15u Nationals make another deep run at Northwestern University

Evanston, IL- It was another successful weekend for the 15u Nationals as they played under bright, sunny skies at Northwestern University and Kerry Wood Cubs Field. Head Coach, Dominick De Nicola, looked to get his team back in contention for a possible tournament championship as the season begins to come to a close later this month.

The weekend was an emotional one to say the least as it featured many highs and many lows. The 15u Nationals games varied with length from walk-off losses to mercy-ruled shutout wins over the course of the past weekend.

Looking to build off their silver bracket run last weekend in the Amateur Baseball Championship, the 15u Nationals started the weekend off with a bang against the Diamond Dawgs Thursday morning.  Top Tier 15u Nationals defeated the Diamond Dawgs 13-0 as two pitchers combined to throw a shutout.

Top Tier opened things up early after catcher Danny Nuccio tripled in the first inning giving the 15u Nationals an early 1-0 lead. After leading 3-0 after one inning of play, Top Tier continued to pile things on in the fifth already leading 7-0 as they scored six more runs to complete the slaughter rule.

Ethan Kaiman pitched the Top Tier 15u Nationals to victory. He went three and a third innings, giving up zero runs on zero hits, striking out four and walking one. Joey Schuster then came in and threw one and two thirds innings in relief out of the bullpen to help secure the win.

Following a huge offensive onslaught in Game 1, the 15u Nationals continued their winning ways against the Kenosha County Royals. For the second game in a row, the team’s pitching was undeniably strong as two pitchers rallied together in a combined no-hitter in their victory.

Top Tier pulled off the big win without scoring many runs in an inning. The most the scored was a mere two runs in the third. 15u Nationals kept rolling as they remained persistent at scoring in the first inning. With the bases loaded, outfielder Ryan Skiba drew a walk, putting Top Tier on the board in the first.

After that, the 15u Nationals never looked back as starting pitcher Alec Mallinder dominated the Royals on the mound. He allowed zero hits on zero runs over four innings or work while also striking out ten and walking zero as he earned the win over the Royals.

Joey Schuster, Skiba, Caleb Tharpe, Mallinder, Joe Zaccone, and Danny Nuccio each managed a hit to lead the 15u Nationals. The team ended up winning the game 6-0 after the game was called due to time limit in the fifth inning.

“Mallinder just came out firing today,” said coach Dom. “Ten strikeouts in four innings, I mean he was dealing. He quieted not only the team but the crowd as well so that just goes to show you what it’s like with his presence on the mound.”

Starting off 2-0 in the Great Lakes Wood Bat Classic the team looked to develop a little bit of swagger headed into Game 3. The team looked loose during warmups while still having a sense of urgency of knowing what they want to accomplish.

Top Tier had everything working on Friday, winning big over the Minnesota Blizzard 12-2. Ryan Srejma set the tone for the game on the bump, retiring his first nine straight batters faced.

Late season addition Ethan Cook got Top Tier on the board early after hitting a nice line drive down the third base line which allowed Skiba to score giving the 15u Nationals a 1-0 lead. Top Tier built off that lead by scoring five more runs in the middle innings while Srejma continued to assert his dominance on the mound. He threw four innings while allowing zero runs on zero hits as he retired 12/13 batters faced.

“Everything was working for me today,” said Srejma. “I realized, due to the mound, I had to pitch shorter and I did that while pounding the zone heavily.”

Demarius Mackerl led the way for Top Tier on offense, going 3-4 with 2 RBI’s, a team high for both. “I just felt like I was seeing the ball really well today,” said Mackerl. As a team the 15u Nationals racked up 14 hits throughout the game. Mackerl, Mallinder, Blake Hickey, and Nuccio each collected multiple hits for Top Tier.

Riding high on confidence after starting 3-0, Top Tier looked to secure a top seed in the playoffs for Game 4. Playing Outsiders Baseball Club in their last pool play game, the team looked to remain perfect and lock down the No. 1 seed for bracket play.

The Nationals did not have the early success that they previously had throughout the weekend. After a few defensive miscues, they found themselves behind. Despite their poor play, Top Tier kept the game close, ultimately ending in a 6-5 loss.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning before Top Tier could get anything going. Down 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth the 15u Nationals rallied to get it with in one before the umpires called the game due to time limit.

“I think we really came out flat today,” said Nuccio. “I don’t think a lot of us were seeing the ball off the bat and out defense was really struggling. We gave them five runs and and they only earned one.”

