Cody Alicea of the Cyclones sets up shop during a rousing offensive performance by his team.
By Luis Torres
Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospect coach Mike Pudlak knew Saturday’s game against Canes Tri-State 11U had no bearing in terms of what was going to happen the rest of the 11U Boys of Summer Tournament.
Pudlak’s team had already clinched its pool’s spot in the playoffs, so he used Saturday’s game to mix combinations with his lineup. Players who normally hit at the bottom of the lineup hit near the top, and players played in different positions on the field.
The thought process behind it was to keep his players engaged and to have fun.
OOTP Cyclones Prospects had plenty of it, scoring 17 unanswered runs in a 17-2 win in three innings over Canes Tri-State 11U at Diamond Nation in Flemington to head into Sunday with a 3-0 record after having outscored its opponents 30-8 over the three games.
“We just had to remind our kids that it’s still baseball and you still gotta focus on the plays. You gotta compete and do what you gotta do,” Pudlak said. “And the bats turned on.”
The bats caught fire in the second inning and continued into the third frame.
Canes Tri-State 11U opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when DJ Kollar laced an RBI double to left field. Kollar came around to score one hitter later, giving Canes a 2-0 advantage early on.
Pudlak’s team responded emphatically in the top of the second inning, with Cody Alicea cranking a two-run home run to left field to give OOTP Cyclones Prospect a 4-2 lead. The home run was a turning point in the contest.
“It was a fastball right down the middle, and I just pulled it,” Alicea said.
Alicea took the mound after hitting his home run and tossed a scoreless inning, which allowed his teammates to return quickly to the batter’s box in the top of the third inning.
OOTP Cyclones Prospects’ bats came alive in the frame, scoring 13 runs on eight hits and sending 17 hitters to the plate.
Townes O’Connor did the brunt of the damage in the inning, going 2-for-2 with a double and five RBIs.
“It felt great,” O’Connor said. “We’ve beaten (Canes Tri-State 11U) multiple times, but I didn’t think we were going to score that many runs. The game didn’t really matter. We’re guaranteed a spot in the championship game. It was a fun game to have to switch around positions and switch around the batting order. It was fun. It’s great to do it once in a while.”
Having fun was Pudlak’s message. At the 11U level, it’s about teaching kids how to play baseball, even if it’s in a tournament setting that you want to win.
“It’s great to see kids get opportunities in spots they normally don’t get to,” Pudlak said. “You gotta remember, we’re playing competitively, but they are 11. They don’t want to be stuck in the outfield all the time. They want to learn how to play baseball. It’s fun to get our outfielders in the infield, infielders in the outfield.
“Let kids who normally bat at the end of the lineup lead off and have success. It was great to see.”