MILLBURN, NJ — Many things are different about the summer of 2020, but one thing is the same: the Millburn-Short Hills Youth Baseball 13U team is headed to the Babe Ruth District 12 championship game.
The team has competed in and won the District Championship five years in a row, since they were 8Us. This year's team, coached by Mike Dasti with help from Sam Trachtman, emerged from pool play portion of the tournament as the No. 1 seed with a record of 3-1 and earned a bye to the championship game, which will be played on Thursday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. at Cranford’s Memorial Field.
In their first game on Saturday, July 18, Millburn defeated Westfield, 10-0. Jack Fehrenbach started on the mound with five strikeouts over four innings, allowing one hit. Dylan Ah Now earned the save, pitching one hitless inning with two strikeouts. On offense, Alex Faust and Brett Ploetner both had doubles, Faust had 3 RBIs and Ah Now and Ben Lawentman both had two RBIs on one hit. The game ended when Noah Silber hit a grounder and drove in two runs, increasing Millburn’s lead to 10 runs and ending the game in the fifth inning, due to the mercy rule.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood, long a rival to Millburn in the district tournament, proved to be a tougher opponent when Millburn faced them on Tuesday, July 21. Finlay La Londe began the game on the mound for Millburn. SPF took an early lead, putting one on the board in the top of the first inning. Millburn quickly answered in the bottom of the inning, when leadoff hitter Greg Rosenthal singled and then was driven home on a triple by the next batter, Ploetner. Peter Lawrence got on base with a walk, and Ploetner then scored on a passed ball, making the score 2-1. SPF attempted to catch Lawrence while stealing third base, but an overthrow allowed Lawrence to score, increasing Millburn’s lead to 3-1. SPF put three on the board in the top of the third inning taking the lead, 4-3. Millburn never recovered, giving up two in the fourth inning and another three in the fifth.
Millburn scored one in the fifth inning on a single by Fehrenbach, who was driven in on a double by Ploetner. Lawrence shut down SPF’s offense in the last two innings.
Millburn’s next game was against Cranford on Saturday, July 25. Millburn’s offense got to work early, with hits by Lawrence and Fehrenbach plus three walks and a couple of fielding errors making it 4-0 in the top of the first inning. Lawrence started on the mound for Millburn. Cranford scored one in the bottom of the first inning, but Millburn’s offense was quick to answer back. Lawrence racked up four RBIs off of three hits. Millburn’s defense was strong as well, highlighted by a double play by Jacob Suna in the second inning, when Suna fielded a grounder at third base, tagging out the base runner and then making the throw to first base. Suna also had two RBIs in the game. Jasper Heitin had an RBI off of a well-placed bunt. The game ended early due to the mercy rule when Millburn went up 15-2 in the fifth inning. Lawentman pitched two hitless innings, and Faust and Ah Now pitched one inning each.
Millburn’s final pool play game was on Sunday, July 26 against Summit. Both teams started off slowly, with no runs in the first inning. Summit scored first, putting one run on the board in the bottom of the second inning. Millburn answered in the top of the third inning. With two outs in the inning, Rosenthal walked to get on base and then stole second. Lawrence reached on a dropped third strike which also allowed Rosenthal to advance to third base. The next batter, Ah Now, ripped a single to left field, scoring both Rosenthal and Lawrence. Fehrenbach then doubled to score Ah Now, making the score 3-1. In the top of the fourth inning, Lawentman singled and Suna walked. Toby Snider advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt and a passed ball by the catcher allowed Lawentman to steal home, putting the score at 4-1. In the fifth, a double by Fehrenbach, followed by a walk to Faust put two on base. Keigo Fujita then ripped a double to score both runners, increasing the score to 6-1. Millburn put four more runs on the board in the top of the sixth inning with hits by Snider, Rosenthal and Lawrence. Faust pitched four innings for Millburn, striking out three. Lawrence pitched two innings, striking out four and Ah Now closed out the game pitching one inning.
Millburn will face Scotch Plains/Fanwood in the championship game as the team seeks to secure its sixth district championship in a row. SPF defeated Summit, 8-7, in the semifinal played on Tuesday, July 28.