CJ Phillies rally late to tie Fairless Hills Steel at 16U Summer Finale

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 19, 2023

Jake Plebani scores on Matt Guerrera single to give Fairless Hills Steel a 7-6 lead in the fifth inning.

By Sean Reilly 

Devon Decker of the CJ Phillies had modest goals for his final at-bat on Friday afternoon at Diamond Nation.

“I was really just trying to get on base and make something happen for my team,” he said.

Instead, he hit a two-out grounds rule double to right-center field that capped a two-run top of the sixth inning and gave his team an 8-8 tie against the Fairless Hills Steel in the opening game of the 16U Summer Finale Tournament in Flemington.

The sixth inning was also the final one, since the 1:50 time clock expired during the frame.

It began with Fairless Hills holding an 8-6 lead, after the Pennsylvania team scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to break a 6-6 tie.

Fairless Hills seemed headed toward victory in the top of the sixth, until a strong wind blowing out towards right field played a role in the outcome.

The CJ Phillies, with mostly Class of 2026 players from Mercer County, started the sixth with a walk to Jared Kligerman, but the next two batters struck out.

Down to the team’s last out, Drew Dobkin then hit what might normally have been a routine fly ball to right field that instead resulted in a wind-aided double which scored Kligerman.

Decker, a rising sophomore from Hightstown High School, then hit his tying RBI double that bounced over the fence to complete a 3-for-3, two RBI performance.

“I’m going to need to do some push ups to push that one out,” he said. “I thought the game was done after that fly ball, but we still had another chance. There wasn’t anything that I was looking for with it. I was just looking to get on base.”

Fairless Hills scored a run in the top of the first, after leadoff man Tyler Boraski singled to third base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and passed ball, and then came home on Danny Nocito’s ground out to shortstop.

The Phillies then scored four in the top of the third for a 4-1 lead.

A single and two walks loaded the bases for Dobkin, who was hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at-bat. Decker followed with an RBI single that dropped into right field. Max Kleinz had an RBI groundout and Connor Willever hit a sacrifice fly to right field for the fourth run.

Fairless Hills countered with five runs with two out in the bottom of the inning to go ahead, 6-4.

Nocito singled in a run, Jake Plebani hit an RBI grounds rule double to right center, Nathan Gilson drew a bases-loaded walk and two runs scored on a wild pitch with Richie Bayachek at the plate.

Connor Willever of CJ Phillies locks in before hitting sac fly that scored Drew Dobkin.

The Phillies then scored two times in the top of the fifth for a 6-6 tie. Dobkin reached on a single to right field, and later scored on an error. Decker got aboard on a walk, and he scored the tying run on a wild pitch.

Fairless Hills reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Plebani (2-for-2, two runs) hit a one-out single to center, and Adam Hunter followed with a single. Matt Guerrera hit an RBI single to right to score Plebani with the go-ahead run. Gilson was up next, and a ball four wild pitch scored Hunter for an 8-6 lead.

The Phillies then scored their two runs in the top of the sixth, and all three Fairless Hills batters flew out to right field in the bottom of the inning to end the game in a tie.

The Phillies were also boosted by Dobkin, a rising sophomore from Lawrence, who was 2-for-2 with two hit-by-pitches, three runs and two RBI.

Coming back one time to go ahead and twice more to tie also showed the Phillies are a tenacious bunch.

“We’re just a scrappy team,” Decker said. “We try to get everything that we can get.”

The Phillies continue pool play on Saturday against the RCBC Ghost 15U Nationals (1-0). Fairless Hills continues Saturday against the Bethpage Eagles (0-1).

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