Ian Kiser and Matt Seelagy combined on a three-hitter and Jude Clough went 3-for-4 as Hustle Baseball defeated the Bridgewater Panthers, 3-1, in the 14U Best Show on Turf championship game last night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Luke Maida broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI fielder’s choice grounder in the top of the fifth that scored Evan Saullys with the go-ahead run. Saullys had sliced a one-out triple down the right field line. Hustle Baseball tacked on an important insurance run in the seventh when Clough singled home Seelagy from third with two outs.
Seelagy had led off the seventh with a single to right field. Saullys bunted him to second base and Maida’s grounder got Seelagy to third with two outs. Clough then singled to left field to score Seelagy and boost the lead to 3-1.
That would prove comforting when Cole Cabatu drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh that enabled Bridgewater to bring the tying run to the plate. But Seelagy got the next batter looking at a fastball on the outside corner to end the threat and the game.
Seelagy closed out Kiser’s win with three hitless innings, striking out two and walking one. The walk to Cabatu, in fact, was the only baserunner Seelagy permitted.
The lefty Kiser rebounded from a rocky first inning and allowed just one run, which was unearned, on three hits, struck out four and walked four. Three of those four walks by Kiser came in that dicey first inning.
“Ian is a great pitcher,” said Hustle Baseball coach Esteban Rodriguez. “I was glad to see him come through in such a big game for us. He’s also come through for us with the bat.” Kiser, who bats third in the Hustle Baseball lineup, drew a pair of walks in three trips to the plate.
Once Kiser overcame his first inning troubles, he was tough to overcome
“I was overthrowing a bit and everything was high,” said Kiser, named one of the four co-Most Valuable Players in the tournament along with Seelagy, Clough and left fielder Jack Duffy. “Once I stopped doing that I was okay.”
Eidan Smith led off the first inning for Bridgewater (5-1) and reached via catcher’s interference before Danny Smith drew a walk. Eidan Smith, however, was picked off at second base by Hustle Baseball catcher Clough when Noah Matheson missed on a bunt attempt. Kiser then walked Matheson and Casey Colbert singled to right field to load the bases.
Kiser uncorked a wild pitch to allow Danny Smith to score and give Bridgewater an early 1-0 lead. Kiser then issued his third walk of the inning with two outs to reload the bases. But he induced a fly out to center to end the threat. Kiser would allow one base runner in each of the next three innings but had quickly gained control of matters. “My fastball was working well and, actually, so was my curveball,” said Kiser.
Kiser was on a strict pitch count having pitched three innings in his team’s 8-3 victory over Power 5 in the first round of the playoffs. Seelagy also pitched effectively in relief in Hustle Baseball’s tournament opening victory over Full Count Futures.
Hustle Baseball (5-0-1) evened the score in the top of the second in a rally triggered by Evan Ravalli’s leadoff single to center field. Ravalli moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on James Macko’s sac bunt and scored on a wild pitch. Both pitchers settled in from that point and the game remained knotted at 1-1 until Saullys got things going in the fifth with his triple.
Matheson worked in and out of trouble through the first five innings for Bridgewater. He permitted one run, which was unearned, on five hits over five innings while striking out none and walking six. The six walks would keep Matheson busy fending off Hustle Baseball but the righthander would strand nine runners in his five innings of work.
Hustle Baseball scored 50 runs through its first five tournament games and, impressively, did not strike out a single time in the championship game.
“Hitting has been a key for us,” said Rodriguez.
But it was Bridgewater which amassed the most runs in the tournament, scoring 59, including 22 its first two playoff games. That big production included a wild 12-11 victory over the North Jersey Cardinals in the semifinals in which the teams played two extra innings under the International Tiebreaker.
NOTES: Ty Fredo, Hustle Baseball’s No. 2 hitter and shortstop drew a pair of walks and made a nice play fielding a ball behind second base to rob Bridgewater’s Bryce Pantozzi of a hit with a runner on and two outs in the third inning. … Clough, Hustle Baseball’s catcher, had three singles, drove in a run and picked off runner. … Seelagy drew a walk, singled and scored a run. … Bridgewater’s Casey Colbert went 2-for-3 with two singles and Cole Cabatu drew two walks. … The Panther’s third baseman Matt Moore made two fine plays coming in on slow bouncers and gunning the runners out at first base.