Thunderwolves, River Rats unload the 14U lumber

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 25, 2022

John Chiarenza of Thunderwolves Baseball cranked a 3-run triple a 10-run second inning.

By Rich Bevensee

Count Springville, Pa., and the Buffalo area in upstate New York as two places in the U.S. where the kids know how to hit a baseball.

The Thunderwolves of New York and the Susquehanna River Rats of Springville left Diamond Nation in Flemington, N.J., without a playoff berth, but with the fullest confidence their teams will spell trouble for any pitching staff for the remainder of the summer.

These teams were two of the age bracket leaders in runs scored after they concluded their appearance in the Beat The Heat 14U Tournament with an 11-11, four-inning deadlock on Sunday. 

The Thunderwolves scored 28 runs over three games to rank third among 34 teams in the 14U pool. The River Rats scored 25 runs and ranked fifth.

“We knew we could hit the ball so we never counted ourselves out and we believed in ourselves,” said Thunderwolves second baseman John Chiarenza, a rising freshman at Grand Island High School in Grand Island, N.Y., who went 3-for-3 in Sunday’s game. “I think after today we learned that we can hit the ball against better competition.”

Chiarenza was a main contributor to the Thunderwolves’ offensive effort on Sunday. His bases-loaded triple fueled a 10-run inning and boosted the T-Wolves to an 11-7 lead in the bottom of the second. 

And then the River Rats found themselves battling back, scratching out two runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth to forge an 11-11 tie. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Logan Ayotte doubled and scored on a wild pitch, and Conner Davidson drove in Matthew Welles to tie the game on a single to left.

“The kids always fight back and they didn’t give up on this one,” Susquehanna coach Jamie Orlandini said. “After their team’s 10-run inning, we talked to the kids about it and said all we need to do is get a couple back each inning, so we just kept battling back. We did it in bits and pieces but it was great.”

Kenny Mapes of Susquehanna had a two-run single to support the River Rats’ comeback.

The River Rats jumped on the scoreboard first, and rather emphatically, seizing a 7-1 lead after their first two at bats on two hits, four hit batters, a walk and three errors. The biggest blow in that offensive cornucopia came when Kenny Mapes dumped a two-run single into shallow right to cap a five-run second.

The Thunderwolves enjoyed the same kind of opportunistic, advantageous offense in the bottom of the second, scoring 10 runs on seven hits, four walks and two errors. Besides Chiarenza’s three-run triple, Caleb Barry added an RBI double, Cole Notaro and Alex Martin had RBI singles, and both Philly Onevelo and John Neville forced in runs with bases loaded walks.

“That (10-run inning) definitely hurt us. We went up six in the second inning and the other team showed they weren’t gonna back down,” said Mapes, a rising sophomore at Wyalusing High School. “But when they put up a 10 spot we knew we were only down by four, so we knew it was definitely do-able.

“It was definitely warm and hot out there, but I could tell by the look on everyone’s face we weren’t going down like that.”

The River Rats inched back into the ballgame with a pair of runs in the top of the third. Karter Green laced an RBI single into left and Logan Stickler added a sacrifice fly RBI. 

The River Rats won a pair of tournaments this summer (the Dunn Classic in Corning, N.Y., and the Cooperstown Wood Bat Classic) before arriving in Flemington, but endured a roller coaster weekend here. Before facing the Thunderwolves they beat the Philadelphia Reds, 11-3, and bowed to Complete Game of PA, 13-3. 

“There are games where we just kill the ball and the score racks up and there are other games that just seem to get away from us,” Orlandini said. “We had an inning get away from us today but not the game.”

The Thunderwolves, coached by Dominick Teoli, reached a pair of tournament finals before taking on Diamond Nation. They opened their debut appearance with a 9-1 loss to Complete Game but quickly rebounded by outlasting the Philadelphia Reds, 16-15. 

Teoli said he was pleased with how his players responded to falling into a huge hole so early in the game.

“A lot of it comes down to these kids having the mental fortitude to keep moving forward after dealing with adversity, and that’s important at the 14U level,” Teoli said. “Getting down 7-0, it teaches them a lot of lessons – it teaches people of all ages a lot of things – about how to come back and keep growing stronger.”

For the Thunderwolves, Barry (2-for-3, double) and Martin (2-for-2, walk) joined Chiarenza as players with multiple hits against Suequehanna.

For the River Rats, Ayotte went 2-for-3 and Welles had a single and two walks.

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