By Sean Reilly
Deklin Sloan will take a victory by any score, but he finds special satisfaction in a hard-earned win.
The standout for the Jersey Shore Wildcats got exactly that on Sunday, when his team scored six times in the top of the sixth inning to beat Rockland Elite, 8-3, for the championship of the 11U Diamond Nation Summer Finale tournament in Flemington.
Sloan pitched the first five innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with six strikeouts and four walks.
Perhaps better known as a power hitter, he was also in the thick of the action during the game-winning rally. Only instead of hitting a long ball, he was at the plate when Charlie Mahony scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, and then drove in Brad Bateman with the first insurance run by making contact and grounding out to the pitcher.
“We kind of pulled it out of nowhere with a bunch of runs,” Sloan said. “It was crazy. But it showed that you can never give up.”
The sixth and final inning began with Rockland Elite, who entered with a 3-0 record and 32-4 run differential after sweeping through its pool, holding a 3-2 lead.
Leadoff man Mike Keefe, who singled and doubled in his first two at-bats, started the inning by hitting a fly ball to left field that was dropped. He moved to third when Mahony hit a hard single to center.
After a pitching change, Mahony stole second with Bateman at the plate. Bateman (2-for-3) then singled to left field to score Keefe with the tying run. Mahony went to third, and Bateman advanced to second on a throw. Ty Heyward was then walked to load the bases for Sloan.
Mahony scored on a wild pitch for a 4-3 lead, with the runners moving to second and third. Then, Sloan sent a grounder to the pitcher, who elected for the sure out at first which allowed Bateman to score for a 5-3 lead.
“I was happy when I hit it,” Sloan said.
The rally continued with Vincent Garibaldi hitting an RBI single to left field to score Heyward. Collins Sharkey followed with a grounds rule double to right center, and Cole Kerstetter was intentionally walked to load the bases. The next batter struck out, but Ryder Feldman walked on a full count for a 7-3 lead. The final run crossed on a wild pitch with Austin Condon at bat.
Sloan was relieved by Myles Mitchell on the mound in the sixth. He retired the first two batters before Spencer Izenman was hit by a pitch. The next batter grounded out to Keefe at shortstop to end the game.
Rockland Elite had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI ground out from Mikey Montijo before extending its lead to three runs when Ray Burdette hit a two-run single with two-out in the second.
The Wildcats, who ended 4-0 with a 44-18 run difference, got an RBI double from Bateman in the third before drawing within 3-2 after Sharkey had a run-scoring ground out in the fourth.
“It’s more fun to pitch in a game like this one,” Sloan said. “It’s not as much fun when you’re blowing someone out. You don’t have to work as much.”