By Sean Reilly
One of the things that Mike Pudlak enjoys most about coaching the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects 11U is how his young players not only listen, but successfully apply the things that they are instructed to do.
A case in point is Lucas Bolton, who consistently steps into the batter’s box with a certain purpose.
“I have a right field approach,” he said. “I try to go there every time.”
Bolton, a third baseman/catcher and sometimes pitcher, did exactly that throughout the weekend at the Boys of Summer 11U tournament at Diamond Nation. He had multiple hits in each of the pool games, and added a pivotal two-run double in Sunday night’s championship contest, when the Cyclones gained a 13-1 victory over the Valley Dogs 11U in Flemington.
“We tell our kids to stay middle right center so that they stay on the ball,” Pudlak said. “He’s one of those kids who is very coachable. He’s a good kid. That’s what he thinks. He looks fastball, looks right center, stays on it and does what we just saw.”
The Green Brook-based OOTP Cyclones went 4-0 over the weekend, and outscored their opponents, 43-9. While they clinched a first-place finish in their pool by winning twice on Friday and once on Saturday, the Valley Dogs advanced out of their pool in much different fashion.
The Valley Dogs, who hail from Bergen County, opened the tournament with a loss on Saturday, and then won twice on Sunday afternoon. Having already lost one player to a broken wrist earlier in the week, another player, who would have been the starting pitcher in the championship game, instead broke his nose after fouling a ball into his face during Sunday’s second pool play victory.
After that win, a first-place pool finish was still unlikely. A couple of game results involving other teams had to go right, including run differentials. But they all fell into place in the team’s favor, and after a four-hour break, the Valley Dogs had their spot in the final. One player who went home to Bergen County thinking it wouldn’t happen, returned back to Flemington to ensure the team would have a nine-player batting lineup for its third game of the day.
The undermanned Valley Dogs tried their best in the championship. They placed runners on second and third in the top of the first, and turned a double play in the bottom of the inning.
The Cyclones were able to score once in the bottom of the second, after Cole Webster reached on an infield single with two out, advanced to third on successive wild pitches, and then came home when Gianni Cenicola hit an infield pop up that dropped for a hit.
The game was then decided when the Cyclones staged a massive third inning. The team, which had a 13-player batting lineup, saw 12 of them score as the lead expanded to 13-0.
Big hits along the way included an RBI double to left field by Chase Gechtman, two-run single to right-center by Brady Simo, the two-run double from Bolton, and then the capper of the inning – a grand slam by Lucas Sheehan well beyond the fence in left field.
The last seven runs, beginning with Bolton’s two-RBI double past first base and down the right field line, came with two out.
“Lucas had clutch RBI hits in every game, multiple hits in each of the games in the pool, and the two-out RBI double in this game,” Pudlak said. “He didn’t just have multiple hits, he had multiple big hits, too. He was hitting with runners on base, hitting behind runners, and putting the ball in play. He played flawless defense as well.”
“I just had confidence every time, and I was able to get hits,” Bolton said. “It felt good to get that last hit and secure the win for my team.”
The Valley Dogs scored their run in the fourth inning, after Drew Cacavella led off with a walk and later scored on a fielder’s choice hit by Andy Napolitano.
The weekend continued an exceptional season for the OOTP Cyclones, who are now 44-14 on the year. They’ve reached the finals of 12 tournaments and won seven. Their prior appearance this year at Diamond Nation was a second-place finish to the Richmond Titans at the Mother’s Day Classic in May.
“The bats were alive this weekend,” Pudlak said. “We hit the ball well, and when you put crooked numbers up, you tend to have good results. In this game, (the Valley Dogs) fought hard against us for the first two innings and kept our bats quiet. It was nice that the bottom of our lineup strung together a bunch of extra base hits and got it started and then it was kind of contagious and everybody came on.”
The Cyclones also enjoy the overall experience of playing at Diamond Nation.
“We love it here,” Pudlak said. “We’re local and they have great facilities. It’s organized and the competition is good. We don’t have to travel far, so you can’t beat it.”