Tri State Arsenal catcher Griffin Kilcullen shows ball to umpire after tagging out Lincroft baserunner.
By Sean Reilly
Some ties are more acceptable than others, which was certainly the case for the Tri State Arsenal 2026 Marucci on Friday night at Diamond Nation.
Playing for the first time in just over a month, the Arsenal rallied twice, including a four-run comeback in the top of the fifth and final inning, and then escaped a threat in the bottom of the frame to finish in a 9-9 tie against the Lincroft Lightning in the opening game for both at the 15U Labor Day Blast in Flemington.
Brady Abate, a rising freshman at Malvern Prep in Pennsylvania, was pivotal in the outcome for Arsenal. He doubled home the first run and scored the second in the top of the fifth, and then pitched a scoreless bottom of the inning, including a game-ending ground out to first base with runners on second and third with the game clock already expired.
“We don’t give up,” Abate said. “We can always come back no matter the score.”
Arsenal showed that quality earlier in the game as well. Trailing, 5-1, entering the fourth inning, it scored four times, including a three-run single to right center field by Dan Pardini to knot the game with two out.
Big innings were a common theme throughout.
After the Arsenal took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a ground out to third by Nate Bolognini, the Lightning struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning. Jayden Matejicka tripled to straightaway center with one out and Brady Hahn walked with two down. Both scored when Jared Matejicka lined a double over the head of the shortstop and into left center.
Walks to Jack Buuno and Jack Concordia loaded the bases, and Matt Trimble had an infield hit that included an error to make it a 4-1 game.
Jayden Matejicka led off the second with another triple, this one to right- center, and he scored when Jack McKeon followed with a double. The Lightning loaded the bases but couldn’t score any additional runs in the inning, in part because of an out at the plate on a double steal bid, with catcher Griffin Kilcullen making a nifty tag.
Arsenal rallied to tie in the fourth. Gage Petrutz led off with a walk, stole second and then scored after stealing third with the throw going into left field. Owen Pfeiffer walked with one out, Kilcullen singled into shallow right field with two out, and George Crostewitz walked to load the bases. Pardini then singled to right center to score all three and tie the game.
The Lightning responded in the bottom of the inning. Dylan Blackman drew a bases-loaded walk for a 6-5 lead with one out, Nick Pascucci followed with an RBI walk on a full count, and the third run scored on a wild pitch. Jayden Matejicka walked to re-load the bases, and McKeon hit a sacrifice fly to left field for a 9-5 lead.
The lead would not last.
Arsenal’s Henry Pancoast led off the bottom of the inning and was hit by a pitch. He stole second, and scored on Abate’s hard-hit double to right field on a full count.
“I was just trying to move the runner over,” Abate said.
He stole third, and Petrutz followed with a walk and steal of second. Bolognini then hit a two-run single to right field to get Arsenal within a run. Pfeiffer followed with an infield hit to put runners on first and second with one out.
Frank Soos then supplied one of the most important plays for Arsenal by dropping down a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners into scoring position. And sure enough, Kilcullen hit a sacrifice fly to left field for a 9-9 tie.
In the bottom of the inning, and with the 1:50 game clock already expired, Abate struck out the first Lincroft batter. Buono legged out an infield hit to second base on a full count, and Jack Concordia walked.
Matt Trimble was safe on a fielder’s choice that forced the runner at second base for the second out. Concordia then stole second to put two in scoring position. Abate bore down, and got the final out on a ground out to first base.
“I had to keep them scoreless,” Abate said. “I had to throw strikes, not throw too many balls and make them hit the ball.
“Our last tournament was at the end of July,” he said. “We hadn’t seen live pitching in a while and it feels good to be back.”
The Arsenal closed out pool play by meeting the PPH Mafia on Saturday night and both LVBA and Avengers Baseball on Sunday.
The Lightning returned against Tri State Arsenal New York National on Saturday evening before closing out pool play against PAB National and Avengers Baseball on Sunday.
The top three finishers among the 10 teams in the field will compete in playoffs for the championship on Monday.