MADISON, NJ—A ground ball sped across center field as the batter ran to first, but it was too late. Center fielder Matt Metzler trapped the ball in his glove and rocketed it toward first base, throwing the runner out from center field.
“In baseball you don’t see that,” said Metzler’s coach, Nelson Aguiar of Madison’s O’Donnell Landscape Little League team. “I have to commend him for really getting at that ball and for making a play that really doesn’t normally happen.”
Metzler and his teammates were down 0-2 at the close of the second inning in the June 14 Junior division Mayor’s Cup tournament versus Chatham, but Metzler’s center-field play helped the team win it, according to Aguiar.
After Metzler’s play “the momentum from the other team just deflated,” Aguiar said. “It was a game changer.”
O’Donnell Landscape went on to score 10 unanswered runs in the game’s final five innings, shutting Chatham down for the rest of the game.
Little League teams typically play seven innings, and the O’Donnell team came out on top for more than half the game.
Several other players contributed to the win, Aguiar said.
Tyler Kidd cracked two hits into the outfield, including one double. Ryan O’Neill, the team’s starting pitcher, threw for four innings, allowing only two runs. Closing pitcher Brendan Mariani shut out the opposing team in the final two innings, and Metzler made a hit that gave his team three RBIs.
The O’Donnell team’s season has been a comeback story, according to Aguiar, who coaches the team with Frank Bergin, Buddy Geier and Brian McGuire.
In seven out of 11 games in the regular season, the team came back from a deficit to win by only one run, and finished with a postseason record of 14-2.
Aguiar said that at the start of the season, he asked his players what they wished to accomplish this year.
“We want to win it all, coach!” they said.
And win it all they did.
Coaching the team with a “90 percent confidence, 10 percent skill (strategy) really made the difference in our season and started creating that drive and that momentum,” Aguiar said.
“By the sixth or seventh game when we were 7-0 the kids really felt like, ‘Wow this it, we really are a championship team.’ I don’t think there was anything that was going to hold them back from then on.”
Mayor’s Cup games began in 2013, and included only the Major (11- and 12-year-old) and AAA (9- and 10-year-olds) division champions, which compete each year for an interleague title. The Junior division (13-, 14- and 15-year-olds) was since added in 2015, and the O’Donnell Landscape team secured Madison’s only win in this year's tournament.
With the help of Coaches Aguiar and Bergin and the O’Donnell Landscape team, Madison has taken the Junior trophy this year and every year since.
The 2017 Mayor’s Cup games were played in Chatham at Shunpike Field, and future tournament locations will alternate between the two towns.
The Mayor’s Cup tournament is the brainchild of Madison Little League Treasurer Gary Harvett and Chatham’s Dana McClintock, created “as a mechanism to bring two neighboring towns closer together through youth sport,” Harvett said.
“The games have all been played in good spirit and camaraderie, and it is a testament to the hard working Board members and coaches from both towns.”
Mayors from both Chatham and Madison usually attend the games, Harvett said, but Mayor Conley was unable to attend this year’s game due to scheduling conflicts.