East Coast Mavericks right the ship in final 14U pool play game

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 8, 2024

Lucas Goldman singled, walked and scored twice for the East Coast Mavericks.

By Rich Bevensee

If chilly, windy weather and first day jitters made for a frustrating day of tournament baseball on Saturday, Rob Hickey and the East Coast Mavericks Baseball 14U club made a drastic turnaround on Sunday in all three phases of the game.

Hickey allowed one run over five innings, A.J. Liberati drove in two runs to lead a balanced offense, and the Mavericks grabbed an 8-3 victory over New England Elite in a battle of teams looking to break the ice in 2024 in 14U April Fool’s Tournament pool play at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

The Mavericks were outscored 19-3 in two games on Saturday, while NE Elite struggled as well, getting outscored 23-1. Both teams were making their season debuts this weekend.

“I think they were more relaxed today,” said Mavericks coach Anthony Corona, whose club is based in Yorktown, N.Y. “First time out, big tournament, trying to do too much and weather played a factor. We worked out plenty in the winter but there’s nothing that replaces seeing live pitching in a competitive environment. We played a doubleheader locally last weekend but the competition out here is always very good.”

Hickey gave his team a leg up by locating his fastball consistently over his five innings of work. He allowed one run on two hits and two walks and he struck out five.

Only one Elite batter reached scoring position in the first four innings against Hickey, who surrendered a run in the fourth before enjoying a perfect fifth.

“I felt a little nervous in the first two innings and then I settled down and did my job,” said Hickey, a 6-1 lefty. “My two-seamer had drop to it and was working well. The pitch that was not was the curveball. That’s the best pitch

I have but I was short-arming it. The fastball was really working today. I took some velo down and threw it for strikes, and that’s what got me the win.”

Hickey was the beneficiary of an offense which came alive Sunday. All but one of 11 Maverick batters reached base safely, six had at least one hit, and four drove in a run. 

The Mavericks jumped on the Elite right away with a four-run first inning. After Lucas Goldman scored on a balk, Nick Benedetto cranked an RBI double to right center, Liberati had an RBI groundout, and Benedetto scored on an infield error following a Jason Sgobbo grounder. 

The Mavericks padded their lead with two more runs in the third. Just one pitch after Benedetto walked to load the bases, Goldman brazenly stole home. Liberati added another RBI to his stat line with a single to right.

Tyler Croteau of NE Elite races to first base in pool play game against East Coast Mavericks.

Goldman figured into the scoring once more in the fourth when he forced home a run with a bases loaded walk. The Mavericks made it 8-0 when their next batter, Jayden Nunez, was hit by a pitch.

“I think we did better mentally in just getting the job done,” said Hickey, who walked once and scored once. “Not trying to hit a ball over the left field fence and just hit a line drive up the middle.”

Luke Nargi came on in relief of Hickey and allowed two runs on two hits and he struck out two over the final two innings.  

While the offense was the most obvious difference between Saturday and Sunday, Corona said the pitching and defense also rose to the occasion against the Elite. 

“We can build off today,” Corona said. “We learned some things about ourselves yesterday, that we can’t show up, throw our gloves out there and expect to get a W. Today was a good response to that.”

New England Elite, based in Windham, Massachusetts, ended the Mav’s bid for a shutout in the bottom of the fourth when Eben Thibodeau evaded being tagged in a rundown between first and second long enough for Mason Rulman to score from second.

In the seventh, the Elite tacked on two more runs to make the six-hour ride home a bit more pleasant. Rulman stroked a one-out triple into the left field corner and scored on a Thibodeau infield single. Thibodeau then scored on a throwing error following a Will Baker grounder.

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