Deja Vu: OOTP Cyclones defeat Diamond Jacks Super 12U in another classic

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 17, 2023

By Sean Reilly 

As any movie fan knows, sequels seldom measure up to the original.

But when it comes to action at Diamond Nation, that notion clearly does not apply to the rivalry between the Out Of The Park Prospects Cyclones and the Diamond Jacks Super 12U.

The teams were matched on Sunday afternoon in the championship of the 12U Mid-Summer Classic on Field 2 at ‘The Nation,’ only six days after they met in the same spot in the final of the 12U World Series.

That first matchup produced a tense one-run victory for the Somerset County-based OOTP Cyclones, as they withstood a Super 12U comeback bid in the final inning.

The rematch was even better, and also more dramatic, as the OOTP Cyclones scored twice in the bottom of the sixth and final inning to gain a 4-3 triumph in Flemington.

The win completed a 4-0 weekend with a 43-7 run differential for the Cyclones. The Super 12U ended 4-1 with a 56-15 run difference.

Lucas Sheehan (see separate story) was named tournament MVP for the Cyclones. He was the winning pitcher in the tournament opener on Friday, and was also the winner in the final. He threw three clutch innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit, which traveled only a few feet in front of the plate. He also finished with four strikeouts and one walk to defeat the powerful Super 12U.

“Winning here is so much more special,” Sheehan said. “There was a lot at stake, but when you come through, it feels really nice. It’s great to come out on top.”

The Super 12U took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Up to that point, all the scoring in the game came through home runs.

Ryan Jezorwski hit a two-run shot over the fence in left-center field in the top of the first inning for the Super 12U, followed by a two-run blast by James Esposito for the Cyclones off the roof of the batting cage beyond the right field wall in the bottom of the frame. Both of those homers came with one out.

The Super 12U then took a 3-2 lead when Nick Stangota led off the fourth with a homer beyond the fence in center field.

Sheehan then entered, and walked his first batter, who also advanced to second on a passed ball. The right-hander followed with a strikeout, a fly out on a nice play by right fielder Cole Webster, and then a strikeout looking to end the inning.

The bottom of the sixth was the first time the Cyclones got to face the Super 12U bullpen. Up until then, they were held in check by right-hander Bryson Auten of the Super 12U, whose fastball was consistently clocked in the low-to-mid 70s, with his off-speed pitches registering in the low 60s.

Auten allowed no hits other than Esposito’s home run. He struck out seven and issued two walks, both to leadoff man Brady Simo. Auten retired 14 of the 15 batters he faced after the homer, with Simo’s walk in the third the only exception.

The Cyclones sent up the top of the order in the sixth, and Simo led off with his third walk, and the second which came on a full count. He stole second with Dylan Pudlak at the plate. Pudlak then singled to center on an 0-2 pitch, with Simo holding at second.

Esposito was up next, and he hit a towering ball that glanced high off the fence in left center. Simo had to wait to see if the ball would be caught, so he only advanced to third. The single loaded the bases for Cody Alicea with nobody out.

The infield was playing in, but it didn’t matter since Alicea was hit by a pitch that brought in Simo with the tying run.

Lucas Sheehan of OOTP Cyclones was named 12U Mid-Summer Classic MVP.

With the bases still loaded and Lucas Bolton at-bat, a wild pitch resulted in Pudlak racing home with the championship-winning run.

In the final of the 12U World Series last Monday, the Cyclones took an 8-4 lead into the top of the sixth, only to have the Super 12U score three times with two out to get within a run, before a hard-hit fly out to center ended the game.

To demonstrate how well the two teams have played against each other, while both have averaged double-figure run totals the last two weeks, no individual player from either side has ended with more than one hit in either head-to-head matchup.

The OOTP Cyclones now have three tournament championships and an 18-4 record this year at Diamond Nation, with a 9-0 mark over the last two weeks. That comes on top of several titles won as an 11U team last year.

“I love pitching in these type of situations,” Sheehan said. “My fastball was working for me, and I was able to throw strikes, which was important, especially against a really good team.”

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