Scudilla walks it off as Morris County Cubs take 9U Battle At The Turf

By DN WRITING STAFF | March 24, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

Not long after Nick Scudilla chalked up the biggest hit of his young baseball career, raced to catch up with him as he was quietly making his way toward the exit with his parents.

There is nothing presumptuous about Scudilla, a soft-spoken 8-year-old who just lifted his team to a tournament title. He certainly wasn’t sticking around the field to bask in adulation. Even his body language gave no indication of the heroics he had just provided.

Just moments earlier, Scudilla was the first batter in the bottom of the seventh inning, where tournament rules dictate the extra inning shall begin with the bases loaded and one out. Scudilla lined the first pitch he saw into left-center field for a game-winning two-run single, lifting the Morris County Cubs to a walk-off 10-9 victory over Deep Run Blue and the 9U Battle At The Turf championship on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“I told him in the dugout you can win this, so go win it. You got this,” said Cubs coach Alphonse Falco. “He didn’t say anything to me. He doesn’t ever seem too high or too low. He’s a very even-keeled kid. Upstairs the intensity is up but he’s always pretty cool.”

Scudilla, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, shrugged when asked about that moment in the dugout. 

“Coach said nothing else matters but runs,” Scudilla said. “I was kind of nervous but I still went up there and hit the ball. I was thinking I wanted to hit it for my team. I thought it was going to be a couple pitches but I got it on the first try. 

“That was definitely my biggest hit ever. Rounding first I felt that my friends were about to scream.”

What made Scudilla’s game-winning hit even more momentous is that it completed an impressive comeback which saw the Cubs rally from a 7-2 deficit.

The Cubs chipped away with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, and, after Deep Run added a run in the fifth, the Cubs responded with two more runs in the bottom of the inning to climb within 8-6.

In the bottom of the sixth, Max Kromjong belted an RBI double and later scored the tying run on a one-out bloop single by No. 11 hitter Brett Rubin which fell into shallow right field. Rubin finished 3-for-3 with four RBI.

“Our heads were down and we didn’t know what to do when we fell behind, but we were still in the game and didn’t quit,” Scudilla said. 

Following extra inning rules, Deep Run managed a run in the top of the seventh when Mack McKenna, who started the inning on third base, raced home on a wild pitch for a 9-8 lead. Following a walk, Cubs reliever Ari Schwam escaped a bases loaded jam with a pair of clutch strikeouts.

In the bottom of the seventh, Phoenix Pitts and Jeffrey Fortunato began the inning on third and second base, respectively. Scudilla didn’t give them time to get comfortable there, drilling the first pitch he saw into left center, prompting Pitts and Fortunato to begin celebrating as they crossed the plate.

Nick Scudilla was named 9U Battle at the Turf MVP for his walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh.

“This is a tough group,” Falco said. “They kept fighting and fighting all day. They took advantage of really good at bats, had a couple big hits and that allowed us to get back in it. My message to them was to stay in the game. I told them, ‘We can play, so keep playing.’ ”

Offensively for the Cubs, Scudilla was 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBI, J.P. Grzywacz had two hits, and Duncan Erne had an RBI triple.

In three innings of relief, Schwam allowed two runs on one hit and four walks with four strikeouts.

The Cubs earned their berth in the final by dissecting the pool play opposition, beating the Montgomery Township Spartans, 21-5, and the Maine Guides, 20-0.

Deep Run’s 9U team, based in Hilltown, Pennsylvania, and making its first appearance at Diamond Nation, roughed up the Maine Guides, 20-2, and the New Hampshire Prospects, 13-7, in pool play.

Deep Run’s dash to a 7-2 lead was ignited by a pair of first-inning, inside-the-park solo homers, the first by leadoff man Chase Roller and the second by cleanup hitter Kellen Fetch. 

Leading 3-2 in the top of the third, Bryce Murray lofted a base hit over the outstretched glove of the Cubs second baseman and drove in two runs for a 5-2 lead.

In the fourth, Brad Henry scored from second when he advanced to third on a Blake Alles base hit and raced home on the ensuing overthrow. Deep Run made it 7-2 on a McKenna RBI groundout.

Deep Run also accounted for the defensive play of the game in the bottom of the third. Scudilla singled on a blooper just inside the right field line, and took off for second as the ball scooted sideways to the fence. Deep Run first baseman Jackson States scrambled after the ball in foul territory and made a pinpoint throw to shortstop Murray at second base to nail Scudilla at second.

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