It was still a nice effort from Top Tier to rally late, but it just wasn’t enough as they allowed Outsiders to get the victory and win their respective pool.

After dropping their last game of pool play Top Tier finished 3-1 which locked them in as the No. 5 seed headed to bracket play. Knowing how they came out Game 4 pitcher Alec Mallinder knew they had to switch things up as they prepared for the playoffs on Sunday.

“We need to come out confident and not get down if we happen to be losing early,” said Mallinder following the Game 4 loss.  “We need to play shut out defense because we had too many errors on that side of the ball this past game.”

Sunday morning, Top Tier came out with a clear mind as they looked to face the Illinois Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Dom looked to one of his more consistent pitchers on the mound in Ethan Kaiman.

Top Tier ended up nabbing the lead late in the game in a 10-3 victory over the Patriots. Kaiman had a perfect game going until the fourth inning when he let up a single up the middle with one out. “I felt good in warm ups,” said Kaiman. “I thought my fastball was working well early in the count and then I looked for my curveball which I had good location.”

In Kaiman’s start on the mound, he allowed just three runs on six hits over five innings of work while striking out four.

The game didn’t end up going as planned however as the 15u Nationals were trailing 3-0 headed to the sixth inning. It was at that point Top Tier’s bats finally came alive. The 15u Nationals scored two in the sixth after a couple of singles by Mackerl and Tharpe

Building off their momentum in the sixth, Top Tier then exploded for eight runs in the top of the seventh inning. Joey Schuster broke the tie after he singled on a 1-1 count, giving Top Tier a 4-3 lead before continuing their onslaught. Mackerl kept up his hot weekend, going 4-4 while leading the 15u Nationals in hits. “I was just trying to see the ball deep and drive it.” said Mackerl.

Moving on to the semi final game, coach Dom looked to no other than his ace on the mound, Alec Mallinder. After already picking up an impressive win on the weekend with 10 strike outs, Mallinder looked to try to duplicate it in Game 6 against the No. 1 seed, Pro Players.

Unfortunately, it was to no avail as the 15u Nationals fell to Pro Players on Sunday on the final play of the game. The game was tied at two apiece with Pro Players batting in the bottom of the seventh when Marcus Perling doubled on a 1-0 count, scoring the winning run.

In the early innings, Top Tier couldn’t seem to find the bats as they continually grounded out and flied out. It was the same thing with the Pro Players who continually hit the ball hard except they routinely hit it to where the Top Tier players were fielding.

Tied at 1-1, Top Tier broke the lead after a leadoff inside-the-park homerun by Danny Nuccio who hit a laser to the center field wall. “Out the box I just thought run,” said Nuccio. “I knew I was going to get three but I saw coach wave me to go home and it just worked out as I ran as fast as I could.”

At that point it looked as if Top Tier was headed to the championship round. They continued to keep that lead after playing stellar defense throughout. Up to that point Mallinder was settled in on the mound retiring 6/7 batters faces from the 3rd- 4th innings.

Then in the bottom of the seventh everything seemed to unravel for Top Tier. Mallinder took a 2-1 lead headed to the last inning. After giving up a leadoff single, the 15u Nationals started to feel the pressure of a late game comeback something, they knew all too many times.

Pro Players elected to sacrifice bunt their man to second, giving up an out to Mallinder. Following that, another single allowed Pro Players to tie the game up 2-2. Playing tight, Top Tier let the game get away from them when Pro Players hit a double down the third base line.

At that point, it should have been man on second and third with a chance to win it at the plate. Instead, however, Top Tier collapsed under the pressure of the situation as they didn’t knock down the cut from left field leaving the ball to wonder all the way to the catchers back-stop which allowed the man on third to scurry home in a walk-off victory, sealing the 15u Nationals fate.

“Baseball is a game of inches,” said Mallinder. “And it showed on that last play, one error came back to bite us. It’s tough because obviously I wanted this win for me and the team we played really well except for one brief moment.

Undoubtedly, it looked as if whoever won this game was going on to win the whole tournament. That turned out to be true as Pro Players ended up winning their championship game. Even so, the 15u Nationals had an incredible weekend playing their hearts out. Finishing 4-2 on the weekend is still a positive showing as they prepare for a tough battle in Atlanta, Georgia this next weekend. If the 15u Nationals can learn from their past mistakes, maybe just maybe, the team can come out victorious in the WBBA 15u National Championships.

<< Back to news list