Cyclones 12U edge Mount Olive in Battle At The Turf

By DN WRITING STAFF | March 26, 2023

Mount Olive’s Ryan Depp leads off first after his two-run single in the third.

By Rich Bevensee

Contributions came from almost every entry in the scorebook, but the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects 12U ballclub assumed control of the game when James Falcone and Lucas Bolton took their turns in the spotlight.

First, Falcone came on in relief for the Cyclones and slammed the door with a formidable fastball which allowed him to spin three innings of scoreless relief. 

Then, with Mount Olive 12U inching back into the game, Bolton delivered a clutch two-run single which gave the Cyclones some much-needed breathing room.

With Falcone and Bolton leading the charge, the Cyclones closed out pool play with a 10-5 victory on Saturday in chilly, misty conditions at the Battle At The Turf tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“These kids have experienced a lot of close games so they know what to expect and they know how to act in those situations,” Cyclones coach Mike Pudlak said. 

The tournament had to be adjusted due to inclement weather on Saturday. The Cyclones (2-0) shared first place in Pool C with the NH Crush (also 2-0) and clinched a playoff berth Sunday. The 12U championship game is slated for 4:30 p.m.

The Cyclones, who already had a 10-0 verdict over the Harrison Bombers on Friday in its pocket, raced to a 7-0 lead in the first inning against Mount Olive. That lead gradually eroded when Mount Olive scored a run in the second inning and tacked on a four-run burst in the third to narrow its gap to 7-5.

OOTP Cyclones starter Vin Donofrio allowed one hit and three walks and struck out five in two innings.

Falcone, who came on in relief of Vin Donofrio in the bottom of the third inning, effectively mixed his fastball with off-speed offerings and allowed just one hit and one walk to the 11 batters he faced while also striking out five. Donofrio allowed one hit and three walks and struck out five in his two innings of work. 

“I try to stay positive and work hard and keep my mind on the game, and I try not to focus on other things that aren’t as important,” Falcone said. “I try to ignore it (the weather) as best I can. If it ends up affecting me I just remember to hit the target and keep my mind in the game. It’s a good thing to know I’m starting off the season good with my pitching. I just have to keep it up.”

No sooner had Mount Olive crawled within two runs of OOTP when Bolton provided the biggest at bat of the afternoon for the Cyclones in the top of the fourth inning. He laced a one-out, two-run single to center, pushing home James Esposito and Donofrio. 

Parker Dipollina drove in Bolton with a sacrifice fly for the final margin.

“I was thinking about getting the runs in, to participate and have a good role on my team,” Bolton said. “The rain was coming down and some pitches were wild so it was a little hard to focus there, but our coaches say take breaths in and out and concentrate.”

The Cyclones exploded in the first inning by sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs on two hits, seven walks and one error. Dylan Pudlak scored on a wild pitch, Falcone forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk and Townes O’Connor rocked a two-run single to right. Another run scored while O’Connor was caught in a rundown between first and second. Two more runs scored on an infield error. 

Quietly, Mount Olive climbed back into the game. Max Roberson scored on a wild pitch in the second inning to get his team on the board.

In the third, Tanner Bush stroked an RBI single to right, Justin Kay added a sacrifice fly, and Ryan Depp ripped a full-count, two-run single down the right field line, bringing Mount Olive to within 7-5.

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