BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - After a slow start, the Madison Dodgers took the lead against Newark Academy on Saturday afternoon and never looked back, earning a 12-2 victory in the opening game of the 2nd Annual Highlander Classic.
 
Opening batter Matthew Kundla of Newark Academy led his team with a deep center field double and touched home after a hit by teammate David Webster. Madison outfielder Michael Zuzuro caught Matt Ratner’s pop fly to end the bottom of the first. Madison’s offense got off to a rough start: Thomas Tracy walked and Michael Haughey hit a single to right field, but no runs were scored.  
 
Patrick McMahon of Newark Academy started the second inning with a grounder to third and landed safe on first after the ball escaped Madison first-baseman Thomas Tracy. McMahon stole his way to third and later made it home thanks to teammate Adam Seltzer’s hit. Randall Keur walked and was later tagged out by Madison’s Nick Lucas when he tried to steal third.
 
Newark Academy pitcher Zachary Taffet aced the top of the second inning with three consecutive outs, but Madison matched them by keeping the bases empty at the bottom of the third. The score remained 2-0 in Newark Academy’s favor.
 
Madison came back with an eventful top of the third inning. Allen Connor lobbed an infield hit to reach first before Dilan Kluge subbed in for him. Michael Wulff’s grounder earned him a single but got Kluge tagged out at second. Jake Meister walked, and both Wulff and Meister stole bases after Newark Academy’s Taffet pitched a low bounce.
 
Tracy of Madison stirred things up with a low launch to left field two inches within the line, sending teammates Wulff and Meister home. Tracy stole second when teammate Cameron Dias popped a fly to left field, and Dias walked after Taffet’s pitch struck his back. Connor Higgins ran Tracy home with a hit to the left field fence, and Jamie Hunter recharged the inning with a grounder to left field that led Higgins and Dias home. Nick Lucas followed with a single, and Allen Connor struck out to end a busy half-inning that put Madison up 5-2.
 
Newark Academy failed to reach third base at the bottom of the fourth. Wulff of Madison led the way with another strong performance for Madison with a double to right field, and Meister did the same, sending Wulff home and reaching second. Meister stole third when Newark’s catcher fumbled the ball and Dias walked. The bases were loaded.
 
Higgins followed with a walk that led Meister home. Tracy earned praised by stealing home, and Lucas walked. Wulff jetted the ball over Newark’s shortstop to bring Higgins home before Meister was caught out, and the score was 10-2 in Madison’s favor. Pitcher Allen Connor of Madison preserved the lead by striking out Taffet and Tyler Park of Newark Academy. Kundla was struck by a pitch and walked, but Steven Catena’s out kept him from reaching second.
 
Tracy sent Madison reeling with a home run over center field at the top of the fifth. Haughey walked, and Dias got a single due to confusion on the Newark Academy team, causing a Newark Academy fan to belt out, “You gotta communicate!” Haughey stole second, and Higgins hit a pop fly to left field. After two consecutive walks by Hunter and Lucas, the game was called and Madison dominated with a final score of 12-2.
 
Madison Head Coach Mickey Ennis was most proud of the team’s “patience”: “Newark Academy did a real nice job in the first two innings; they had us off balance, but our relaxed atmosphere in the dugout and patience at the plate allowed us to catch up to them in the last few innings.”
 
When asked about his sharp grounder to left field that sent two teammates home, Jamie Hunter said, “I hit the ball right on the sweet spot of the bat. It was good to get some more insurance runs and get the team a better lead. It helped rally more runs for the inning.”
 
The Highlander Classic will continue on April 9, with a Consolation Game at 11:00 a.m. and the Championship Game at 2:00 p.m.