Marauders Red 9U sweep makes statement at Diamond Nation

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 28, 2024

Shane McBride is safe at home for the Mount Olive Marauders Red 9U.

By Sean Reilly

The Mount Olive Marauders Red 9U have played a lot of baseball this spring, and have compiled more than a dozen wins in tournament and league competition.

The boys from Morris County have impressed with their hitting, pitching and overall team play.

But until Saturday, there was one catch to it all – the Marauders had yet to compete on the big area stage at Diamond Nation.

That changed when Mount Olive arrived in Flemington for the first day of the 9U Williams Harley Davidson tournament.

The Marauders didn’t disappoint, by opening with an 8-6 victory over Schuylkill County (Pa.) Breaker Boys and following with a 12-2 triumph over a fellow town-based team, the Ridgewood Raiders Black.

The top-seeded Marauders will face fourth-seeded Ridgewood again on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals.

The second-seeded Morris County Cubs will play the third-seeded Breaker Boys in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting for the championship at 4:30 p.m.

Mount Olive has put together a 16-6-1 record already this spring. This is its fifth tournament, and the four previous have resulted in runner-up finishes.

“We’ve played a lot of games this year, between tournament play and the start of our USABL schedule about two weeks ago,” said Mount Olive coach Cliff Burns. “The kids are so excited to be here. This is the premier location against premier competition. So this was a great day.”

In the opener, Mount Olive held on in the sixth inning after initially leading by six runs. Vincent Gagliardi had two hits and two RBI, including one on an inside-the-park home run.

In the second game, Ridgewood took a 1-0 lead with two out in the top of the first after Ben Friedman hit a single that was compounded by a three-base error.

Mount Olive got three runs back in the bottom of that inning. Shane McBride led off with a walk and Gagliardi followed with an inside-the-park home run to the gap in left-center field.

The next two batters were retired before Anthony Battaglino singled to shortstop, advanced two bases on wild pitches and scored when Bryce Bodner reached on an error.

Mount Olive scored seven more in the second inning. After Harrison Avent led off with a single to center and Gianna Gagliardi walked, a single by Jackson Patterson scored both.

Vincent Gagliardi of Mount Olive rounds third on the second of his three inside-the-park home runs.

The inning also featured another two-run inside-the-park home run by Gagliardi, also to left-center, for an 8-1 lead. Catcher Brady Nettles added an RBI double, and courtesy runner McBride stole home with the final run of the inning.

Ridgewood closed to 10-2 when Nolan LoSauro singled to left and came around to score with one out in the third.

Mount Olive ended the game via the mercy rule by scoring twice in the fourth. Dillon Todd hit an RBI double on a ball that landed in shallow right field and he later accounted for the game-ending run.

Patterson pitched all four innings, allowing three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

“They’ve learned to stay positive when things go a little bit awry,” Burns said of his team. “You don’t crush yourself, you just keep at it and try to concentrate on the next play. That’s what they’ve been able to do. Mental toughness is something that nine year olds need, and they’ve been growing that, for sure.

“This team, we’ve been playing for two years,” Burns said. “They’ve really come together and we’re pushing them this year with a lot of tournament play because they deserve it. We went really deep in districts and went to states last year and have really high ambitions. That’s why we wanted to come here to Diamond Nation.”

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