Paul Postorino makes contact on a two-run first inning single for the Morris County Cubs.
By Sean Reilly
Eli Kaiser had never played a game on a large-sized field prior to Friday night at Diamond Nation.
You’d never know that by the way he performed in leading the Morris County Cubs Grey to a 13-0 victory over Hamilton Baseball Academy in the opening game for both at the 13U April Fool’s Tournament in Flemington.
Kaiser was the leadoff batter for the Cubs, and went 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored. And as the pitcher for his team, he walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the first inning, but then retired the remaining 12 HBA batters for a four-inning no-hitter.
He said he felt a few butterflies in making his big field debut, but other than issuing the early base on balls, you’d never know it by the way he performed on the 60/90 diamond, especially since it came on the stadium setting of Field 7 at ‘The Nation.’
“I didn’t play in the fall, so this was my first time on the big field,” said Kaiser. “I was kind of nervous in the beginning. I was rushing a little bit. It’s also cool playing on this field.”
Kaiser’s pitching was helped by the fact that the Cubs scored five times in the top of the first inning. He was the catalyst by starting the game by lining a single that glanced off the HBA pitcher. After Jake Wolin walked, he soon scored when Andrew Swanick followed with a single to right field.
The larger dimensions turned out to be not too big of a deal for the right-hander.
“It wasn’t that big of an adjustment,” he said. “You can take bigger leads and the pitching is a little bit farther, but it wasn’t that big of a difference. It was great getting hits and being able to produce for the team. Pitching, I was able to throw fastballs and hit the corners. The team also played great defense. I was trying to keep my hands in when I was hitting.”
The Cubs, who hadn’t played outside in 2023 prior to the game, were more than ready for their season debut.
After Swanick’s single which scored Kaiser and sent Wolin to third, a wild pitch scored a run before Cole Exley drove in Swanick with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Brendan Osetek walked on a full count and Austin Gildea singled to center before they advanced into scoring position on a double steal. After a pop out to second base, Paul Postorino delivered a two-run single to left field for a 5-0 lead.
With the large cushion to work with, Kaiser wasn’t unnerved after issuing the leadoff walk to HBA’s Ryder Horan in the bottom of the inning. Horan stole second, but Kaiser struck out the No. 2 batter looking. A ground out to second moved Horan to third, but another called strike three ended the inning. By that point, any remaining tensions for Kaiser or his teammates were gone.
In the top of the second, the first two batters for the Cubs were retired before Kaiser hit a double that landed deep down the left field line. Wolin walked on a full count, and Swanick hit another RBI single, this one to center field to score Kaiser for a 6-0 lead. Exley then added two more RBI by beating out a grounder to third base.
The Cubs added another two-out run in third, this time on a single to right-center by Andrew Baginski.
The final four runs came in a fourth inning that began with Kaiser legging out a grounder to third base. He moved to second on an error off a pickoff play, and scored when Wolin was safe on an error. Exley singled to right field, Osetek reached on an error to score Exley, and a ground out to second by Ryan Parker brought in Osetek with the final run.
Kaiser then retired the side, with the final two outs on fly balls, to complete his no-hitter which included three strikeouts. His teammates were solid defensively, with the most notable play being third-baseman Swanick’s catch of a line drive to start the bottom of the third.
“We hadn’t been outside until this game,” noted Cubs coach Todd Burdette. “And with Eli, there’s a reason he bats leadoff and pitched the first game.”
Both teams played a second game on Friday. The Cubs lost a 4-2 decision to the Line Drive Lumberjacks, while HBA fell, 14-4, to the Diamond Jacks Super 13s.