Sean Coling cracked a three-run triple to fuel a seven-run third inning for the NJ Marlins.
By Rich Bevensee
The reversal of fortune was so dramatic, it was as if the New Jersey Marlins 14U ballclub entered an alternate universe where every single one of their wrongs were righted.
Too many walks issued in the first game? Just two free passes were surrendered in the nightcap.
Extra bases and runs given up due to costly errors? The Marlins’ defense stiffened up and allowed just one this time.
And here’s the biggest irony of the entire evening:
After scratching out one hit and three measly runs while giving up 18 in the first game of the day, the Marlins completely flipped the script. A solid performance by pitcher Jimmy Censoplano combined with an offensive splurge which produced 18 runs on nine hits led to an 18-4 pool play victory over East Coast Power Baseball in the Grand Slam Tournament on Friday night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“We had the energy in the first inning and came out strong,” said Marlins leadoff man Sean Coling, who blasted a three-run triple to fuel a seven-run third inning. “The energy in the dugout and on the field stayed strong throughout the game and that motivated us. Now we have a chance to win tomorrow and play on Sunday (in the playoffs).”
The Marlins (1-1, with 21 runs scored and 22 surrendered) will tangle with Complete Performance on Saturday at 12:15 p.m., and hope that a win will be enough for a first-place finish in their pool and earn a spot in the three-team playoff.
East Coast Power dropped to 0-2 on Friday after opening the tournament with a 4-3 loss to Complete Performance. ECP rallied for a run in the sixth and had the tying run on second base. ECP will close pool play with a 2:15 game today (Saturday) against Diamond Jacks Super 14U.
Marlins coach Todd Lewis said he was pleased with his team’s energy in the second game, given that the Marlins were victims of the mercy rule in their first game. But he was even more pleased that his team cleaned up its performance on the field.
“A lot of the difference came on the mound,” Lewis said. “We had a lot of walks in the first game and put a lot of guys on base, and they (Diamond Jacks) converted the runners on base. In this game we got a lot of our runners on base. In the first game we got one lousy hit, and in this game everyone was getting the barrel on the ball.”
Censoplano surrendered four runs (three earned) while scattering six hits and two walks and striking out three on 81 pitches. He pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning and bookended the fourth and final inning with strikeouts.
“Jimmy was in the zone all night,” Lewis said. “If I had to guess, he threw 65 percent of his pitches for strikes. I’ve had Jimmy for a couple seasons and he’s always been consistent.”
Censoplano said he definitely felt more comfortable every time he went back to the mound after his teammates continued to pile on more runs.
“This was probably one of my better outings and I’ve gotten a lot better since I joined the Marlins,” Censoplano said. “I was trying to get to the plate quickly and make the runners get the smallest lead possible.”
Trailing 1-0 going into the top of the second, the Marlins sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on four hits, three walks and three errors.
Dylan Matos, one of the smallest guys on the field, set the table for the uprising with a textbook bunt down the third base line to load the bases. Chris Walters and Coling responded with RBI singles to fuel the inning.
East Coast bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second when Jameson Basso cracked an RBI double and Stephen Lang added a run-scoring single.
But the Marlins employed another offensive explosion in the top of the third, batting 13 men and scoring seven runs on four hits, five walks and one error for a 15-3 lead.
Coling drilled a bases-loaded triple to left center, the hardest hit ball of the game, and Justice Garcia supplied an RBI single.
“I didn’t feel the ball come off the bat at all. I just hit it and ran,” Coling said. “I didn’t feel it so I knew it was in play somewhere, and I knew it was a good hit.”
Chris Warminski recorded his second RBI single of the game in the bottom of the third for ECP.
In the fourth, Austin Cruz legged out a two-run double and Censoplano forced in another run with a walk to pad the Marlins’ final margin.