WEST WINDSOR: Baseball 14s, 15s bounce back in district

WW-P teams battle into state berths

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
   After losing a tough 1-0 game to defending champion Nottingham in the District One 14-year-old Babe Ruth tournament, West Windsor-Plainsboro manager Ted Phelan wasn’t quite sure how his team would respond.
   Turns out they responded quite well.
   WW-P bounced back from that early loss to Nottingham by winning four straight games to reach the losers’ bracket final, where they lost to Hamilton, 9-5. Even with the loss, the third-place finish was enough to earn WW-P a trip to the Southern New Jersey state tournament, in which WW-P was scheduled to begin play Thursday night at Switlik Park in Hamilton.
   The 14s helped make it a clean sweep of WW-P Babe Ruth teams heading to the state tournament. The 13-year-olds finished second in District One and are hosting their tournament at West Windsor Community Park, while the 15-year-olds finished second at the District One tournament and will play in the states in East Windsor. The 16-18 Senior Babe Ruth team is also in the state tournament and will open play Friday in Washington Township against the host team.
   For the 14s, the trip to the state tournament is a nice accomplishment for a group of players that has come together nicely on the field this year.
   ”We lost a 1-0 game early and then came through the losers’ bracket,” Phelan said. “We had to play seven days in a row and I think by the time we reached that last game they were toasted. Even with that, we only gave up two earned runs in the last game. Our ERA through the districts was pretty incredible.”
   In seven games WW-P allowed 17 runs, more than half of which were unearned. So the pitching helped a team that did enough on offense to finish 5-2 in the tournament.
   ”They really responded well,” Phelan said. “They really turned the corner and are in a much better place than they were. We had been a two and out team since 10s. So to take the defending champs to a one-run game and beat some historically good teams like Ewing and come through the losers’ bracket like we did is a big change from where we have been.”
   The team added some nice parts with the addition of three players from Princeton in Tim Frawley, Joey Studholme and Teddy Marttila.
   ”Frawley starts and hits No. 2 for us and Studholme is our No, 9 batter and plays a real good defensive second base,” Phelan said. “Tim has been hitting well in districts and strengthens us up behind the plate. They were solid additions.”
   In addition to the three Princeton players, the rest of the roster includes Matt Phelan, Dan Demouth, Steven Schilder, Alex Mitchell, Jeremy Lockwood, Michael Tom, Joshua Forrest, Josh Miller, Eric Weiss, Mack Palmer and Michael Marciano.
   ”Our guys got excited about Ewing and hyped up to win that,” Phelan said of the losers’ bracket semifinal. “I think we were a little emotionally exhausted after that but we still were in a tight game (against Hamilton) until the sixth when they hit a bases loaded double.
   ”This is a great opportunity this group. They have been beaten up in the past and now have a lot of confidence. It is a nice feeling and nice for them that they feel like they can play with anybody in the district.”
   WW-P was scheduled to open on Thursday and then play again on Saturday.
   ”We can start with our No. 1 and No. 2 Thursday and Saturday and don’t have to come back day after day,” Phelan said. “It is a big difference from hosting and playing an extra game and then going to the losers’ bracket after we had gotten that first win.”
   Schilder and Miller are the top two pitchers for WW-P and will get the ball in the first two games.
   Like the 14s, the WW-P 15s battled their way through the losers’ bracket. WW-P opened with a 9-0 win over Hamilton before dropping a tight 3-1 game to Hopewell. But in the losers’ bracket they bounced back to beat Ewing and Nottingham, and then top Hopewell in a rematch in the losers’ bracket final. WW-P topped Mercer East in the opening game of the finals before dropping the second game.
   ”We came back nicely and beat Ewing, Nottingham and Hopewell to avenge that loss, then we won 3-0 against Mercer East to force the ‘if’ game,” WW-P manager Brian O’Leary said. “It was kind of a grind but our pitching depth is good so we were better equipped than most to deal with the losers’ bracket.”
   The WW-P team includes a pair of players who played up for the 15s last year — CJ Markisz and Justin O’Leary. There are also three players who had previously played for Princeton-Cranbury — Joaquin Hernandez-Burt, Colin Taylor and Hayden Reyes. The rest of the roster includes Austin McGinley, Andrew Schoenblum, Drew Panson, Brian Tso, Patrick Tso, Danny Woodhull, Robbie Huselid and Michael Radey.
   ”We actually have kids that play for six different high schools,” O’Leary said. “We have some West Windsor and Plainsboro kids and then we added three from Princeton with Hayden, Colin and Joaquin. That has helped us. They are all good kids and have added to the team.
   ”We picked up Austin McGinley, who didn’t play as a 13 or 14 and he had been catching. He is a solid player who has done very well for us. The core guys are CJ and Justin, who played with the 15s last year. The Tso brothers — Brian can play anywhere and Patrick is a pitcher. Robbie Huselid is a freshman at Hun and he pitched a five-inning shutout in the first game (Sunday). Drew Panson can play a couple different positions. Woodhull is a power hitter. We have a lot of different guys who can contribute.”
   The WW-P 15s will open play in the state tournament on Friday against the Nottingham-Pennsville winner.
   ”Our thing is pitching depth, defense and team speed,” O’Leary said. “We are a little offensively challenged. But overall we’re10-2 in summer play. We went 5-0 in our pre-district tournament so overall we have played well. We don’t score a lot of runs. It has been about pitching and defense.”