist High School prospect threw a complete game shutout, striking out 7, surrendering only 3 hits and 2 walks. Littrell was awarded pitcher of tournament for his performance against the Young Guns, which lead to the team winning their division and ultimately winning the tournament. Other tournament accolades went to Jordan Scott of Piscataway and Mike Ionta of Westfield. Scott received MVP of the Tournament for his tremendous ability with the bat, in which his statistics were through the roof. He tallied 8 hits out of 13 at bats for a batting average of .615, and 5 of those 8 hits were composed of 2HRs, a 3B and 2 2Bs. As for the Westfield native, the gritty Mike Ionta was tabbed Championship MVP for his game changing 2 out bases clearing hit, that put the Boyz up 6 to 3 in the 3rd inning. Ionta’s base hit was the nail in the coffin for the Mustangs of New York, who could not recover as the Jersey Boyz cruised to a 15 to 4 victory. Ionta threw out 6 base runners and caught all 5 games in the tournament, in which 3 of them were in the last day.
The Jersey Boyz were riding high with their back to back showcase wins, only to be humbled in Staten Island for the Blue Chip Prospect Showcase were they placed 4th. Runs seemed to be a bit of a premium for the Boyz scored 17 and gave up 9 runs in the wood bat Great American Classic. However despite their short comings of another title, there were some highlights. Defense was the key, which ultimately led to the Boyz winning their pool and securing the number 2 seed. The Boyz starting rotation combined for 4 complete games, striking out 24 and only allowing 5 hits per game. Anchored by infielders Pat Sweeney (Lawrenceville), John Wetzel (Linden) and Chris Iocca (North Brunswick) the trio combined for 19 putouts with only 1 error. Not only did the slick fielding trio play defense but they combined for a batting average of .345.
After their humbling experience in New York, the time had come for the biggest showcase of their season, Perfect Game’s BCS Finals. The Boyz struggled with their first 2 opponents as they suffered from 2 losses on Day 1 from teams: Orlando Reds and #23 ranked Richmond Braves National. After their 0 and 2 start, the Boyz fate of making the championship bracket seemed a little bit further now for they needed to win their last game of pool play 1. The Jersey Boyz put their fate in the hands of starting pitcher Justin “Wojo” Wojciechowski (J.P Stevens) who leads the Team Jersey Boyz Organization in quality starts, complete games, shut-outs and no-hitters. Tensions were riding high with every pitch and every swing, but Wojo came in through the clutch against an elite Falcon Baseball Club of Miami, Florida. He threw a complete game, striking out 6 Falcons, allowing 3 hits, 3 runs and no walks. The 3-hit performance by the side arm hurler kept the Jersey Boyz hopes alive.
Later on that day pool play 2 begin, in which the Boyz from Jersey had to battle against the Mets from Dallas, Texas. In order for Team Jersey Boyz to stay alive they needed to win 2 of the 3 remaining pool play games. In Game 4 of the BCS Final Showcase, Alex Basualdo (Glen Ridge), Mark Venice (Seton Hall Prep) and Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) took on the responsibility in keeping that hope alive. The combined effort of the trio led to an 8 to 5 victory over the Dallas Mets.
On Day 3, the definition of the word team was seen in action. Team Jersey Boyz was running thin on pitching due to tired arms and injuries, but Joe Santoro (Delbarton) and Pat Sweeney (Lawrenceville) stepped up. Santoro and Sweeney pitched against the lineup of the Rhode Island Tides Baseball Club, which is one of the top 50 teams in the nation. In a combined effort they only gave up 5 hits to the Tide, while fanning 3 and walking 3. Although history has taught us that pitching and defense wins championships, timely hitting saved the day in this victory. In last the inning of the game they were down 2 runs, when John Wetzel (Linden) stepped up to the plate. The shortstop showed his patience as he drew a 5 pitch walk. Wetzel’s walk was followed by a triple from relief pitcher, Pat Sweeney who made the score 5 to 6 with the Jersey Boyz still trailing by 1. Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) was the next batter up, he had 2 hits already in this contest, in which dropped in a single between short and left scoring Sweeney from third. The score now tied with nobody out and Amaro on first, brought up the reliable, Mike Ionta (Westfield). Ionta dropped down a sacrifice bunt to put Amaro in scoring position, which brought up the Glen Ridge Product, Alex Basualdo to come up with a clutch base hit. And in walk off fashion, Basualdo drove the second pitch of his at-bat into the gap scoring Amaro from second. That win put Team Jersey Boyz in the championship bracket capturing the #8 seed.
On Day 4, Team Jersey Boyz faced their rivals from Tennessee, the Knoxville Thunder. The previous year they split to the Thunder in Cal Ripken’s Myrtle Beach, in which they lost in the championship game. However, Team Jersey Boyz was hoping for a different outcome in this playoff game. Mark Venice, an incoming freshman at Seton Hall Prep this fall, got the start against the team from the Deep South. Venice controlled the game from every aspect, from working out of jams to driving in 2 RBI’s. One of the directors from Perfect Game spoke about the Future Pirate when he stated, “That was the best pitched game I’ve seen in this tournament so far. A complete game shutout with 8 K’s, 2 hits, no walks, no runs. It just doesn’t get any better than that!”
