By Will Harrigan
The Bulldogs Baseball Academy 14U squad had not started its spring season until this weekend’s Williams Harley Davidson tournament at Diamond Nation.
Considering the way they sliced through the tournament like butter, the Jersey Shore-based program should strongly consider adding a lot more dates to their schedule.
The 14U final was perhaps the most impressive performance of all for the Bulldogs, who were in control from start to finish in an 8-0 victory over the Diamond Jacks Super 14U’s to win the title. In going a perfect 5-0 in the tournament, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents 42-5 along the way.
Brick native Jake Rizzo, a first cousin of New York Yankees outfielder Anthony, pitched five shutout innings and garnered MVP honors in the tournament.
“We played (the Diamond Jacks) a few times in championship games last year and they beat us each time. It feels so good to just get them once,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo helped himself with his bat in the first inning to get the Bulldogs’ party started.
Jayden Matejicka singled and Jake Clayton was struck by a pitch to set the table. Both runners would advance on a wild pitch, setting up Rizzo to drive in a pair of runs with a two-RBI single to put the winners up 2-0.
That alone would be all the run support the Bulldogs needed to give their ace.
Rizzo, who will be moving south to play at national powerhouse Marjory Stoneman Douglas of Parkland, FL – where cousin Anthony played – next year, surrendered just three hits and two walks to a nationally-ranked Diamond Jacks club.
The Diamond Jacks received a leadoff double by Keith Mann, but a flyout, pop-up, and liner right to second baseman Gavin Slicner left Mann stranded at third.
The Bulldogs would double their lead with a killer two-out rally in the second.
With two down and a man on first, Slicner and Daniel Hennessey – 10th and 11th in the order – would single to load the bases. That set up a crucial two out opposite field single from Matejicka, plating two runs and extending the advantage to 4-0.
“Building up our lead was a huge reason why I think we won,” said Bulldogs coach Justin Moore. “We talked about coming out here and putting the pressure on them, and the way to do that is to score early. Putting up three straight two-spots left us in good shape.”
The Bulldogs offensive assault that included numerous well hit balls for loud outs continued in the third.
Rizzo would launch a double to left field to start the rally and came around on a wayward Diamond Jacks pitch that made it to the backstop.
Brayden Heatter would then draw a walk and would come around to score two batters later when Moore drove him home. Clayton would add a two-RBI double in the sixth to add more insurance for the winners.
Twice did the hometown Diamond Jacks load the bases but came up empty. A two-out walk by Kellan Komline and a single off the bat of Brandon Lall juiced the bases in the fourth, but Rizzo induced a pop up to himself to escape the jam.
Two outs into the sixth inning with Jayden Matejicka on in relief, Matthew Baker, Komline, and Lall each singled to load them up again, but a fly-out to center would put the game on ice.
Lall went 2-for-3 for the Diamond Jacks, while Connor Ware also added a single in the fifth.