Bridgewater Panthers 9U make impressive debut at ‘The Nation’

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 15, 2022

Bridgewater’s Brayden Aranguren slides safely into third as Ridgewood’s Colton Dobbyn tags him.

By Sean Reilly

The Bridgewater Panthers 9U team played at Diamond Nation for the first time on Saturday in the Spring Classic, and the results couldn’t have been any better. 

After opening with a 10-2 triumph over Dream Catchers Academy, the Panthers followed with a 13-7 victory over the Ridgewood Raiders Black, making them the leader in their pool heading into the second and final day of the tournament on Sunday. 

“We had a nice day and the boys really played hard,” Panthers coach Mike Pikulin said. “It was a great showing for our first time here. People come here for good competition. The setup is great, it’s run real well, and it’s just a good place to come play baseball.” 

In the opener, the Panthers had a double-figure run output at the plate, struck out four batters on the mound, and made defensive plays to support its pitchers.

“That was a nice start to the day,” Pikulin said. 

In the second game, the Panthers blended solid hits with occasional and well-executed bunts to open a 6-0 lead, saw Ridgewood claw back within two runs with a four-run bottom of the third, and then answered with a seven-run top of the fourth to take control for good. 

Bridgewater got an inside-the-park home run from Brayden Aranguren, as well as an RBI single by Ryan Dobkin as part of a three-run second inning that resulted in a 4-0 lead. Two unearned runs extended the margin in the third. 

Ridgewood countered with its four-run bottom of the inning. Mark DeBarbarie had an RBI single, and Dex Wesner doubled in two runs before scoring on a wild pitch. 

Bridgewater’s fourth inning began with Caiden Michalak reaching on a single to shortstop. Matt Krail was safe on a fielder’s choice and Dobkin bunted for a single to load the bases with nobody out. Matt Schmieder then hit a grounds rule double for an 8-4 lead. Noah Ramire then doubled in two more runs and Mikey Pikulin added a double with one out. Miles Dorsey legged out a triple to score another run.

Ridgewood’s bottom of the inning included an RBI groundout from Declan Moore and a two-run single by Colton Dobbyn for what turned out to be the final six-run difference.

Ridgewood first baseman Owen Giacopetti makes the putout on a Bridgewater runner during the Spring Classic.

“We ended up pulling it out,” Pikulin said. “We stayed ahead of what we needed to do. We had a big inning after their big inning, which shows they are resilient. They’ve done that a few times for me this year. I truly enjoy their resiliency.” 

And the Panthers also enjoyed their first foray into Diamond Nation tournament action, and the reward is a chance to possibly play for a title, pending its final pool result.

“We came in this weekend without any expectations,” the coach said. “We didn’t really know any of these teams, so I told my boys to play hard and have fun and enjoy the weekend off of our regular USABL schedule and to see what we get. They had a great time. Winning two times, you’re always going to enjoy it.”

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