Venice’s shutout carried Team Jersey Boyz to the Elite 8, where they were scheduled to face off against Tom “Flash” Gordon’s team which was called the Florida Flash. The Flash earned the # 1 seed in the tournament and is the #2 team in the nation. The duo (Joe Santoro and Pat Sweeney) from Day 3 took the hill together, however Sweeney got the start. Sweeney threw 3 solid innings of baseball, allowing 5 hits and 3 earned runs, while Santoro threw the last 3 innings, allowing 3 hits and 3 earned runs. This hard fought battle went down to the wire drawing in a crowd of over 100 people. Not a seat was empty in Terry Park Stadium as the score changed 6 times before the winning run crossed the plate. Team Jersey Boyz received contributions from everyone in the lineup, especially Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) who went 3 for 4. However, at the end of regulation play both teams were forced to imply the International Tiebreaker rule, which puts the last three hitters from the previous inning on base. Since Team Jersey Boyz was the lower seed, they were the away team so they had to bat first. The Jersey Boyz had Martin Tavares (Elizabeth) on 3rd, John Wetzel (Linden) on 2nd, Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) on 1st and Pat Sweeney (Lawrenceville) up at bat. At the moment of contact from Sweeney’s bat, everyone cheering for Team Jersey Boyz held their breath as he hit a tailor made double play ground ball to the 2nd baseman. The 2nd baseman flipped the ball to the shortstop for the force at second, but Sweeney beat out the throw for a fielder’s choice. As Sweeney was called safe at 1st base, Wetzel used his speed to score from second putting the Boyz up 12 to 10. After the 3rd out was made, it was the Florida Flash’s turn to hit. It was bases load with their 4 hitter up, who struggled all game, but he golfed a ball from below his knees into the gap clearing the bases and winning the game. Team Jersey Boyz was eliminated in the Elite 8, but out of 34 teams with 29 of them from different states, placed 6th overall.
After their heartbreaking loss in Fort Myers, Team Jersey Boyz regained that hunger which has led too much of their success. They have not lost a game since that day in Florida July 9th and are on a 9 game winning streak. This past weekend the Boyz traveled to Diamond Nation for the 2010 Anaconda Classic Showcase. In five games they had outscored their opponents 41 to 5. In Game 1, Mark Venice (Seton Hall Prep) hurled a 2 hitter, striking out 6, gave up 1 run and on the offensive he added a 2 run homerun. In Game 2, Joe Santoro (Delbarton) threw a complete game no-hitter. In Game 3, Wojo (J.P Stevens) threw 4 innings and a third, striking out 5 surrendering only 4 hits and got the win. As Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) threw an inning and two-thirds to earn the hold. In Game 4, Chris Iocca (North Brunswick) pitched a complete game, striking out 6 allowing only 2 hits, which led to him receiving pitcher of the tournament for his performance in the semi-final game. In the Championship Game, Mark Venice (Seton Hall Prep) threw 4 innings, striking out 3, allowing 3 hits and gave up 2 earned runs. However, Luis Amaro (Elizabeth) threw 3 innings of scoreless baseball to keep the game tied 2 to 2. The game went down to the wire as they won in walk off fashion from Chris Iocca’s game winning base hit. Amaro was honored with the Championship MVP for his scoreless performance on the mound, while Martin Tavares (Elizabeth) earned Tournament MVP for batting .500 (7 for 14) with a total of 8 RBI’s, in which he had an RBI in every game.
Team Jersey Boyz (43 wins and 8 losses) is coached by two brothers, Jose (age 22) and Nico Vargas (age 21) from Middlesex, New Jersey. The Middlesex natives have been with the organization since it was established in 2008, in which they have compiled an overall record of 152 wins 34 loses and 3 ties. Under the Vargas’ tenure they have won 9 championships, in which 2 of them were National Titles. Although Team Jersey Boyz has won many games, that is not reason why they play. The Team Jersey Boyz Organization was created to develop young students of the game to help attain scholarships and progress their academic studies. For the players of Team Jersey Boyz, a simple object as a baseball, is more than that to them. A baseball to them is a door way filled with opportunities which can lead to more success in their lives. If you would like know more about Team Jersey Boyz, look at their website www.leaguelineup.com/jerseyboyz or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team Jersey Boyz in Ft. Myers, Florida – Standing: Coach Jose Vargas, Coach Nico Vargas, Pat Sweeney (Lawrenceville), John Wetzel (Linden), Jordon Scott (Piscataway), Justin “Wojo” Wojciechowski (J.P Stevens), Alex Basualdo (Glen Ridge), Mark Venice (Seton Hall Prep), Coach Jason Martin Kneeling: Matt Littrell (Marist), Mike Ionta (Westfield), Luis Amaro (Elizabeth), Martin Tavares (Elizabeth); Joe Santoro (Delbarton), Coach Manny Vargas Not Pictured: Chris Iocca (North Brunswick) Photo by Wendy Santoro
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