Jackson Magley and the Morris County Cubs had their bats churning, scoring 28 runs in 3 games.
By Rich Bevensee
Not one to embrace a wait-and-see approach, Tom Drown had seen enough.
Last weekend his Morris County Cubs 14U squad scored a grand total of seven runs in an entire three-game weekend while competing in a USABL tournament in Branchburg.
The entire team – not just Drown – knew something had to be done. Spring baseball couldn’t go on like this.
“It was rough. We were all angry and everybody had their heads down,” said Cubs pitcher Cole Worman. “And the thing is everybody knew we could do better.”
Drown, who said he’s not one to employ the fire-and-brimstone approach for correcting mistakes, instead pulled his Cubs back into the workshop and drilled them until rays of confidence began to break though their veneer of frustration.
The hard work yielded a newborn offense where hitting became contagious. And it was exactly what Drown had anticipated. The Cubs’ 12-man lineup produced 18 runs on 17 hits in a three-inning, 18-2 mercy rule victory over the New Jersey Rising Rebels 14U on Sunday in the Mother’s Day Classic at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The Cubs followed that big win with a 10-2 victory over FTB Mid-Atlantic in its second pool play game to earn the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Earlier on Sunday, the Rebels were shut out 7-0 by Mid-Atlantic Show 14U National.
“We got on time with the pitcher and we were able to catch barrels,” said Jackson Magley, who went 3 for 3 with two RBI. “Practice was about timing and situational hitting. We definitely felt a little more comfortable because we knew we’d be on time (with our swings).”
All but one Cub in the lineup chalked up a base hit, and nine players knocked in at least one run. Leading the Cubs offensive onslaught were Magley (headed for St. Joseph of Montvale next fall) and Ethan Rasmussen, 3 for 3 with three RBI.
“We went after it at practice this week, focusing on hitting, and the boys really were swinging it,” Drown said. “We scored a bunch of runs and I’m really thrilled.”
Drown said practice was nothing more than getting back to basics.
“It was just working on fundamental swings, their approach at the plate, and just being on time, ready to hit in fastball counts,” he said. “Today we took advantage of a lot of fastballs and were able to square it up. We got a ton of extra base hits. It was good to see.”
Also for the Cubs, Josh Hale went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple, Brady Shust went 2 for 2 with a double and three RBI, and Liam Shelton was 2 for 3 with an RBI double.
The Cubs scored five runs in the first inning and four in the second. They scored nine runs in the third inning, and, when Worman singled home Dylan Wrona with the team’s 18th run, it meant every single Cub in the lineup reached base safely at least once.
The third inning played out like an assembly line of base hits. Shelton got things going with an RBI double, Zac Broderson slapped an RBI single, and Hale blasted an RBI triple. Magley, Rasmussen, Ethan Everett and Worman then added run-scoring singles.
“Once we got rolling in the first inning the boys didn’t look back,” Drown said. “Hitting is pretty contagious and the guys took advantage of it. We were aggressive, and that’s how we want to play offensively.”
Worman allowed a run on two hits in the first inning but was stifling after that. The right-hander permitted two runs on three hits with two walks and a strikeout in the game.
“I was pitching to contact, going fastball, curveball, letting the defense behind me work,” Worman said. “I’ve got a great defense behind me, why not let them do the work?”
Worman was effusive in his praise for his teammates’ offensive explosion, because any and all pitchers appreciate run support.
“In that last inning I could have let up four runs and we would still mercy-rule them. It’s a good feeling,” he said. “When I’m out there (with a big lead), I can throw slower and pitch to more contact, and if they score two runs, who cares? We still have a big lead. I also think the zone expands after scoring all those runs, so that helps.”
Worman, 1 for 3 with two RBI, said the difference in his teammates’ approach at the plate was more than obvious as compared to the meager performance last week in Branchburg.
“It was not a good week last week, not as much energy,” he said. “ We wanted to come out swinging today and it worked. I think energy is a big part of it. Hitting is contagious, and once one guy hits we all hit. Hitting is very mental, and I think because of today, we’ll do it again in the next game, and that mental state helps.”
For the Rebels, Nolan Bruno singled and scored, Alex Volpe and Tyler Snider each added a base hit, and Quinn Shannon walked and scored.
At press time, the Cubs dropped their semifinal game to top-seeded Hustle Baseball Academy but finished the weekend 2-1 and outscored their opponents 28-8.