MORRISTOWN, NJ - As the Frelinghuysen Middle School baseball team took the field against Mount Olive Middle School at the Morristown High School baseball field, it would be easy to assume that FMS would have no issues.
As the three-time defending champion of the Morris County Middle School tournament, head coach Bryan Manahan and a handful of his players are no stranger to these pressure-packed games.
The game did not start as FMS had planned, as Mount Olive jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after an error plated two runs. FMS starter Jackson Willette faced another tough spot with runners on second and third with just one out. A groundout back to him and a flyout would get him out of the jam and would give his team the momentum they needed to get back into the game.
“I tried to keep them relaxed,” said Coach bryan Manahan. “I thought that Jackson getting out of that jam in the second inning and then us putting a run on the board right after really brought us back to life.”
FMS would never look back from that point on. They would go on to score seven unanswered runs, including a four-run fourth inning highlighted by Ryan Sprock’s second RBI single of the day.
“We wanted to be aggressive all game long,” said Coach Manahan. “Even after getting thrown out at the plate in the second inning we wanted to let our opponent know that we were going to keep coming.”
Sprock and Benson Liu would come in relief of Willette to close out the game. FMS would go on to win 7-2, shutting out Mount Olive for the final six innings.
The win sends Frelinghuysen to the county final, where they will look for their fourth straight county title. The FMS program has grown tremendously during Manahan’s ten-year tenure as coach.
“I like to think of myself as a developer and a coach,” said Manahan. “We want to keep as many kids as possible, so we have the varsity team as well as other practice teams that are made up of younger players. It is our job to prepare the main team to play the games, while preparing the younger guys to take the next step and join the varsity team in the coming years. At any practice, we will have at least 25 players so you can see their dedication and it has shown through our success.”
The county final will be played on Saturday, as Frelinghuysen awaits their opponent and looks to four-peat.