By Sean Reilly
It was a natural question which has produced a not-so surprising answer.
The Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects were a dominant 12U team earlier this year at Diamond Nation and elsewhere.
But when the calendar flipped to September, the Cyclones aged up to 13U, and had to leave a smaller 50-70 field behind, and make the move up to full-sized 60-90 diamond.
So would the Cyclones continue to sparkle on the bigger field? The answer has been a resounding yes.
The Green Brook-based Cyclones came to Flemington over the weekend for the 13U Fall Brawl having gone 12-0 over the fall season, including a championship at the Slugfest tournament last month at ‘The Nation.’
They went home on Sunday with their most impressive 13U championship yet, after beating one of their main rivals, the Diamond Jacks Super 13U, by a 10-3 score on Field 7. They won three games overall to take a 15-0 autumn record back to Somerset County.
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U are a highly successful team, but haven’t been able to topple the Cyclones.
The teams met in two very entertaining 12U finals on the smaller Field 2 at Diamond Nation over the summer, and the Cyclones won both by a run. They’ve had one prior 13U meeting this fall at a tournament in Newark, and the Cyclones captured that matchup by two runs.
This one was close for a while, but turned into a lopsided victory for OOTP.
Nick Yacykewych was selected tournament MVP after going 2-for-4 in the final and 4-for-8 for the weekend, with a one-hit, complete game pitching performance in a pool game mixed in. His three game offensive totals also included five runs and five RBI.
Cody Alicea was another standout in the championship game. He allowed three runs on three hits against a loaded Diamond Jacks lineup while throwing just 76 pitches over six innings. He also reached base in all four of his at-bats, with a double, hit-by-pitch and two walks.
Yacykewych has adapted well to the bigger field. But in addition to that change, he’s also hit leadoff for the first time the past two weekends. That, too, has worked out well.
“It’s not a ton of change,” Yacykewych said of the move to the bigger field. “It’s a little more of a distance, but we just have to keep working on it. I was looking forward to moving to the big field.
“I don’t have to give up any more home runs pitching,” he added with a laugh. “Leadoff is also a new thing for me, but I’ve been liking it. “You just have to have a good approach, and come up to the plate ready.”
While the Cyclones have won numerous championships over the past few years at Diamond Nation, this was the first time Yacykewych earned the MVP award. Doing it after a seven-run victory over the Diamond Jacks made the honor feel even more special.
“That feels pretty good,” he said. “They’re always a good team and always a good challenge. It’s usually a very close game, but we hit well today.”
As a pitcher, Alicea has also adjusted to the extra 10 feet between the rubber and plate.
“I was spotting my pitches,” said Alicea, who struck out four and walked one. “The move up isn’t that much harder, it’s just different throwing. My curve was way better today and my fastball was working.”
The Diamond Jacks scored first in the game. Chase Hallett led off the bottom of the first and was hit by a pitch. He stole second, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a first-pitch single to center by Bryson Auten.
Nick Yacykewych of the OOTP Cyclones was named 13U Fall Brawl MVP.
The Cyclones countered with three runs in the top of the second.
With one out, Cole Webster (3-for-4) doubled to right-center field. Vin Donofrio followed with a four-pitch walk. Dylan Pudlak (2-for-4) added a single that loaded the bases.
Lucas Bolton was up next, and a wild pitch scored Webster with the first run. Bolton then hit a two-run double to left field that brought in the other two runners for a 3-1 lead.
Yacykewych hit a one-out single to center in the third inning, and moved to third when Alicea doubled. The next batter grounded out to first, with the runners holding in place, and the next hitter struck out. The strike-three pitch bounced past the catcher, however, allowing him to reach first and Yacykewych to score for a 4-1 advantage.
The Diamond Jacks closed to 4-3 in the fourth inning. Jordan Bennett led off with a double to left center. A ground out moved him to third base, and he could not advance when the next batter grounded out to third. Ryan Jezorwski walked on a full count.
Auten was up next, and he turned a 0-2 pitch into a two-run double to left center, capping a 2-for-2, three RBI performance.
The next at-bat resulted in the biggest and most impressive defensive play of the game, when Henry Kusant hit a shot deep toward the left field line, but was robbed of an extra-base hit by Cyclones’ left fielder Jake Correa, who made a diving catch for the third out.
The Cyclones pulled away by scoring once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and three more times in the seventh.
Yacykewych had a RBI single with one out for a 5-3 lead in the fifth.
Bolton drew a bases-loaded walk and another run scored on a wild pitch in the sixth.
The seventh inning featured a run-scoring wild pitch, an RBI single from Webster and an RBI standup triple by Donofrio, who ended 2-for-2 with a walk.
Alicea, meanwhile, retired the final seven he faced beginning with the fly out to Correa. He needed just seven pitches to retire the side in both the fifth and sixth innings. He then yielded to the hard-throwing James Esposito, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning to close out the win and championship.