ZT National Shows They Can Do It All on Opening Day of 2024 13U Champs

After posting a no-hitter and a 19-1 run differential in the team's opening two games, the sky is the limit for ZT National this week in Cary.

Beginning on Sunday, 16 teams began their quest at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., to hoist the crown at this year’s 13U National Team Championships. While there were plenty of the teams that impressed in an action-packed opening slate, none stood out more than ZT National Prospects.

Head coach Carlos Avila’s squad rolled to an 11-1 opening win over the East Coast Sox before taking Team Elite National down 8-0 in the following contest. Asked about how his team had been able to start the way they had following its second game, Avila explained how the buildup to 13U Champs NC had gone.

“We focused a lot leading up into this. We had about two weeks off, and we really just focused on the two-strike approach and hitting with runners in scoring position with less than two outs. It's been a big focus of ours leading into this. And I think those guys came out today and executed and just put the barrel on the ball and made the other team make plays.”

It’s been a balanced offense for ZT National so far in Cary. In the opener against the Sox, seven players had recorded RBIs. Only one notched more than one, with Tre Lawrence driving in three on a pair of hits. It was a similar story in the win over Team Elite, as four players sent scorers home and Noah Jarolimek tallied three of them.

The team approach has been the same on the mound for Avila’s squad, with five pitchers seeing action in 10 innings on Sunday. The first two, Jarolimek and Nathan Handley-White, combined to throw the third ever no-hitter at 13U Champs NC in the opening game.

Jarolimek went 3.0 innings before Handley-White closed the final inning, with the pair combining for three strikeouts.

It’s the second time a team has thrown a combined no-hitter during the tournament. ZT National was close in last year’s edition, allowing just two hits in an 11-0 win over the Lamorinda Titans.

After the opener, both Jarolimek and Handley-White noted that their fastball was something that had really worked for them. Jarolimek also spoke about how he was successful in painting the outside corners of the zone, while Handley-White liked how his changeup looked during his shift. Asked what starting off with a performance like that meant, Jarolimek hoped that the energy carries over.

“It feels great, because we can set the tone and keep the energy all the way through the tournament,” he said postgame. “Having high energy and being able to compete during every pitch, every moment in the game.”

That mentality was evident again in ZT National’s second game, as the trio of Henry Keunstler, Josiah Park, and Ivan Ortiz combined for five strikeouts while allowing four total hits over six innings. Following the 8-0 victory over Team Elite, Avila was effusive in his praise of the pitching staff.

“On the mound, we’ve just been dialed in today. It was really important for us to establish the fastball early in the count. We just went out there and pumped the zone, got ahead early, and just expanded the zone after that,” ZT National’s head coach explained. “Umpires did a great job today, very, very consistent behind the plate, which is helpful for us, and then just laying off speed pitches and mixing it up leads to a recipe for success. Got a lot of guys in and gave them opportunities to showcase their talents. That's what it's all about, just giving these guys opportunities.”

Whether or not Avila’s team keeps their scorching form at the plate and on the mound rolling will be key in how the rest of the 2024 13U National Team Championships plays out. Both the players and their head coach have full confidence in the squad to do just that. Handley-White likes ZT National’s bats to stay hot, while Jarolimek again emphasized having energy and the team taking care of their bodies. Avila agreed.

“These guys like to work. We’ve got a team lift later today, and then we'll go take batting practice after that. Same thing every day we go out, and we hit sometimes twice a day, if not every night,” Avila said. “Keeping them in the weight room, working out during our stretch of traveling. So super important to keep them busy at the end of the day while still giving them time to be kids, but just keeping them busy and making sure they're locked in and being good teammates at the end of the day.”