Edge Baseball had built a 5-0 lead during the first two innings of the 12U Williams Harley Davidson championship game with a few timely hits, complemented by four walks and a couple Diamond Jacks 12U miscues.
Those two innings did not, though, provide foreshadowing for what was to come in the third, a literal fireworks show.
Edge Baseball had a run in on a wild pitch with one out in the third and re-loaded the bases on Brock Neville’s hard single to left field. It still appeared Edge was satisfied with peck, peck, pecking at the Diamond Jacks. Then all you-know-what erupted.
Rylan Nichols, Edge Baseball’s No. 3 hitter, stepped in and absolutely obliterated a fastball on a straight line over the right field fence for a grand slam and a sudden 10-0 lead. “It was a fastball down the middle,” said Nichols, named the 12U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “Their first pitcher was throwing a little harder, so I thought we could get to their reliever.”
Nichols didn’t waste time as he and his team chilled out at the hotel before the championship game. “I was doing some (bicep) curls in the hotel room,” said Nichols. There was no curl in his grand slam, just the straight line of a laser.
Edge Baseball wasn’t done in the third, loading the bases again on singles by winning pitcher Connor Flohr and Tristan Stiffler, around a walk to Ryder Martinez. That brought up Nolan Sullivan, who had already singled and scored in the inning and scored a run in the second after reaching on a hit-by-pitch.
Sullivan, the No. 7 hitter in Edge Baseball’s ferocious lineup, blasted a shot to straightaway center field that carried the wall for the second grand slam of the inning and a 14-0 lead that ended the game via the 12-run rule.
Lost in the din of Edge Baseball’s fireworks display was a dominant, albeit short, pitching performance by Flohr. The righthander shut out the Diamond Jacks on one hit, struck out seven, walked one and hit a batter.
Flohr started the game inauspiciously, plunking leadoff batter Luca Catanzarite with a pitch and walking No. 2 hitter Gavin Ross. But Flohr got back on top of his fastball and utilized his curveball and changeup to strike out the next three batters looking to end the threat. “I’m very proud of Connor for the way he pitched,” said Edge Baseball coach Jason Rakaczewski. “He worked his pitches well.”
Flohr’s strong three-inning effort followed a complete game shutout by Cam Rakaczewski as Edge defeated the Diamond Jacks Gold 12U, 4-0, to advance to the final.
Rakaczewski, Edge Baseball’s leadoff hitter, went 2-for-3 and drew a walk in his three trips to the plate in the final. He scored twice and drove in a run. The contributions were plentiful throughout the Edge lineup.
Neville singled and scored twice. Nichols was 2-for-3 with 5 RBI, Flohr drew a walk, singled and set up courtesy runner Quinton Carr for two runs scored. Ryder Martinez singled home a run, drew two walks and scored a run. Stiffler singled and scored. Sullivan went 2-for-2, drew a walk, scored three runs and drove in four. Brody Sweigart drew a walk in two trips. And Drew Wishard walked, absorbed a hit-by-pitch and scored twice.
Center fielder Jason Baker had the only hit for the Diamond Jacks, a hard leadoff single to left field in the second inning. The Diamond Jacks entered the final at 4-0 and had outscored their opponents 65-6. Edge Baseball (5-0) overwhelmed its five opponents to the tune of a 46-2 runs advantage.
The success for Edge Baseball is nothing new this spring.
“We work hard,” said coach Rakaczewski. “To give up just two runs in five games is phenomenal. We feel we are one of the top teams in the nation.” Edge Baseball is ranked No. 43 in the nation by Prep Baseball Report and finished second among 41 teams at a Perfect Game event the weekend of April 8-10.
“We’ve had timely hitting, good defense and strong pitching,” said Rakaczewski of the formula for winning championships that is still undefeated.