Bakes Brewers made their very first trip to Diamond Nation count in a big way, nailing down the April Fool’s 9u Tournament championship on Sunday afternoon.
The team from Wall Township came into the tournament hot but had to survive a high-profile battle in the championship game with an impressive NY Dynasty Elite 9U squad that had permitted just one run in its first three games of the weekend.
“They were a very strong team and their pitcher was phenomenal,” said Brewers coach Jeff Baker. “He was throwing hard.” NY Dynasty Elite (3-1) had outscored its first three opponents 37-1.
The Brewers (4-0) were limited to five hits but made them count. Tournament Most Valuable Player Tyler Baker, the coach’s son, got the noisiest hit of all, a triple over the right fielder’s head leading off the game. The triple would trigger a three-run top of the first inning rally and send the Brewers to a 7-3 victory and the championship.
Baker was terrific on the mound, as well, limiting NY Dynasty Elite to three runs while striking out five in a tidy complete game effort. “Tyler was lights out,” said coach Baker. “He threw 70 percent strikes. He was pounding the zone.”
The Brewers No. 2 hitter, Tyler Ballard, singled home Baker in the first inning and finished with two hits in the game and six hits in the tournament. Baker, who had two hits in the final, failed to reach base in just one tournament at bat. “They are a fearsome 1-2 punch at the top of our order,” said coach Baker of the Tylers.
But the two Tylers were not alone in putting together this impressive championship run.
Joseph Pollio drew a pair of walks and scored twice in the final. Nicholas Baldino chipped in with four hits in the tournament and pitched two shutout innings. Jaxon Russell pitched four strong innings in a pool play game. Christian Cali came in to close out the second pool play win for the Brewers with some strong pitching. The pitching of Michael Lutkiewicz and Dustin Zoino combined to guide the Brewers past OC Smash, 10-7, in the semifinals.
Pollio, Nate Waitzel and Maddox Strenczak each came up with timely hits in the semifinals as the Brewers put a 10-spot on the board. And hand it to catchers Landon Shanklin and Waitzel for splitting the catching duties and doing an excellent job keeping the ball in front of them.
“They are incredible catchers,” said coach Baker. “One of the umpires commented that they are the best 9U catchers he has ever seen, and they’re on the same team!”
Jaxon Manzo, Michael Campbell and Aiden Evangeliou have also contributed to the Brewers’ winning ways in the tournament and this season.
The 4-0 weekend improved the Brewers’ record to 12-2 in the spring and 74-7 since the team’s inception in 2020. This was the team’s 10th championship since 2020.
“One of the more impressive parts of the team is the fact that we are not a ‘program.’ Our team is comprised of all local kids, most of whom attend school together and the coaches are all dads who volunteer,” says coach Baker. “ We have 14 players and a close knit group of families with an unmatched culture that is evident in our crowd on game day, with everyone sporting the Brewery and team “B” logo.”
NOTES: Jeff Baker played high school ball for Christian Brothers Academy (‘00) in Lincroft and college ball at Lehigh University (‘04). … The team’s name, “Bakes Brewers,” had an interesting incarnation. Baker is known as “Bakes” by his friends and he has been working on opening a microbrewery for the past several years.
“We’ll open the microbrewery in Wall in the summer,” said Baker. “The name of the company is Bakes Brewery. Our team name, the Brewers, plays off the company name. We had an awesome experience at Diamond Nation and are looking forward to coming back this weekend.”
The Brewers outscored their four tournament opponents 49-21.