By Will Harrigan
The Crusaders Baseball Club’s 14U squad had a successful, yet frustrating, summer season entering this weekend.
The Upstate New York-based Crusaders had advanced to the championship game in three of the eight previous tournaments they participated in this summer.
Thanks to stellar pitching and defense all weekend, the fourth time proved to be the charm – just in time at that – as the Crusaders won the Summer Finale White Bracket title by a 7-1 count over a Vaughan Vikings AAA 14U squad that made the trip from Canada to compete.
Monroe-Woodbury (NY) product Joe Matise garnered MVP honors.
In enjoying a 4-0 weekend, the Crusaders put up 25 runs while only surrendering three. The Vikings will trek back north of the border having gone 3-2 in a successful weekend.
“I have to credit our defense first. I’m not sure we made a single error all weekend,” said Crusaders coach Brian Beers. “I think we all see this as almost a validation for a good summer. We played well for most of it but had nothing to show for it until now.”
Playing a small ball style chock full of sacrifice bunts and stolen bases, four of the seven runs driven in by the Crusaders came when an out was recorded on a play.
That resourcefulness was all the run support Lucas Beers – the coach’s son – would need on the mound, as the righthander tossed a complete game three-hitter and didn’t surrender his first hit until Cole Wilson singled with one out in the sixth.
“I think once he figured out the umpire’s strike zone, his confidence grew. He was locating his curveball well, low in the zone, and that I think helped him a lot,” said the elder Beers of his son’s performance.
Braeden Burke led off the bottom of the first by singling and swiping second for the winners. After a sacrifice bunt moved him to third, Matise’s sac fly to center made it 1-0.
Following another single and steal combination by Dallas Kaminski in the second, Angel Maldonado grounded out to short to double the advantage to 2-0.
An RBI single by Jarod Melendez added another in the third, and a pair of sacrifice flies by Kaminski and Maldonado in the fourth extended the lead to 5-0 after four.
Meanwhile, Beers was cruising, as he fanned 10 batters as part of his terrific outing.
The lone blemish came in the sixth. After Wilson’s single broke the no-hit bid, Gianmarco Carozza hit a Texas Leaguer to shallow left field to put two men on. That set up Liam Fagan of Vaughan to lace an RBI single up the middle, getting the Canadians on the board in a 5-1 game.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kaminski capped off a 2-for-2 day with an inside the park home run that he hustled out after hitting a shot in the right-center field gap.
GEOGRAPHIC NOTE: The Crusaders did a yeoman’s job in traveling close to two hours in each direction this weekend on their trip to Diamond Nation from the Upstate burg of Highland Mills, New York. Well, we are pretty sure, however, that the Vaughan Vikings players have received the better geography lesson this weekend, traveling more than 7 hours in each direction from Maple, Ontario in Canada. We thank both squads for their fierce competitive nature and, particularly, the Vikings’ leaders in managing a challenging over-the-road haul.