Zatz’s bat triggers comeback for Millburn/Short Hills 12U

By DN WRITING STAFF | September 30, 2023

Eli DeLaurier’s single shoots through the hole at short to drive in a run in Millburn’s three-run fourth.

By Rich Bevensee

The signs of progress have always been there, but Anthony Dasti and his Millburn/Short Hills Youth Baseball 12U coaching staff were still looking for an extended offensive rally from their young ballplayers, a rally which could knock an opposing team on its heels. 

Despite persistent rainy gusts which swept over Diamond Nation in Flemington, that “crooked number on the scoreboard” type of rally finally arrived Friday evening, and the players’ timing could not have been better.

After falling behind by three runs, Millburn roared back with a four-run third inning – keyed by Ben Zatz’ first career triple – and rode that offensive wave to a 9-5 pool play victory over the Staten Island Orioles in the 12U Grand Slam at The Nation. 

“I think we were just more organized today,” Zatz said. “That kind of rally gives our team a lot of confidence going forward.”

Zatz, whom Dasti moved from leadoff to the No. 3 spot in the batting order for the first time on Friday, said the extended time studying the pitcher helped his approach at the plate. And if it’s all the same to his coach, Zatz said he’d like to remain in that three hole.  

“I get a lot of hits like that, but today I just got lucky and it went by the outfielder,” Zatz said. 

“We finally moved him to the three hole because we actually wanted him up when there’s runners in scoring position,” Dasti said.

Millburn began its comeback from a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the third inning when Jake Solomon scored on a throwing error after stealing third. Trying to capitalize on that same error, another Millburn runner tried for third but was thrown out by Orioles catcher Amaru Hansen for the first out of the inning. 

But the comeback wasn’t over, just interrupted. When the comeback was complete, Millburn owned a 6-5 lead. 

“We were waiting for that kind of rally all fall,” Dasti said. “What’s more impressive to me was they were able to do that when they’ve been struggling offensively all fall. They started to see some balls hit hard, and then they believed they could do it.”

Winning pitcher Vir Bhata singled before scoring on Zatz’ triple to center. Shortly after, Zatz scored the tying run on a wild pitch. Nick Ambrosio, who reached on a walk and stole second, scored on a throwing error to put Millburn into front. 

“For them to string together those hits, especially after that baserunning blunder, and bounce back and get back into the game was special,” Dasti said.

Dylan DeGaeta of the Staten Island Orioes leaps back to first ahead of the tag by Millburn’s Ben Zatz.

In the fourth, the now-confident Milburn players put some distance between themselves and the Orioles. Gavin Park scored on a double steal (with Pierre Martin stealing second), and Eli DeLaurier drove in Martin with a single to center. Solomon, Millburn’s No. 12 hitter, figured into the scoring again when his sacrifice bunt brought home DeLaurier for a 9-5 lead. 

Bhatia pitched the first 3⅓ innings and allowed five runs on four hits and four walks with four strikeouts. Atiksh Gupta pitched 1⅔ shutout innings in relief on one hit and one walk with one strikeout. 

The Orioles were led offensively by Dylan DeGaeta, whose two-run single in the second inning gave his team a 3-1 lead. Nicholas McLaen singled, doubled, walked and scored twice. 

The Orioles led by a run in the top of the third inning before adding some insurance to take a 5-2 lead.

McLaen scored from second base when Andrew Cupelli singled and reached second on an outfield error. Cupelli soon scored from third after a dropped third strike to Ben Bossert. 

Later on Friday, Millburn bowed to Diamond Jacks Gold 12U, 4-3. Millburn will complete pool pay with a game against Full Count Baseball on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Orioles fell to 0-2 following a 4-1 loss to Full Count on Friday night, and will complete pool play against the Diamond Jacks on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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