By Rich Bevensee
It was no small coincidence that the Breaker Boys Baseball 9U squad knew how to respond to a pressure situation. When even the youngest of teams reaches the biggest and brightest stage, that experience tends to remain in the memory banks.
The Breaker Boys, who played in a Diamond Nation championship game earlier this spring, wasted no time in grabbing what eluded them in two prior visits.
In the bottom of the sixth and last inning in a tie game, leadoff man Abram Graver sent a long fly to the outfield and raced all the way to third on an error. After the next two batters were intentionally walked, Graver scampered home on a wild pitch to give the Breaker Boys a dramatic 7-6 victory over MAQ Show 9U Carolina in the 9U Spring Fever Tournament final on Sunday afternoon at ‘The Nation.’
The Breaker Boys, based in Schuylkill County, Pa., lost the 9U King of the Diamond final to the Philadelphia Area Baseball Renegades on April 14. Two weeks later they were poised to reach the Williams Harley Davidson final with a 2-0 pool play record but the second day of competition was rained out.
“Our goal is to compete, and the wins will come after you compete,” said Breaker Boys coach Dan Quick, whose team is 9-1 at Diamond Nation this spring. “We’ve been a finalist here before and we finally got it. This was a goal of ours. They practiced hard and they’re a bunch of really good players.”
The Breaker Boys enjoyed a 4-0 weekend at ‘The Nation’ while establishing a 39-28 run differential. They defeated Pro Skills, 11-10, and MAQ Show, 17-10, in pool play on Saturday and knocked out the RedBlacks of Philadelphia 4-2 in the semifinals.
“We were confident for the championship,” Graver said. “We have a good team and a really good batting lineup and good fielders. We were ready.”
Breaker Boys pitcher Grant Kunkelman earned Most Valuable Player honors for scattering seven hits and walking just two and going 2-for-2 at the plate.
“I had to remember to stay focused, slow down and just throw strikes,” Kunkelman said. “It means a lot to us to win this time.”
Graver, Kunkelman and Nathan Rosko each singled twice for the Breaker Boys.
The Breaker Boys were forced to reach into their bag of dramatic finishes because MAQ Show rallied for three runs to tie the game in the top of the sixth.
Trailing 6-3 entering the sixth, Anthony Terranova got MAQ started by reaching on an infield error. Michael Rucci’s RBI single made it 6-4 and brought the tying run to the plate. Rucci moved to third when Mason Shaw singled to center.
Bryce Chambers then drove in Rucci with a groundout, and when the throw from first to third to get Chambers was errant, Chambers scurried home with the tying run.
“Our goal is to go to the next pitch, because errors are going to happen,” Quick said. “Majors make errors. We preach, go to the next play. There is more failure than praise in baseball, so we preach let’s go to the next pitch. We got to the dugout and they told me, we’re gonna win.”
The Breaker Boys seemed to take control of the game in the bottom of the fourth when they rallied for five runs and claimed a 6-2 lead. Trailing 2-1, Miles Kalyan tied the game for the Breaker Boys with an RBI infield single.
Ryken Maurer then drove in the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice when he grounded to third and the throw home was not in time to get a sliding Graver. Kalyan never stopped running on the play, and seeing an infield bobble, Quick, coaching third base, sent the speedy Kalyan home to grab a 4-2 lead.
“I saw the bobble and Miles runs well, and in 9U you have to make a good throw and a good tag to make that play,” Quick said.
The Breaker Boys padded their lead when Maurer scored from third on an infield error on a double steal, and Connor Damiter made it 6-2 with an RBI groundout.
MAQ Show made quite a statement when the game began, no doubt forcing Quick to wonder if he was snakebitten in Diamond Nation finals. Rucci singled and Mason Shaw, the third batter of the game, cranked a two-run home run well over the left-center field fence for a 2-0 Show lead.
When MAQ took the field, it ended a modest threat with a smooth inning-ending double play – shortstop Shaw to second baseman Connor Behr to first baseman Anthony DiPlacido.
Jace Spiess helped the Breaker Boys cut their 2-0 deficit in half with an RBI single in the second inning.
For MAQ Show, based in Mickleton, N.J. (21 miles south of Philadelphia), James Buchanan went 2-for-2 with a triple, Anthony Terranova doubled and Bryce Shaw had a sacrifice fly RBI.