By Rich Bevensee
It must have been an amusing sight, seeing Chris McCartney pitch wiffle balls to his grown teenage son Alex in the parking lot of the Marriott hotel on Saturday evening.
But after making the four-hour trip from Altoona, Pa. for the Memorial Day Blast, the McCartneys were going to make the most of their visit to Diamond Nation in Flemington. Alex was off to a rough start at the plate after the tournament opener for his team, Flood City 13U Elite, and enough was enough.
“In the first game I struggled a little bit, but then I got my head out of my butt,” Alex McCartney said. “My dad and I practiced on little wiffle balls in the parking lot of the hotel. After that I had a ton of confidence at the plate and I was swinging at more strikes.”
That impromptu batting practice session paid big dividends on Monday evening for the Pennsylvania squad. Batting with one out and a runner on first in the top of the sixth inning of a tie game, McCartney blasted a triple to the left center gap, driving in the winning run in Flood City’s eventual 8-6 victory over Diamond Jacks Super 13U in the tournament championship game.
McCartney, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, went 2 for 3 and scored twice in the championship game and made a run-saving defensive play in the bottom of the sixth.
“It wasn’t really nerve-racking for me,” said McCartney, a resident of Bellwood Antis, Pa. “Last year in state (Cal Ripken level), we came back and I was in the same exact situation. I lined to the left field fence for a three-run double to win the game. Today I was thinking, line drive left center, and that’s what I got.
“This feels great. I feel like it’s going to be a great car ride home. My dad’s going to be talking to me about it all the way home.”
It will be a terrific ride home for the entire program, as several players contributed to the championship. Eight Flood City batters collected a base hit and five knocked in a run.
Dalton Strick went 2 for 3 with two RBI, and Graham Keen, Liam O’Donnell, Conor Waite and Connor Pike each had an RBI single.
Flood City went undefeated through six games to capture the 13U trophy. They defeated Powerballers Baseball (10-1), Evolution Baseball (5-2), Trumbull Travel Baseball Black (4-2) and Team Boston Academy (8-0) in pool play. Flood City then defeated Prime Time Aces, 11-3, to advance to the final.
“This is very good for us, especially considering everything we had to go through,” Flood City coach Allen Strick said. “I told all our kids, everyone had a part in this, that’s what it boils down to. We had a lot of kids contribute today, and that’s the way it’s been all weekend.
“It’s hard when you’re coming in with 12 kids, playing five or six games, arm-wise, trying to get everything going. Everyone contributed, which is what we preach.”
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U squad was playing in its fourth tournament final of the spring and is now 31-3-1 this season.
The DJacks reached the final by going 4-0 in pool play, dismissing the Whiz Kids Future Stars (17-2), 5-Star Northeast Browne (7-2), the Baltimore Redbirds (11-0) and the N.Y. Gothams (10-0) to earn the top seed for the playoffs. The DJacks then knocked off Pride of the Diamond Iron Colts, 8-1, in the semifinals.
“As a coach we want to see the best teams. We want to see the talent and give them a challenge,” Super 13U coach Matt Markowitz said. “We played some weaker competition to start out and it shows that when we’re not on our ‘A’ game we’re gonna get challenged.
The DJacks showed their grit in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs to the knot score at 6-6. Nik Holot and Wyatt Morrissey opened with singles and Nick Do walked to load the bases with no out. Justin “Hoosta” Labrador looped an RBI single into center, and Jackson Staples earned an RBI groundout to tie the game.
In the top of the sixth, Flood City’s Drew Irons reached on an infield error and scored on McCartney’s triple. Then, with two out, O’Donnell sent a line drive back through the box to score McCartney for a huge insurance run.
“It’s the battle of the first to blink,” Markowitz said. “Keep the eyes peeled and the first one to make a mistake, that’s what it comes down to.”
To Markowitz’ point, the game was a see-saw affair which saw the Diamond Jacks bounce back from a 2-0 deficit in the first inning to take a 4-2 lead in the second. Flood City then rallied for a 6-4 lead in the fourth before allowing the DJacks to tie the game in the fifth.
The Diamond Jacks brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the sixth after Tyler-Shea Corales reached on a walk and that brought to the plate Mike Meyers, who earlier in the game cranked an opposite field two-run triple to left center. This time Meyers blasted a hot smash down the first base line but McCartney, Flood City’s first baseman, flashed some terrific leather and snared the laser to deny Meyers of an RBI extra base hit.
Flood City reliever and winning pitcher Logan Serenko, the team’s third pitcher of the game, then got a strikeout and a groundout to clinch the title.
For the Super Jacks, Nick Do led the offense by going 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and a run scored. Driving in runs for the hosts were Labrador, Meyers, Staples, Luke Palermo (1-for-3, RBI) and Neo Diaz (1- for-3, RBI).
Graham Keen got the start for Flood City and allowed four runs on four hits and walked four with two strikeouts in two innings. Drew Irons came on in relief and pitched three innings, yielding two runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman.
For the Diamond Jacks, Labrador pitched the first four innings, permitting six runs on seven hits and one walk with two strikeouts. Nick Do pitched two innings, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks, and he struck out two.