Tyler Wells hit an RBI double to key a three-run first inning for Canes Mid-Atlantic Black 14U.
By Rich Bevensee
Organizations and teams preach it, coaches and players try to act on it, but seldom do you see a group of young players come together from the same area to exemplify team chemistry like the Canes Mid-Atlantic Black 14U squad.
That’s Logan Mason’s story and he’s sticking to it.
Mason, on the heels of a dominant effort on the mound, was asked why the Canes have won three championships already this spring and put themselves in position for a fourth this weekend at the Spring Fever Tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Honestly I think it’s all morale,” said Mason, whose team hails from Anne Arundel County, Md., which sits just south of Baltimore and east of Washington, D.C. “We’re all happy kids, we all love playing the game, and, except for maybe one kid, we’re all from the same school district, same everything. We’ve played together since we were 8, and now we’ve made up a super team.”
The Canes showed just how cohesive they are on the first day of Spring Fever pool play. They began the day with an 11-1 mercy rule victory over the Morris County Cubs, and swept their morning doubleheader when Mason pitched 5⅔ terrific innings in an 8-1 triumph over Bell Ringers 14U DellaPolla.
Despite pitching in a steady rain, Mason carried a shutout into the sixth inning and finished with a three-hitter with four walks and four strikeouts. In the sixth, he allowed a single to Bell Ringer Jack Schuster before handing off to Luke Gamble who recorded the final out.
He even struck out Bell Ringer shortstop Michael DiDomenico on a changeup which had the batter way out in front and chuckling to himself on the way back to the dugout.
“The slider was my No. 1 pitch today. My slider, definitely,” Mason said. “The fastball you always throw in there to get them off balance. And my fun pitch for today was my changeup. I was probably throwing it 40 mph – slowest pitch I’ve thrown since I was 8. I hardly ever throw my changeup so I was like, why not? I got a kid five feet in front of the ball. First time I threw the changeup all day.”
“Logan did a good job controlling the mound,” Canes coach Jeff Mengel said. “He didn’t let too many runners on base, and overall did what he needed to do to get the job done. When it’s raining like it did today, it’s really hard to pitch in those conditions, so you need to throw the ball over the middle of the plate and let your defense do its job. That’s what he did.”
The Canes jumped on Bell Ringer starter Caden Szychulski for three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Andy Blanck singled, moved to second on a groundout and scored on a DeShaun White two-out single. Tyler Jones followed by driving in White with a double to left center, and Brandon Repkowski capped the inning with a run-scoring single to right.
“Our 1 and 2 men, Luke Gamble and Andy Blanck, absolutely drove the ball, and that started the game smooth,” Mason said. “Our three hitter, Cooper Mengel, and four hitter DeShaun White, absolutely power the ball into the gaps. It scores runs every time and it’s hard to come back from.
“And after that our lineup is like contact, power, power, contact. Especially when you’re the home team and you get a good shut-down first inning, then the other team is already down and it’s the first inning.”
Szychulski pitched well in the loss for the Bell Ringers. His final stat line read three runs allowed on five hits and four walks with six strikeouts, but he was even better than that.
His three-run first inning seemed like a hiccup when compared to the rest of his outing, in which he shut down the Canes. From the second through fifth innings he pitched a four-inning shutout and allowed just one hit and four walks, he struck out five and he stranded five runners in scoring position.
He slipped out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth – he had difficulty keeping his hand dry in the rain and walked two batters with two out – when he struck out the final batter looking at a curveball.
The Bell Ringers got back into the game with a run in the top of the sixth when Schuster singled, moved to second and third on passed balls and scored on a wild pitch.
The Canes bounced right back in the bottom of the sixth and eliminated any thoughts of a Bell Ringers comeback. White singled, Jones and Repkowski walked to load the bases and Fletcher wiped the table clean with a three-run triple into the left-center field gap for a 6-1 Canes lead.
Fletcher scored two pitches later on a wild pitch and Logan Park, who walked and stole second and third, scored on a Bodhy Samson sacrifice fly.
Mason said his team enters every tournament with a confidence that few teams can match. That was evident when the Canes tried to creep back into the game.
“Some of these teams come together from all these different regions, but here you’ve got six guys who have played together since we were eight,” Mason said. “The rest of us have joined through the years. It helps that we’re all friends and know each other because they know your tendencies and you know how to pick them up.”
The Canes, based in Annapolis, were rolling before they arrived in Flemington. They won a pair of tournament titles at the Maplewood Sports Institute in Aston, Pa. (outside Philadelphia) and a third title in a Future Stars event in Hershey, Pa.
If the Canes finish up Spring Fever pool play Sunday with a win against Wladyka American at 2:15 p.m., they’ll be in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m.
The Bell Ringers, who entered the Canes game with a 6-2 win over Wladyka American, closed out pool play against the Morris County Cubs at 2:15 p.m.