By Will Harrigan
For five years, the Bulldogs Baseball Academy 14U squad has done nothing but win.
Since starting their travel ball journeys, its core players had won 25 tournaments going into the Summer Finale at Diamond Nation. And with the Bulldogs not offering any teams past the 14U level, that group was playing for the last time together this weekend.
Thanks to a late rally, they went out as champions for one last time on Sunday night.
Jared Matejicka’s clutch single in the sixth proved to be the difference, as Bulldogs Baseball Academy exited the stage with a 2-1 victory over RCBC Marucci 14U Nationals in the Summer Finale’s Red Division title game. Bulldogs starting pitcher Colin Kroner took home MVP honors for his efforts on the mound.
Bulldogs Baseball Academy – as they usually do whenever they make their way to Flemington from the Jersey Shore – dominated, outscoring their opponents by a 29-2 margin in a 4-0 showing. RCBC Marucci, the highest scoring club in the 16-team field, finished at 4-1.
“It’s been so much fun to have coached these guys for five years. They’ll all go to separate travel teams and high school programs, but they are all winners and will do well wherever they go,” said Bulldogs coach Justin Moore. “It’s fitting we went out winning a tournament, especially at Diamond Nation where the competition is even tougher.”
With one out in the seventh, Jake Clayton started off the decisive rally by singling to get aboard. A batter later, Tyler Garabooshian walked to put two men on, and an ill-timed fielding error on a grounder off Brayden Heatter’s bat juiced the bases for Matejicka.
Matejicka took advantage of it, as his lined single to left plated Clayton and Garabooshian and put the Bulldogs ahead.
Kroner, who went the distance, got the first two men out in the seventh. RCBC’s Rob Cruz then got aboard with a single, but was thrown out by Heatter on a steal attempt to promptly end the game.
“Colin is the guy we want on the mound in a championship game. He’s been our steady hand ever since he started playing with us,” Moore said. “He was great again for us tonight and we needed him.”
The only blemish off Kroner came way back in the top of the first.
Anthony Macaluso, the No. 2 hitter, singled and came around to score when Dan Rice grounded into a rare 1-5-2 fielder’s choice that Macaluso ultimately beat out at home plate.
A fielding error helped give RCBC runners at second and third and no one out in the fourth, but Kroner fanned the 4-5-6 batters in the Staten Islanders’ order to escape the jam in most impressive fashion.
Clayton doubled to lead off the bottom half of that fourth, but Macaluso – impressive in his own right in a complete game four-hitter – got out of that pickle.