Lumberjacks pitcher Andrew Cutler turns toward dugout after flipping to first baseman Josh Osiander for final out in second inning with Deck Dogs runners on second and third.
By Sean Reilly
Andrew Cutler had more than just a batter, catcher and umpire in front of his eyes when he pitched for the East Coast Lumberjacks on Tuesday afternoon.
His club was playing the Deck Dogs 2023 Showcase Team in the Super 17 Invitational at Diamond Nation in Flemington. More specifically, the game location within the complex was Field 7, which features stadium seating behind home plate.
Those areas, as well as the top row standing area, were filled with college coaches taking notes while evaluating the talent on the field.
One of the most impressive players they saw was Cutler, who attends Fairfield Prep in Connecticut, and recently joined the Long Island-based team after an injury sidelined another pitcher.
Cutler pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just three hits with five strikeouts and four ground-ball outs in helping his team defeat the Deck Dogs, 11-3, in the second day of action at the wood bat showcase.
The four base runners he allowed all advanced into scoring position, but he showed poise in getting outs that kept each one from scoring. And he did so without thinking about those men armed with radar guns and notepads behind the plate.
“There were a lot of people here today,” he said. “But I just focused on the catcher and tried to ignore all the noise around. I tried to look at the catcher, focus on the glove and nothing else.”
He had command of his off-speed pitch, and his location was on point throughout his outing, which enabled him to get ahead of most batters.
“Andrew was great,” Lumberjacks coach Ryan Pembroke said. “You’re as good as the guy on the mound. If your starting pitcher comes out and throws a lot of strikes, keeps the defense involved and we can do enough offensively, when you go out and throw four shutout innings, it makes it really easy for your offense to win a baseball game. When you can throw three pitches for strikes, you’re going to be tough.”
Most of the other players wearing Lumberjacks uniforms also played well during the game, whether it was making a play in the field, moving over a runner with a productive out or delivering a clutch hit.
The big hits were centered in three particular innings: a three-run second, three-run fourth and five-run fifth that resulted in an 11-0 lead.
The second inning featured RBI singles from Damian Amancio and Dillon Aery with one out and Jake Acker, the team’s vocal catcher, with two out.
In the bottom of that inning, the Deck Dogs got back-to-back singles from Brian Fitzpatrick and Tyler Donahue with one out, and a wild pitch moved them into scoring position. But Cutler bore down, and got the next two batters on a strikeout and pitcher-to-first ground out to end the inning.
The Lumberjacks fourth inning included run-scoring hits supplied by Teddy Cashman and Aery, as well as an RBI groundout from Kyle Engmann, all with one out.
The first run in the fifth came on a bases-loaded walk to Justin Lopez with one out. Josh Ossiander singled in the next run, and a two-run single by Tori Martin made it 10-0. Cashman’s RBI fielder’s choice ground out brought in the final Lumberjacks run.
The Lumberjacks fifth-inning reliever had trouble finding the plate, which resulted in the Deck Dogs getting bases-loaded walks from Dante Wright, Jakob Koenig and Sean O’Donnell.
It’s been a good showing at the Super 17 for the Lumberjacks. Their play began with a loss and win on Monday, and earlier on Tuesday they beat the Diamond Jacks Super 15U, 7-3. One game remains, against Team Steel Prospects, on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a great day for us,” Pembroke said. “The biggest thing is just getting better in every game. In each game, we’ve gotten better. That’s how you’ve got to play baseball. You have to make constant adjustments. In this game, we swung the bat really well. We took care of what we needed to do. From pitch one to the last pitch, our bats and defense, everything was clicking on all cylinders.”