OOTP Cyclones 13U armed and dangerous in ‘24

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 1, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

It’s hard to know where to begin assessing the Out Of The Park Cyclones 13U baseball team.

First, the facts. The Cyclones roared through four tournament games unbeaten by outscoring the opposition 45-1, while only playing 17 of a possible 28 innings. 

Clearly, coach Travis Zilg’s players answered a lot of questions about ability and depth after winning a tournament championship this weekend, but in doing so they prompted many more. And Zilg agreed that it’s a good problem to have.

With Cody Alicea and Ethan Mecchi combining for a one-hit shutout, the Cyclones capped their weekend with a 10-0, four-inning championship game victory over Flores Baseball Braves White to claim the 13U Easter Extravaganza title on Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“This was our first one out and you never know what to truly expect,” Zilg said. “I was very concerned about our hitting which turned out to be a total surprise for us. We hit at a high level this weekend. 

“We played three innings in our first game, four in our last game, four in this one, so, pitching-wise, we were shorted seven or eight innings. It’s good how we won but we didn’t get to see all of our pitchers. Those are important innings for the first tournament of the year, to see what guys can do. That’s a negative, but a negative from a positive.”

Tournament MVP Lucas Funk was one of the few surprises in Zilg’s arsenal. Funk picked up the victory in the team’s first pool game against NEU/Grit, and he homered once and tripled three times over the weekend, including two triples in the final.

Funk attributed his fast start at the plate to tireless attention to detail in the cages this winter.

“It’s just my approach,” Funk said. “I try to get the barrel on the ball and show off my speed.”

“He’s new to the team, and we’re lucky to have him,” Zilg said.

From the outset the 13U field discovered the Cyclones came to play. They rolled over Grit, 14-0, in four innings, they defeated Double Major Black, 7-1, and they run-ruled Connecticut Moose, 14-0, in another four-inning affair. 

Funk said he had fewer questions than Zilg going into the tournament opener.

“I knew we were good,” he said. “From all the practices, everyone looked good.”

Zilg said he was least surprised by Cyclones pitching, which, combined with superior defense, allowed just one run on three hits over 17 innings. 

“One run and three hits in four games is pretty scary,” Zilg said. “Pitching was the one thing we knew would be our strong suit. You can throw bullpens all winter and that’s why I feel the pitchers have the advantage coming out of the gym.”

As far as the offense is concerned, it wasn’t just that the Cyclones scored 45 runs in four games that impressed Zilg. The Cyclones faced highly-touted pitching in two of their three pool games.

Lucas Funk of OOTP Cyclones was named MVP of the 13U Easter Extravaganza.

“We saw a kid from NEU who was sitting in the 80s, and last night (against the Moose) they saw a big lefty whose fastball was sitting in the low 70s,” Zilg said. “They were tested right out of the gate and they responded well.”

In the championship game against the Braves, Funk’s first-inning RBI triple to right center fueled a seven-inning rally from which the Braves would not recover.

Alicea got his team on the board with a two-run single. Dylan Pudlak followed Funk’s triple with an RBI double. Lucas Bolton added a sacrifice fly, Pudlak scored on a wild pitch and Mecchi tacked on an RBI single. 

In the third, Vincent Donofrio had an RBI groundout. In the fourth, the Cyclones ended the game when Cole Webster had a sacrifice fly and Mecchi scored on a wild pitch.

Donofrio is one of Zilg’s top arms. Last fall the lefty pitched a three-hit shutout in the Cyclones’ 4-0 victory over the Jersey Shore Wildcats in the championship game of the 13U Slugfest at the ‘Nation.’ And Alicea was the MVP that weekend.

In the Easter Extravaganza final, Alicea threw three innings and allowed one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. Mecchi came on to throw a scoreless inning in relief.

“Pitching is always my main concern going into a season, and we’re very strong this year,” Zilg said. “Our rotation is set up so that we can interchange. We only had 17 innings for guys to work, so when we’re back here the guys who got slighted will get a chance first.”

The Cyclones will return to the ‘Nation’ next weekend for the 13U April Fool’s Tournament.

Share With A Friend:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *