By Sean Reilly
Just about anything can happen during the final day of an 11U tournament at Diamond Nation, especially when pitching depth often becomes an issue.
The Bucks County Generals 11U Black won’t argue, after a string of required, and fortunate, morning outcomes made them an unlikely noontime finalist in the Slugfest tournament championship opposite the unbeaten Diamond Jacks 11U.
Once there, the Generals then seemed to be in good shape when a five-run fifth inning with the time clock about to expire resulted in a seven-run lead.
The Diamond Jacks then scored six runs in the bottom of the inning, and had two runners on base, before a fly out ended the game.
The end result: a 13-12 victory to complete a wild day in Flemington for the team from Pennsylvania.
“This was not a day that we expected,” said Generals coach Mike McCarthy. “It showed anything can happen. That’s why we always tell the guys to take every single play like it’s a zero-zero game. You’re working until that very last out. They didn’t give up, they didn’t roll over, and it ended up working out for us.”
The day began with a final game for each of the four teams competing in Pool B, with the first place finisher advancing to the final.
The first required order of business for Bucks County would be to defeat Battle Ready Baseball. A loss or tie would send the Generals home. But even if they won, advancement was still far from guaranteed.
First of all, the score was essential. Because runs allowed is a tiebreaker criteria, the Generals needed to surrender as few as possible.
The bats and pitcher Mason Wade took care of that, as the Generals won, 14-0, in three innings.
There was still more. The other game pitted the West Chester Dragons against the NY Prospects Urrico.
There was only one way that the Generals could vault past either of those teams: the NY Prospects would need to win, and because of the runs allowed tiebreaker, they would need it to happen in a very high-scoring game. Sure enough, the Prospects prevailed, 13-10, an outcome that sent the Generals into the final.
“It all happened the way we wanted it to,” McCarthy said.
Once in the final, the Generals made the most of the opportunity by defeating a Diamond Jacks 11U team that rolled through Pool A with a 3-0 record and 24-13 run differential.
The Generals scored seven times with two out in the top of the third to command an 8-2 lead over the Diamond Jacks.
The uprising started with an RBI triple from Wade, who quickly scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. A walk, hit by pitch, and two more walks followed before an RBI single to center field from Harrison Carter, and a two-run single to center by Brady Damon.
The Diamond Jacks chipped away at their deficit, scoring two runs apiece in the third and fourth innings to close within 8-6.
Hunter Lighthart of the Bucks County Generals was named 11U Slugfest MVP.
Both runs in the third inning scored with two out, the first on a wild pitch and the other on a double beyond the right fielder by Cooper Ralston. The fourth-inning runs scored on a ground out by Drew Novotny and a wild pitch.
The Generals, critically, scored five times in the top of the fifth for a 13-6 lead. Jared Leyson singled in a run on a slow grounder in front of third base, and Gavin DeMilt, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, hit a first-pitch two-run single to right field with the bases loaded. The inning also included four walks and a hit batter which accounted for the other runs.
With the 1:50 game clock having expired, there was one last chance for the Diamond Jacks in the bottom of the inning, and they almost pulled off the unlikely comeback.
Nick Penna poked a two-run single to center field with nobody out, and Bryson Davis added a run-scoring double before the first out was recorded.
Christian Basile was safe on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice that scored the next run, and a sacrifice fly to right field from Novotny cut the deficit to 13-11. Carter Geary followed with an RBI single to right field. A fly out to right then ended the game.
The Generals’ Hunter Lighthart who caught, walked twice and accounted for two runs in the final, was selected tournament MVP.
“It was crazy,” he said of the day. “We traveled so far, and had so much fun together. That helped us win. I was nervous in the last inning, but we kept our heads up and had a good attitude.”