By Will Harrigan
Every time the Bulldogs Baseball Academy 14U squad shows up at Diamond Nation, you can count on their 11-deep lineup to relentlessly mash the baseball.
Having come back to Flemington for the Father’s Day Classic, this weekend was no different for the tournament champions.
Getting off to a commanding lead early, the Jersey Shore-based Bulldogs fended off a late push by the Bucks County Generals to win the 14U crown, 8-5. The winners’ offensive output overwhelmed their competition all weekend, outscoring their opponents by a 47-21 margin.
Jake Clayton of the Bulldogs – who finished 1-for-2 with a walk and two-RBI in the final – garnered MVP honors.
The Generals – who defeated the Diamond Jacks Super 14U in a thrilling semifinal clash – finished a successful weekend at 5-1.
“We got it going right away, and I think that kind of set the tone for the game. Colin (Kroner, the Bulldogs starting pitcher) did an outstanding job until he ran out of gas a bit,” said Bulldogs coach Justin Moore. “This was a good tournament to win with the competition we had here.”
Clayton’s RBI grounder to score Jayden Matejicka – who walked to lead off the first – opened the scoring for the Bulldogs, but it was a four-spot in the second that opened things up.
Walks drawn by Jared Matejicka and Corey O’Donnell spelled trouble for the Generals, as 10-batter Jack McKeon would capitalize by singling on a perfectly executed hit-and run play to double the advantage at 2-0, and Daniel Hennessey would do the same in the 11-hole to add the third run.
Clayton would single in a run later in the inning, and Hennessey would come around to score in the rare instance of crossing home plate on a wild pitch that resulted in a strikeout.
“We always come in confident that we are going to hit. And if we can do that when Colin pitches, he’s our ace and we are really good,” Clayton said.
The relentless offensive barrage continued in the third.
Brayden Heatter got the rally going by belting a triple deep into right-center field, and another hard hit extra base-hit – this one a double off O’Donnell’s bat – extended the lead to 6-0.
Kroner helped his own cause by singling in O’Donnell in the ensuing at-bat and would come around to score when a wayward pitch sailed to the backstop.
On the mound, Kroner was dealing through four innings, fanning eight Generals batters while only giving up a single hit.
The Bulldogs came within one strike of ending the game via mercy rule in the fifth, but a clutch double off the bat of Jacob Melchior scored Noah Gerstein kept the Pennsylvania-based club alive.
In the final for a reason, the Generals took advantage of their new life, setting up Noah Wilson to come through with a huge blast.
With two outs and the bases juiced, Wilson launched a ball and missed a homer in right-center by about 10 feet, but it was more than good enough to clear the bases and cut the deficit to 8-5.
Time was winding down on the game clock and with the Bulldogs serving as the home team, one out would do the trick. Moore would call on Heatter to get the final out, and he did so with the Generals having the tying run on first base by inducing a pop-up to all but seal the contest.