Thunderwolves Prime first baseman Andrew Tucker handles throw from third baseman Sam Heim to retire Mason Cinca of Baseball U North NJ.
By Sean Reilly
Cooper Sackel didn’t pitch a no-hitter on Tuesday morning, but he did earn a shutout victory.
And in the end, that was quite satisfactory for the Thunderwolves Prime right-hander at the Diamond Nation 17U World Series.
Sackel’s arm and bat were pivotal as the Western New York team blanked Baseball U North Jersey, 4-0, in the second day of tournament action in Flemington.
His bid for a no-hitter was denied when Baseball U cleanup man Jason Agrait hit a first-pitch double to the gap in right-center field with two out in the top of the seventh inning. Sackel struck out the next batter to finish the one-hitter with five strikeouts and four walks.
“I came close,” he said. “I was thinking about it. I knew what was going on, and then we got two outs. He got the hit, but I wasn’t too upset, as long as we were winning.”
Sackel was in command throughout, getting eight ground ball outs and three more on infield pop ups.
“The fastball was working a lot,” he said. “Toward the end, I got the slider to work a bit more, but the first part was all fastballs.”
Sackel, who recently completed his junior season at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo, also hit cleanup for Thunderwolves Prime. He hit a two-run single during a three-run sixth inning that provided a strong piece of insurance heading into the final inning.
The Thunderwolves took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Sackel led off with a walk. He was forced out on a grounder hit by Andrew Tucker, who moved over to second on a passed ball and reached third on a wild pitch. Robert Wegrzyn then smacked an RBI single to left field with two out.
Baseball U also got an impressive start from pitcher Cole Jarra, who allowed the lone run through the first five innings on three hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. Two of those base runners were erased trying to steal second by catcher Agrait.
The Thunderwolves pulled away in the bottom of the sixth. The inning began with a walk to Brayden Delaney, who stole second and reached third on an error. Sam Heim then walked and stole second. With a new pitcher on the mound and the infield drawn in, Reed Lesmeister reached on an error to score Delaney for a 2-0 lead. After a stolen base put runners on second and third, Sackel’s single to left field scored both runners for a 4-0 edge.
“I was down 0-2, and I just wanted to catch something for the game,” said Sackel, who had walked and grounded to short in his prior at-bats. “It was only a 1-0 lead going into that inning, so I just knew we had to get some more runs on the board.”
With the lead stretched from one run to four entering the seventh, the main question became whether or not Sackel would finish with a no-hitter. He started the inning by getting a ground out to first base and pop up to shortstop before Agraic ripped the first-pitch double.
The victory also put Thunderwolves Prime in an excellent position after two days of play in the tournament. In its opening game on Monday, Jude Lowry pitched a shutout to beat the North Jersey Cardinals Red, 6-0.
“I wanted to follow that up,” Sackel said. “Now we have to keep it up tomorrow.”
Thunderwolves Prime will try for a third win against Ace Elite 2023 (1-1) on Wednesday.
Baseball U, now 0-2, will play North Jersey Cardinals Red (0-2) on Wednesday.