Connor Price of the OOTP Cyclones makes contact at the plate against Iron Nine Baseball.
By Sean Reilly
Games at Diamond Nation, no matter the age group, are often decided by the momentum established in the first inning.
That doesn’t always mean that a big outburst propels one side to a win. Sometimes a defensive team avoiding one can set a tone as well.
That was the case for the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects 15U on Friday night, when they faced Iron Nine Baseball in the opening game of the 15U Halloween Mash in Flemington.
The Cyclones left two men on base in the top of the first, and then saw the Iron Nine load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the inning.
The Iron Nine did score one run in the frame, but that was it, thanks to a sharply-turned 4-6-3 double play that ended the inning.
The Cyclones went back to their dugout feeling excited about what just happened, and then promptly erupted for eight runs in the top of the second. It all led to an 11-1, four-inning triumph for the Somerset County team.
“That was a big play for us,” said OOTP starting pitcher Hunter Brown, who also had a two-run single in the big second inning. “They had something going and the double play saved us runs.”
Iron Nine began the first with singles by Jack Silberman and Jesse Weaver, and a full-count walk to Gabe Arato. After a strikeout, Silberman scored on an error, when a pickoff attempt to second base was off line. Joe Grande then walked to reload the bases, but the double play followed.
After that, the momentum switched to the Cyclones side, and stayed for good.
The OOTP second inning was full of productive at-bats, beginning with a high pop up from Zach Linzer that fell between the shortstop and third baseman in shallow left field for a hit. Ryan Skwarek then hit a fly ball to right field that was dropped. After a wild pitch, Ryan Pappas walked to load the bases.
After an out, the next three batters – Nick DeSimone, Landon Pudlak and Rob Centamore – all drew bases-loaded walks. Not only that, all did so on full counts.
The next batter was Connor Price, and he changed that trend by lining the first pitch to left field for an RBI single and 4-1 lead.
The next batter was Brown, and he took one pitch before sending a two-run single to left field for a five-run margin. Jack Valenzuela then followed with the capper, a two-run double to deep left field, giving OOTP an 8-1 lead.
“That was a good team inning,” Brown said. “We brought the bats alive. It showed that if we work as a team, we can score a lot of runs.”
The Cyclones scored another run in the third. Nevin Swanson was down 0-2 before working out a one-out walk, and Desimone followed with a single to left field. They advanced into scoring position on a double steal, and Pudlak walked to fill the bases. Centamore then hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Two more opportunistic runs were scored in the fourth. With two out, Linzer walked on a full count. He then scored on a double to left center by Skwarek. Swanson hit a single to the outfield which scored Skwarek with the final run before a trailing runner was tagged out at third.
“This is our last tournament, so we’re looking to go out well,” Brown said. “This was a good start.”
The Cyclones continued pool play against the Powerballers (0-1) on Saturday afternoon. The Iron Nine looked to bounce back against the Powerballers on Saturday night.