Vlastos’ HR guides Power Academy 13U in Battle At The Turf pool play

By DN WRITING STAFF | March 26, 2024

Nick Fantini singled and scored to trigger Power Academy’s five-run second inning.

By Rich Bevensee

For a team which assembles its roster with players from all over the East, the result seems like it fits together like a perfectly built puzzle.

At any given tournament, the Power Academy Thunder 13U ballclub boasts players from six different states. Naturally there may be questions about chemistry, but the product on the field puts those doubts to rest. 

Buoyed by an inside-the-park home run by Nick Vlastos, Power Academy muscled through its second pool play game of the 13U Battle At The Turf at Diamond Nation in Flemington with a come-from behind 6-4 victory over the host Diamond Jacks 13U White on a chilly Sunday morning.

The Thunder eventually qualified for the 13U final later on Sunday and bowed to Diamond Jacks Super 13U, 9-2. 

Power Academy gathers players from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia.

In the pool play game against Diamond Jacks White, the lefty combination of Josh Krueger (from Weston, Mass.) and Cam Kaldawy (Easton, Conn.) permitted a single run over the final three frames while the Thunder rallied from a 3-1 deficit. 

In the bottom of the second, Sal Mattera drove in a run with an RBI groundout, Nick Fantini scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, and Krueger, the team’s No. 10 hitter, scored on a balk to give the Thunder a 4-3 lead. 

Then, after a Cooper Crabtree single, the 6-1, 170-pound Vlastos drilled a liner into center field which bounced all the way to the 375-foot fence. The West Hartford, Conn. native eventually crossed the plate standing up for a two-run homer and a 6-3 Thunder lead. 

The way Vlastos galloped around the bases, he certainly didn’t look impeded by the chilly winds which swept through ‘The Nation.’

“It was hard to get going because your body’s not fully ready till the second or third inning,” said Vlastos, who went 2-for-3. “I think that happened to me today. I pitched the first game and it was hard to get going. For this game I felt better because it was warmer and I played a game before and my body was more loose and ready.”

Vlasos notched the first inside-the-park home run of his career after launching four long balls over the fence last fall in his first foray on the big diamond. Last spring and summer, his last season on the little diamond, he cranked a stunning 55 home runs.

Once the Thunder was playing with a lead, Kaldawy was especially tough on the Diamond Jacks, blanking them for the final two innings. He allowed no hits and one walk while striking out three.

Jacob Futterman leads off first after a base hit and scored later for the Diamond Jacks 13u White.

Krueger allowed four runs on two hits and five walks with five strikeouts in three innings of work.

“We had a little bit of walks early but we got it back in line and limited the damage,” Thunder coach Kyle Jeter said. 

The three-run lead was a bit too much to overcome for the Diamond Jacks, who scratched out a run in the third when leadoff man Jacob Futterman singled, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on a Colin Casey base hit to left. Those were the only Diamond Jacks hits of the game. 

For the Thunder, Crabtree went 2-for-3 while Kaldawy and Mattera each had an RBI.

“It’s pretty cold like you said, so I liked seeing them getting reps in and doing fundamentals right,” Jeter said. “We were pretty clean in the field and swinging at good pitches, and I like that.”

The Diamond Jacks took the first lead of the game with a Declan Lynch RBI groundout in the first, and broke a 1-1 tie in the second when Brody Garner scored on a passed ball and Holden Gasparro scored on a wild pitch.

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