Michael Keefe of the Jersey Shore Wildcats takes a cut in 12U Fall Harvest tournament.
By Sean Reilly
Deklin Sloan has collected plenty of baseball hardware this year, and none of it for just being a participant.
He was a Little League champion during the spring in Toms River, and was also an important contributor on the Toms River East team that won the Little League state championship and advanced to the regionals in Bristol, Conn.
He’s also been a part of two championship-winning teams this year at Diamond Nation, and was selected tournament MVP after one of those victories.
Sloan is back at ‘The Nation’ this weekend, and he’s helped his Jersey Shore Wildcats team reach another tournament final.
Sloan’s stellar job of relief – he threw two-innings of hitless ball to close out the game – helped the Wildcats secure a 5-4 decision over 3Up3Down of Reading, Pa., in 12U Fall Harvest Tournament action on Saturday afternoon in Flemington.
That victory came after Jersey Shore opened with a 9-8 win over the Milltown Padres Red in the morning.
“This year has been really good for me,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten way better, especially my pitching. The best part of it all has been hanging out with my friends and teammates.”
The Wildcats will play the winner of the opposite pool for the title on Sunday afternoon, the latest in a year full of big games for Sloan and the Wildcats.
The outcome against 3Up3Down was very much in doubt when Sloan moved from first base to pitcher in the top of the fifth.
The Pennsylvania team started the inning with a walk to Evyr Nailor. She stole second and moved to third with Nate Downs at the plate. Downs hit a long RBI single off the fence in left field to get 3Up3Down within a run.
Sloan entered, and quickly got a 4-6-3 double play. He struck out the next batter looking. And in the top of the sixth, he got a strikeout, groundout to shortstop and fly out to right field to end the game.
“That double play was really huge,” he said. “That was especially helpful. I was just trying to pitch the best that I can. If I do that, I know that I have a chance.”
3Up3Down had scored three times in the second inning for a 3-0 lead. Aaron Rauenzahn singled in the first run with one out, and Vinny DiPietro added a two-run hit to right field with two out.
Jersey Shore went ahead with four runs in the bottom of the frame. Ryder Feldman had an RBI single before scoring on Brad Bateman’s two-run triple. Bateman then scored the go-ahead run on a double to left center from Collins Sharkey.
The Wildcats added their final run in the third inning. Mike Keefe reached on a single to shortstop with one out. With Charlie Mahony at the plate, he stole second, moved to third on a balk and then scampered home on a wild pitch.
3Up3Down’s opening game in the morning featured one of the very best performances by any player in any age group this entire year at Diamond Nation.
Greyson Bell of 3Up3Down pitched a no-hitter, registering all 18 outs by strikeout, in a 7-0 triumph over the Diamond Jacks Gold 12U. He walked one second-inning batter.
“It was probably the best game I ever pitched,” he said. “My command was just really good. I didn’t throw my slider at all, but I have a fastball, change up and sinker along with the slider.”
With the strikeouts piling up and his team in front, he was fully aware of what was at stake in the final inning.
“I knew what was going on,” he said. “I just kind of kept going.”