Sandlot Baseball Academy catcher Aidan Cruz throws out runner attempting to steal.
By Sean Reilly
If you can’t capture a tournament championship at Diamond Nation, then winning your final pool play game before heading home isn’t a bad consolation prize.
That was the case for Sandlot Baseball Academy, which returned to Scranton, Pa., on an upbeat note after defeating Monmouth Liberty, 6-4, at the 15U Labor Day Blast on Monday afternoon in Flemington.
The situation leading into the matchup was a little different compared to most other games at ‘The Nation.’
Because of the holiday weekend, teams in the 15U bracket were playing a fourth pool play game, which is one more than usual. As it turned out, both teams were also seeking a first victory.
It also made the game somewhat unusual for Brady Donahue, the starting pitcher for Sandlot Baseball. Since his team came into the tournament, the first of the fall season, after an August schedule break, it was his first outing in a few weeks. With his team having already played three games, pitching depth was stretched. And knowing that no matter what, it was the last game of the weekend, it also lessened any pressure.
All in all, it was the perfect setup for a carefree afternoon of baseball for both teams, and certainly for Donahue and his counterpart, Thomas Lee of Monmouth Liberty.
Both pitchers went the distance, but Donahue was the winner, primarily because he was the one backed by better defense.
“It’s good to end with a win,” Donahue said. “I hadn’t thrown since a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to go home with a win. That was my goal. I was using my fastball and locating it well, with a curveball here and there.”
Knowing he had a longer leash allowed him to attack hitters differently. So did the fact that from the third inning on, he was pitching with a lead.
Monmouth Liberty scored first, getting an RBI single to right field from Lucas Grigos (2-for-3) with two out in the bottom of the first inning.
Cody Benson follows through on an RBI single for Sandlot Baseball Academy.
Sandlot Baseball Academy took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second, on an RBI single to center field by Graden Dohl with nobody out, and a run-scoring base hit to center by Cody Benson (2-for-2) with two away.
Monmouth Liberty then tied it in the bottom of the frame, with Keith Muldowney drawing a bases-loaded walk with two out.
Sandlot Baseball Academy began to assert control in the third inning.
The leadoff batter reached on an error, but was picked off by Lee. Jackson Cady followed with a single to center, and Pat Leroy was safe on an error. Dylan McConnell hit a single to right field that loaded the bases. A fly out held the runners, but Jeff Nepa came through with a two-run single to right field. Aidan Cruz then reached on an error that scored another run for a 5-2 lead.
Sandlot extended its advantage to 6-2 in the fifth, after Leroy tripled to right-center and scored when Donahue singled over second base and into right field with one out.
Monmouth Liberty had one last chance to rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Tyler Alweiss (2-for-3) led off that inning with a single, and after an infield pop out, he scored when Jack Russo (2-for-3) doubled to the gap in left center. Russo also reached third on a throw to the plate. The next batter struck out, but Eddie Segarra (3-for-3) hit an RBI single to right field. The game, however, then ended on a ground out to second base.