Howell Hurricanes late storm flips Top Lumber in Summer Finale

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 26, 2023

Top Lumber’s Jaden Comisiak is tagged out at home by Howell Hurricanes catcher John Loizos.

By Rich Bevensee

Matt Clark, admittedly the last guy on the Howell Hurricanes 15U roster to stretch any kind of hit into extra bases, just couldn’t resist the chance. 

After blasting a ball to the wall in dead center field, Clark chugged around the bases and believed there was a sliver of hope for an inside-the-park home run. 

Those hopes were dashed pretty quickly, as he slowed rounding third and was tagged out at home. But the damage was done, which is why Clark dusted himself off with a smile on his face. 

Clark’s triple drove in two runs in the sixth inning and provided some important insurance, and in what had been a tight ballgame ended up a 6-2 victory over Top Lumber Futures in Summer Finale pool play on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“I’m known for being the slowest kid on the team,” said Clark, a rising junior at Colts Neck. “When I rounded second I looked at my coach at third and he stopped me, but I was so pumped and energy was going through me so I went. My fault totally. Glad we got those two runs first.”

The Hurricanes actually struggled for offense for the first half of the game. 

Then, trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, Howell evened the score when Nate Margulies doubled home a run and Clark drove in the tying run with a groundout.

In the fifth, the Hurricanes broke the tie when Nick Carmino drew a bases-loaded walk and Lincoln Maikos scored on a wild pitch.

“We’re always pumped in the later innings. That’s just who we are,” Clark said. “We never give up and we’re known for that. The energy is always there.”

“We had runners in scoring position the first three innings and we didn’t get a hit,” Howell coach Vinnie Abene said. “I’ve never won a baseball game where we didn’t score a run, and I know the kids were getting frustrated. But they didn’t quit, and better late than never.”

While the Hurricanes were trying to figure out Lumber righty Logan Howe, Margulies was being just as stubborn for Howell. 

Margulies, a 6-1, 170-pound righty and rising junior at Rumson-Fair Haven, pitched all six innings using an even split of his four-seam fastball and curveball, and allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.

Winning pitcher Nate Margulies helped himself and the Howell Hurricanes with an RBI double.

“Definitely had good command but my body didn’t feel great,” Margulies said. “I tweaked my back going into the game but that’s okay – four Advils and I’ll be fine. Definitely one of my better outings in terms of numbers but always could use improvement.”

Top Lumber, hailing from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, scratched out a run against Margulies in the top of the first when Will Bales stroked an RBI single. Center fielder Will Theobald got the ball in quickly and Jaden Comisiak was nailed at the plate for the final out of the inning. 

In the fourth, Top Lumber scored a quirky run for a 2-0 lead when a pitch from Margulies lodged inside the chest protector of catcher John Loizos, resulting in a dead ball and Howe scoring from third. 

That’s all the damage Top Lumber could manufacture against Margulies, who, other than those two innings, did not allow a runner to reach scoring position. 

“That was the key to the game, absolutely. We weren’t hitting the baseball hard early and Nate kept us in the game,” Abene said. “He was pounding the zone with both pitches, and kept us in the game long enough for us to chip away and take the lead.

“The past four or five starts he’s been nothing but reliable. He’s not overpowering but he does have a lot of confidence in his second pitch, and as you saw tonight he threw it quite often with two strikes.”

For Top Lumber, Howe pitched 4⅔ innings and permitted two runs on four hits. He walked four and struck out four. Comisiak allowed two runs over the final inning and yielded two runs on two hits and three walks with one strikeout.

Both teams have doubleheaders slated for Saturday.

Howell will face Biopitch Baseball (2-0) at 12:15 p.m. and Hudson Valley Select Delanoy Sr. (1-0) at 2:15 p.m.

Top Lumber will take on Hudson Valley at 6:30 p.m. and the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 15U Americans (0-1) at 8:30 p.m.

NOTE: Hurricanes coach Vinnie Abene became Edison’s High School’s all-time winningest coach this past spring. He has 282 career wins.

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