By Sean Reilly
The Marlboro Mustangs 12U dealt with a couple of potential disadvantages throughout the weekend while competing in the Super 12U Fall Invitational at Diamond Nation.
First of all, Marlboro was competing as a town-based outfit in a 16-team field consisting mostly of strong club programs.
Secondly, the Mustangs wound up falling behind in almost every game.
Despite that, Marlboro was unbeaten through four games in earning a championship berth against Sandlot Baseball Academy on Sunday afternoon.
Sure enough, the Monmouth County team fell behind by four runs in the top of the first inning. But in a true-to-form performance, it rallied to a 12-8 victory for the tournament title in Flemington.
The championship was the first at Diamond Nation for the Mustangs, who reached the semifinals of the 11U Spring Invitational back in March. They’ve had a solid year, earning hardware at various other events.
“We’ve been here a couple of times,” noted Mustangs coach Matt Granese. “This team has won a lot, but this was a great challenge.”
To get to the final, the Mustangs had to come back twice to beat All Star Baseball Academy, 7-5, in the semifinals. The Mustangs stranded three All Star Baseball runners to end the game. And to take home the hardware, Marlboro had to overcome a Sandlot team which was 4-0 and scored nine first-inning runs to eliminate the powerful Diamond Jacks Super 12U, 17-9, in the other semifinal.
Sandlot Baseball Academy, from Scranton, Pa., took an almost instant 4-0 lead over Marlboro.
Jack Piccotti led off with a double, and Matty Seitzinger followed with a home run just inside the left field foul pole. Third batter Chase Magnott doubled to center. After a fly out to center, Jason Jones was safe on an error and stole second. Carson Stephens grounded out to shortstop, with Magnott scoring the third run. Paul Severs then hit a ball which dropped in shallow center field for a 4-0 lead.
“Our coach reminded us not to get down,” said Marlboro’s Anthony Greunling, who was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
And with the proven bats that were present throughout the Mustangs lineup, there really was no reason for alarm.
Marlboro got two runs back in the bottom of the first. With one out, Vince Marchese walked, Ethan Mecchi was safe on an error and Anthony Granese walked to load the bases. Sean Kelly then drove in Marchese with an infield single, and Ethan Wuelfing walked with the bases loaded and two out.
Marlboro then scored four more times in the second. Marchese had an RBI single to center with one out, Granese coaxed a bases-loaded walk to tie the score, and Kelly had an RBI groundout, with another run scoring on an error, for a 6-4 lead.
Sandlot Baseball Academy scored an unearned run in the top of the third, before Marlboro added four more runs in the bottom of the frame for a 10-5 advantage.
Marlboro’s first run that inning scored on a bases-loaded single to shortstop by Greunling. Julian Ench was then safe on an infield error which scored two more, though he was credited with one RBI. Granese added an RBI single to left with two out for the five-run lead.
Marlboro tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Kaydn Salfarlie had an RBI ground out to first base, and Josh Zung hit a sacrifice fly to center for a 12-5 score.
With the 1:50 time clock near expiration, the fifth inning was likely to be the last.
Sandlot was able to score three runs, with Magnott hitting a one-run bases-loaded single, Nathanael Kayal drawing a full count walk and Jason Jones hitting into a force out which scored another. The inning ended on a line out to Mecchi at first base with Sandlot runners on first and third.
The clock then expired with two out in the bottom of the inning. Since Marlboro was ahead, it also ended the game and gave the Shore team its championship.
“This was awesome,” said Greunling, who gamely worked into the fifth inning when pitching was at a premium for both sides after the busy weekend. “I just had to focus on my location.”