Improbable comeback gives KMS Barnstormer’s Jackson no-hit win

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 17, 2024

By Sean Reilly

Carter Jackson pitched a no-hitter in a championship game on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation. 

And for the longest time possible, it looked like all it meant was that he’d be the victim of a hard-luck defeat. 

Despite Carter’s outstanding pitching, his KMS Barnstormers team was down two runs with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning in the championship of the Father’s Day Classic 14U White division. 

Then came an improbable comeback, after four straight hits resulted in a stunning 3-2 victory over the Morris County Cubs 14U Navy for the title in Flemington. 

Drake Weaver accounted for the game-winner, by lining a 1-1 pitch that couldn’t be caught by a charging right-fielder, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.

It was a rally that will be remembered for a long time by the players from KMS, which hails from Hagerstown, Maryland, and certainly Carter, a right-hander who struck out seven and walked four. 

“It was frustrating for a while,” he said. “Then we came back as a team.”

Carter, the leadoff man in the KMS lineup, felt most frustrated after grounding out to second base for the second out in the bottom of the seventh. 

“We were throwing well and making plays, we just couldn’t get it in play when we hit,” said Carter, whose team was making steady contact, yet had only two hits until that point.

The next batter was Cooper Dewaal, who homered on a 1-1 offering over the right field fence near the foul pole. It snapped a string of 10 straight KMS outs going back to the third inning and drew KMS within a run at 2-1.

“I was scared, because I didn’t think we had it in us there for a minute,” Carter said. “We were hitting a lot of pop ups. Against better teams like that, it’s not going to work out. Then he hit a home run, and it got us all pumped up.” 

Jay McConnaughy kept hopes alive with a single to shortstop, and Jack Knepper singled past third. A throw went to third base, which allowed Knepper to take second. 

All of a sudden, the tension level increased significantly.

Weaver was up next, and he delivered the hit which gave KMS its 16th straight win, and fourth-straight tournament championship (and first at ‘The Nation.’)  

“I knew I had to hit the ball in the gap,” he said. “I had to tie it or win it. That was the goal. It was awesome to come back like that. This is a beautiful complex and it was so nice to be here.”

Carter Jackson pitched a no-hitter and was named the 14U White Father’s Day Classic MVP.

The Cubs led for just about the entire game after scoring two unearned runs in the top of the first.

Cooper North led off the game for the Cubs by drawing a walk. The next batter flew out to left field. North stole second before Jaret Haupt walked.

Following a strikeout, Matt Zisa was the batter when a pickoff throw to second wasn’t handled cleanly at the base. The ball went into center field, and also got past the outfielder and rolled toward the fence, allowing both runners to score. 

Both pitchers – Jackson and the Cubs’ Dimitri Romer – were then dominant in what became a very fast-moving game.

Romer allowed a leadoff single to shortstop by Jackson in the first, and a one-out single between third base and shortstop by Cohen Michael in the third, before KMS rallied in the seventh. 

Romer finished with four strikeouts and no walks. Nine of his outs came in the air. 

Both pitchers were also very efficient. Jackson wound up throwing 80 pitches, while Romer threw 76. Romer ended with four strikeouts and no walks. 

“It’s really fun to pitch in a game like this,” Jackson said. “Both teams were making plays. It’s the best way to play.” 

Jackson used a variety of pitches in throwing his gem. 

“My curveball and my fastball were working,” he said. “My fastball, I tried getting on the outside corners where he was calling strikes. My curveball, I threw it down the middle, more away for them to swing at.” 

“We barreled some balls, but just could not get anything to fall,” said KMS coach Justin Michael. “Cooper hit the home run, Jay got on, Jack got on and then we were able to get that sinking line drive that finally fell. It was a pretty sweet moment to get a walk off victory and win a championship at Diamond Nation. Carter Jackson was unreal. He had everything working, and the pitcher from the Cubs was battling right at us. Credit to him for sure. He’s definitely a special arm down the road.” 

According to Michael, there’s one other factor which played a role in the KMS comeback — the team’s experience together.

“We’re rolling pretty good right now,” he said. “Our guys believe in each other. It doesn’t matter where we are in the lineup or who is on the mound. We’ve been together for a while. That’s pretty cool for our age. At 14U, a lot of new teams are being formed. A lot of our guys have been together since 9U. There’s a lot of camaraderie and trust that somebody is going to get the job done. That’s what we preach.”

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