2009-07-15 / Sports

Matrix team wins Fourth of July baseball tourney

BY SHAWN LAYTON Staff Writer

The Middlesex County Matrix 17 & Under team took home the top prize thanks to a 5-1 record at the Red Bank Fourth of July Tournament earlier this month. In just its second tournament this summer, the Matrix proved to be one of the top teams in the state after putting on a defensive clinic to complement its explosive offense.

"We made it a point to go on the attack early and let our pitching and defense carry us the rest of the way," Matrix head coach Glenn Fredericks said. "We're so solid defensively that if we get an early lead and then look to tack on a run here and there, then small leads all of a sudden become big leads. Our defense just doesn't give away outs for free."

The Matrix dropped its first game of the tournament to Langan Baseball. Like most of the competition the Matrix faced at the Fourth of July Tournament, Langan was comprised of both 17 and 18-year-old ballplayers.

"We went out and were trailing 8-0 when we finally started to hit the ball," Fredericks said. "Right from the start of the tournament we went up against a kid who is heading to Seton Hall, so we got to face a Division I pitcher in our first game. We finally hit him and chased him from the game, but the early deficit proved too much to overcome."

The Matrix closed the deficit to 8-5, but the game was called after six innings due to a time limit. After the round-one loss, the team bounced back later the same day to beat Tri- Boro Sting B of Passaic County, 6-0. Woodbridge's Zack Hopf recorded the win for the Matrix.

The bottom of the Matrix order commenced the game's big rally in the sixth. Shawn Weekes of Spotswood, Dylan Papa of South Plainfield, and John F. Kennedy's Jorge Rivera strung together three consecutive base hits to ignite the offense. Later that inning, the game was broken open with three more hits, a bases-loaded walk, and an error.

The following day, the Matrix opened with the Middletown Mavericks and faced Tom Marley, the Red Bank Catholic ace this season. The Matrix promptly chased Marley after plating six runs in the first inning and tacking on two more in the second. The Matrix won by a final score of 13-1.

"The first inning was pretty much just a free-for-all," Fredericks said. "The middle of our lineup got production from Eric Perez, Jay Stolz, Michael Muha and Cody Pace. All of those guys hit RBI singles. North Brunswick's top guy, Alex Taylor, was all we needed on the mound. He was outstanding."

The Matrix earned a spot in the playoffs with an 11-1 victory over Tri-Boro Sting A. The big story in this game was another crooked-number inning, which came in the fourth when nine of the first 10 batters to come to the plate scored in the frame.

The win advanced the Matrix to the playoff round on Sunday. The team faced Tri- Boro Sting A a second time for a chance to advance to the finals, where a rematch with Langan awaited the winner. This time Jake Campbell got the ball for Matrix on full rest.

"When we got to Sunday, we had our top weapons on the mound with full rest and felt good about our chances," Fredericks said. "Jake tossed a complete game and scattered four hits to beat Tri-Boro A, 9-1. We got an early lead, and then it was easy for Jake."

In the title game, the Matrix went with South Brunswick ace Muha on the bump. Although Muha didn't factor in the decision, he pitched a gem. He allowed two runs over seven innings on five hits. Tied 1-1 heading into the seventh, the Matrix took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single off the bat of Kyle Grimes. Grimes was too quick down the line, and his infield single put the Matrix on top. But the lead was short-lived, because Langan tied the game in the bottom of the frame to send the game to extra innings.

After a scoreless eighth, the Matrix strung together a two-out rally for the victory in the ninth. Juan Perdomo ignited the rally with a single and Perez followed with a walk. Stolz doubled home both base runners to put the Matrix on top, 4-2, and came around to score when Hopf singled to drive in the final run. Pace took the mound to close the game in the ninth.

"It was definitely nice for the guys to win the tournament," Fredericks said. "We were the only team in the event to carry 17- year-olds, and that made it a little more special. We played really good baseball as a team, and it's been great."

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