By Will Harrigan
Morris County Cubs 13U coach Tom Drown was quick to admit that his team was exhausted, mentally and physically, on Sunday night. Playing three games in one day will do that to you. For good measure, his pitching arsenal was whittled down to guys who are not commonly seen on the hill.
None of that mattered, because by the time the 13U Mid-Summer Classic came and went on Sunday night, the Cubs were champions.
Winning the war of attrition in the final, the Cubs notched a 7-4 victory over Essex County-based Hustle Baseball Academy to win the 13U Blue Division title at Diamond Nation. With the NJ Rising Rebels winning the White Division title, Morris County based teams flexed their muscles in a big way at the 13U level.
Undefeated in five tournament games – all played in a two-day span – the Cubs outscored their opponents by a collective 43-14 margin over the weekend.
“It’s obviously tough to win a tournament, but it’s even more difficult when you play three in a day. Our guys are exhausted,” Drown said. “It was so important to get the bats going early because I knew we were going to need to hold on at some point.”
The MVP award was bestowed upon Randolph resident R.J. Dougherty, a left-hander who got the victory on the mound in the final. In five innings of work, Dougherty surrendered just one earned run while fanning seven Hustle batters.
“R.J. rarely pitches for us, but we were so short on arms we needed him to pitch the final. He did a great job limiting damage and stepped up big for us,” Drown said.
A bevy of run support came in the top of the third, with the Cubs holding a 1-0 lead entering the inning.
The first big blow was a two-RBI triple off the bat of A.J. Palombit, moving the Cubs advantage up to 3-0. That hit scored Dougherty and Brody Halik. Each had singled to set the table for the winners. A batter later, Palombit would cross home plate via a sacrifice fly to center off Brayden Longo’s bat.
Later in the inning, a pair of two-out errors following a Colin Donnelly double made it a five-run inning and put the winners in control.
Back in the first inning, the Cubs took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single off the bat of Mike Paxos. That base hit scored Halik, who had initially gotten aboard on a fielder’s choice.
Down 5-0, Hustle Baseball Academy got themselves on the board in the third, when Miles Nessan drove in a run on a fielder’s choice with one out. Dougherty had walked three straight batters to get into the jam, but escaped with no further damage when he picked off Nessan a batter later.
An ill-timed dropped fly ball off Nicholas Danella’s bat cost the Cubs a pair of runs in the fifth. An inning later, Joey Maiella’s sacrifice fly brought Hustle to the game’s final 7-4 score.