By Will Harrigan
The Bonnie Braves are a very unique baseball organization in comparison to most others that come to Diamond Nation.
They are a completely volunteer organization that sweeps up talent from Brooklyn and allows its players to play on both travel circuits and local leagues.
On the 11U level, that particular group of Brooklynites is quite the bumper crop.
Dominating from start to finish last weekend, the Bonnie Braves 11U squad crushed all competition at the 2022 Grand Slam, sealed off by an 11-3 victory over Jersey Shore Elite to win its title.
Outscoring their opponents by a 67-13 metric, the Bonnie Braves were – by statistical metric – doubly as efficient scoring and pitching compared to their peers in the eight-team field. Jersey Shore Elite finished up their tournament with an impressive 3-1 mark. Mason Mercado, the right fielder for the champions, garnered MVP honors for the tournament.
“This has kind of been a continuation of what our summer was like,” said Braves coach Bonnie Rodriguez. “We can coach the kids all we want, but at the end of the day it is them who must perform. We’re especially happy to win a tournament here (at Diamond Nation) where the competition is stronger.”
Little time was wasted by the Brooklynites in getting ahead.
A pair of first-inning walks issued to Lewis King and Mercado was followed by a wild pitch, moving both runners into scoring position. An infield single by Ayden Ellison, and a throwing error on the same play, allowed two runs to score and quickly put the Braves ahead 2-0.
Ellison would come around to score when the throw on his steal of third wound up in left field, giving the Bonnies a 3-0 lead after one.
An inning later, Shane Vasquez would manufacture a run all on his own for the Braves. The center fielder drew a walk, then stole second and third on consecutive pitches, and came around to score shortly thereafter on a wayward pitch.
The early lead was more than enough run support for Braves pitcher Brooks Lewis, who tossed a complete game four-hitter to pick up the victory on the mound. The left-handed Lewis struck out eight Jersey Shore Elite batters on the day.
“Brooks is only 10 years old playing up a year, and he throws it pretty hard for a kid that young,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to be a big time pitcher when he gets older.”
A three-spot that was headlined by a two-RBI single off Gennaro Sirota’s bat extended the edge to 7-0 in the third.
JS Elite would score the lone blemish off Lewis in the fourth, when they plated three runs.
Cam Eldridge and Patrick Hennessey singled to set the table, and after a wild pitch, Hunter Schweikert’s grounder into a force out drove in a run.
Two batters later, Deklin Sloan would belt a double into the left-center field gap to score Schweikert and Mike Arango to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Khalil Gayle’s RBI single in the fifth scored Mercado – who had doubled – to complete another four-run frame for the winners, and set the mercy rule into effect.