By Will Harrigan
Playing five games in three days and short on arms, Hamilton A’s Nation 15U squad needed a gutsy performance by starting pitcher Matt Morris to take home a title to end their season.
Making his first start for the A’s, Morris delivered exactly that.
Going the distance, Morris tossed a four-hitter to steer Hamilton A’s Nation to an 8-3 victory over Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes in the Super 15U Top 25 final at Diamond Nation on Wednesday afternoon.
Nolan Arnold, who pitched a one-hitter vs. PPH Mafia to vault A’s Nation into the title game, was awarded tournament MVP honors.
The A’s – featuring players from in and around Mercer County – ran through the 10-team tournament undefeated at 4-0-1, and outscored their opponents 28-9. The Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes finished off their week with a 3-2 mark.
“Matt is a new – and very much welcomed – addition to our squad,” said A’s coach Brian Maglione. “We knew we were going to need a good effort today. Matt threw the ball really well, got ahead of counts, and was able to work out of a few tough spots.”
The decisive inning turned out to be the bottom of the second, as hits, walks, and an ill-timed costly error afflicted the Hurricanes.
Morris’ one out single got the rally started, which was followed by a walk by Andrew Forster. A fielding error on a grounder off Brandon Sweeney’s bat – a potential double play ball – led to a run and put two men on.
Subsequent walks by Derek Anson and Frankie Mazzella forced in a run, setting up Johnny Ryel to extend the rally by singling in a pair of runs.
Nolan Arnold of Hamilton A’s Nation was named Super 15U Top 25 MVP.
“There’s not one thing in particular we do spectacularly, but these guys do a lot of the little things right,” said Maglione. “Scoring with two outs, having the right approach at the plate, playing defense. It adds up and led to us going 24-7 this summer. That’s a great achievement.”
Morris helped his own cause in the third, singling and then scoring after two errant pitches moved him along the bases. Arnold, Morris, and Aidan Heaphy each singled in runs in the bottom of the sixth, adding insurance runs that enabled Hamilton to seal the victory.
Morris went 3-for-4, and Ryel went 2-for-4 in multi-hit efforts for the A’s.
The Hurricanes actually drew first blood in the first, and did it in small ball style. Jack Hogenaur drove home Tyler Muzzi, who had singled, on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Mid-Atlantic would double its lead off Morris in the second – before the big A’s rally – when Ryan Frey came up with a one-out single to score a run.
Later in the fifth, Andrew Enders – the Hurricanes’ nine-batter – came up with a clutch two out single to cut the deficit to 5-3.
The championship marks the end of the summer for the A’s, who played in six different tournaments at ‘The Nation’ this summer.
“We’ve seen some tough teams everywhere. Whenever you come here, you know it’s a battle just to get out of group play. That makes winning this one special,” said Maglione.