By Sean Reilly
Mabel Klossner’s July 4 plans included fun with family and friends, a barbecue, and watching some fireworks at nightfall.
But before doing any of that, she pitched her Newtown Rock 12U team to a tournament championship at Diamond Nation.
Klossner fired a four-hitter, with eight strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter, as her Pennsylvania team beat the SoCal Athletics, 4-0, in the final of the Finch’s Aces Stars and Stripes 12U Tournament on Monday morning in Flemington.
“I always love playing at Diamond Nation,” she said. “I really like pitching here and they were a very good team. My screwball was working really well and so was my curve. I used the outside part of the plate a lot.”
The victory completed a 5-1 showing over the weekend by Newtown Rock, which outscored its opponents, 50-9. A key factor in its performance was its depth at pitcher and catcher. Newtown was able to have three pitchers throw two games apiece, and two catchers play two contests each during what was a steamy holiday weekend in Hunterdon County.
“Our depth at pitching and catching was a huge benefit,” Rock coach Dave Bodick said. “It was hot this weekend, and at one point we played five games in 24 hours. It makes it very, very nice to have that depth in competition so it’s not overly packed onto one girl. That’s really what makes us a very good and well-rounded team, the depth that we have. The girls play hard, and they’re fundamental. They love the sport, they love each other, have a lot of energy and it’s really cool to see. Sometimes you forget that they’re a 12U team.”
The New Jersey-based Athletics came into the final with a 5-0 record while outscoring their foes, 36-5. The Athletics also got off to a great start in the final, with pitcher Madison Bogart striking out the side in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the first, the Athletics had a runner on second with two out, but Klossner got a strikeout to end the inning.
Game-turning plays for Newtown were made in both halves of the second inning.
In the top of the frame, Alison Bodick got the first hit for the Rock with a one-out lined single over shortstop. Carly Franklin was safe on a fielder’s choice that forced out Bodick at second. Franklin stole second, and scored when Erin Ruddell sliced an opposite field double down the left field line.
In the bottom of the inning, the Athletics threatened when Julianna Galella tripled to right-center with one out, and next batter Ava Geraci was hit by a pitch. When the trail runner tried to steal second, the Rock threw to the base, and catcher Jenna Wilhelm erased her, with shortstop Maya Ravi making the tag. The lead runner, meanwhile, stayed at third.
“The catcher came through in a big spot there,” coach Bodick said. “We kind of made a bet and we won. The big part there was that we kept the momentum. We went up, got the run and we just kept the momentum on.”
The next batter hit a grounder that hit off Klossner and deflected over to Ravi at shortstop, who fired a throw to first baseman Bodick for the third out.
“That felt really good,” Klossner said. “I just love when my defense is there for me. It’s great playing on a team with defense like this. I love it.”
Newtown extended its lead in the third inning. Maddie Reed slapped a single to left field with one out, stole second and continued to third on an error. Ravi was safe on a single in front of the plate, and stole second. Klossner then drove in Reed on a ground out to third base.
The final two runs came in the fourth. Bodick led off with a double over third base and into left field. Franklin was safe on a single past third, and stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Ruddell, whose bunt single scored Bodick for a 3-0 lead. The final run came later in the inning when Ruddell stole third, and scored on error as no one was covering the base to receive the throw.
Klossner allowed a leadoff single in the fourth, but retired the next three batters. She then pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning as the game ended due to the expiration of the time clock.
“We knew it was going to be a close game, but we were battling,” Dave Bodick said. “It was a great effort all around. Mabel pitches well. She’s a battler. That’s what makes her different from some of the other girls that go out and just throw. She has a strong mental game and approach, and she wants to compete. That’s what we preach to all of our girls, to compete. When she’s on the mound, she’s going after you and attacking. Our defense and catching allows her to do that. She can just focus on going after going after batters and not pitching around them, and it allows our defense to do their thing as well.”
The Rock now hopes the championship over the weekend will be a springboard to further success the remainder of the summer season, which includes trips to national tournaments in Maryland and California.
“We love coming to Diamond Nation,” Bodick said. “It’s a great complex and the competition is always excellent and it’s a lot of fun. The tournament was great, and the Athletics were an outstanding team. We got a couple of things to go our way. It was a lot of fun and I’m really proud of our girls’ effort.”