Cyclones’ Anthony Eckerson is tagged out by Cyclones catcher Brian Potts to preserve a 4-4 tie.
By Rich Bevensee
There was regret in Travis Zilg’s voice in explaining why he removed M.J. Cohen from the game, but he had his pitcher’s best interests in mind.
Cohen was pitching a three-hit gem through five innings for the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects 17U club when Zilg decided to make a switch.
Without having to face Cohen for another inning, the New Jersey Marlins seized the opportunity. Anthony Eckerson belted a game-tying, two-run triple with one out in the bottom of the sixth and the Marlins salvaged a 4-4 tie in the Super 17 Fall Invitational on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“There’s no quit in us,” Marlins coach Nick Koman said. “They play to the last out. That’s what you hope for and they did that.” Koman doubles as the Jackson Memorial head coach.
The remaining balance of the Super 17 schedule has been wiped out due to effects of Tropical Storm Ophelia. Friday’s schedule was played in its entirety, but only 18 of the 60 teams were able to compete.
With the Marlins trailing 4-2 and the 1-hour, 50-minute game clock having expired, Gavin Arieno and Henry Carbone both singled with one out to bring up Eckerson, the Marlins’ cleanup hitter. The Lacey High senior drove a Kevin Pepe pitch into the right center gap to score Arieno and Carbone.
“I was thinking, hit the ball hard and that’s pretty much it, just get the guys in,” Eckerson said. “My mind was pretty clear. I didn’t have two outs so the pressure was off.”
Eckerson saw a loose ball on the relay and made a dash for home but was thrown out at the plate.
“I had been running the bases pretty good all night, and once that ball got away I had confidence I could make it,” Eckerson said.
It was a bittersweet result for the Cyclones, who escaped the late-inning drama without losing but had nothing to show but a tie for Cohen’s terrific work. The Oratory Prep junior allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks and struck out four.
“He was at 85 pitches, it’s cold out (59 degrees at the game’s conclusion) and they had top of the order coming up, so I felt it was a good time to get him out on a good note,” Zilg said. “In hindsight you could say we should have left him in, but we had a healthy arm that needed to get work. So 85 pitches, it’s cold, it’s late and he battled. I’m really happy with the way he threw.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve thrown that many pitches, about three weeks,” Cohen said. “I took a week off from throwing so it’s good to be back. I felt rested. Velo wasn’t where I wanted it to be, probably because I usually throw two bullpens and I only threw one, but I made do with what I had.”
Mike Shipula delivered a two-run double in the fifth to give the Cyclones a 4-2 lead.
The two runs Cohen gave up came without the benefit of a base hit. The Marlins tied the score at 1-1 in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk, which followed a two-out error. In the third, Arieno scored on a wild pitch just one batter after Cody Lewis was thrown out at the plate trying to do the same thing. Arieno’s run gave the Marlins a 2-1 lead.
“I thought I established command of the fastball fairly well,” said Cohen, a 6-3, 180-pound righty. “When I needed to I was getting my sweeper – it’s like a slurve – over the plate. I could have done better with the changeup, but overall I did pretty well.
Mike Shipula, a junior at Notre Dame, helped Cohen and the Cyclones get in position to win in back to back innings.
In the top of the fourth, Shipula scored on a delayed steal to tie the score at 2-2, exaggerating his secondary lead from third and then breaking for the plate on the throw.
In the fifth, Shipula came up with the bases loaded and two out and bombed a Gavin Sansone pitch to left for a two-run ground rule double and a 4-2 Cyclones lead.
It was an offensive breakthrough for the Cyclones, who left six runners on base before Shipula delivered.
“That ground rule double killed us,” Zilg said. “We had to send that run back to third and if you look at it now it was the winning run. We left too many runs on the bases.”
Damian Crispin pitched well for the Marlins over the first three innings, allowing one run on one hit, three walks and a hit batsman with six strikeouts. Sansone, a hard-throwing lefty, allowed three runs over the final three innings on one hit, six walks and two hit batters while striking out six.