By Sean Reilly
The Bucks County Generals 11U Elite always enjoy their visits to Diamond Nation, but their trip to Flemington for the Spring Fever tournament wound up being especially sweet.
The boys from Pennsylvania capped off an exceptional weekend by defeating Sportika 11U Elite, 10-2, on Sunday evening for the championship.
The Generals, who went 5-0 over the weekend and outscored their opponents 41-16, have had a strong season so far. They’re 16-2 this spring, and one of the losses was an 8-6 defeat to the Diamond Jacks Super 11s in the final of the Williams Harley Davidson tourney at Diamond Nation on May 1. The Generals faced the DJacks Super 11s in the semifinals earlier on Sunday, and this time emerged an 11-1 winner.
“We’ve been lucky to have a really good season,” Generals coach Vinnie D’Agostino said. “The boys have been playing well. It’s a super deep team, so everyone contributes in different ways.”
The Generals showed their mettle beginning in the first inning of their first game on Saturday, when several miscues led to a quick five-run deficit against the Morris County Cubs. The Generals, however, rallied for a 7-5 win.
Game two of pool play on Saturday was an 8-4 decision over Uncommon 2029 Gold, and the Generals then defeated ASBA West Chester Blue, 5-4, in a winner-take-all game for the pool championship on Sunday morning.
A key man for the Generals throughout the entire weekend was second baseman/pitcher Mason Bonfig, who started the tournament 7-for-7 at the plate, before winding up 8-for-10. He also sparkled as a relief pitcher in the final, and ended the game in the bottom of the fifth by hitting a two-out RBI single to cap a seven-run inning.
“It was fun,” he said of his showing. “I just felt it this weekend.”
The championship game was a very tight one until the last half inning.
The Generals took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Jake Pietrak walked with two out, stole second and then scored on a hit by Mason Bicht.
Sportika had runners on first and second with nobody out in the second, but Bucks County starter Zay Hissner retired the next three batters, including one on a ranging catch of a liner by shortstop Pietrak.
The Generals extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the second, with Easton Schwalm hitting a one-out RBI triple to right field before scoring on a ground out by Hissner.
Sportika scored both of its runs in the fourth inning. Mason Siet led off by reaching on a strikeout, Dylan Sterlacci had a bunt single and Collin Rattigan hit a single that loaded the bases with nobody out. The next two batters were retired before R.J. Ronco hit a grounds rule double over the fence in right field on a full count.
That’s when Bonfig took over on the mound, and he struck out his first batter he faced to end the inning and protect the lead.
Bonfig came up big again in the top of the fifth, when Sportika put runners on the corners with one out. He then got the second out on a pop up to first basemen Bicht, and with Sportika’s leadoff man at the plate, a bunt was fielded by Bonfig, who started a rundown play between third and home that resulted in a tag for the third out with the score kept at 3-2.
The Generals then ended the game with a seven-run uprising which started with one out in the bottom of the inning. Consecutive doubles by Hissner and Ty Doran started the inning, and Shaun Bowers doubled in Doran for a 5-2 lead. Waylon Kerrigan then hit an RBI triple to right field, and, after two walks, Bicht hit a two-run single to center. Will Duke hit a sacrifice fly for the next run, before Bonfig’s rip to center field ended the game.
“That was nice,” Bonfig said.
“That last moment was a perfect encapsulation of the weekend,” D’Agostino said. “We were holding him for a relief spot. We were a little thin, we had a guy down. One of our better arms wasn’t here this weekend. Once you get this far, we knew that we have such good depth, that especially with Hissner and him in the championship, it felt really good.”