Now that the Bordentown Post 26 American Legion baseball team has been crowned the District 3 champion, the players will now focus on the state tournament.
Bordentown Post 26 defeated Washington Township Post 521, 4-2, at Gilder Park in Bordentown for the District 3 championship on July 21, a result that sent the team to the state tournament.
The state tournament, which will be played at Kean University in Union, contains a field of eight teams.
Bordentown is scheduled to open against league-rival Hopewell Post 339 on July 26 at 3 p.m. The opening weekend will be played in a pool-play format. The top four teams from the pool play move on to the semifinals next Tuesday, July 30.
The championship game is scheduled for July 31.
Bordentown came up just short of winning the Mercer County American Legion League championship, falling one game behind Hopewell Post 339 with a 20-4 record.
Bordentown looked to build off their home field advantage in the District 3 tournament that was held at Gilder Park.
Bordentown kicked off the tournament on July 20 with a 7-1 victory against Brick Post 348, which sent the squad to the District 3 winner’s bracket July 21 final against Washington Township Post 521.
Bordentown came out strong against Washington, scoring a run in the first and second innings each.
After left fielder Dillon Drew reached base via a hit by pitch in the first inning, he advanced into scoring position following a throwing error from the Washington pitcher who tried to catch Drew off the bag.
First baseman Gavin Martin drove a ball through the infield to score Drew for the first run.
Shortstop Chris Wade hit a sacrifice fly out in the second inning and second baseman Julian Lopez delivered a run-scoring double in the fifth for Bordentown, which held a 3-2 edge entering the seventh inning.
Bordentown extended its lead to 4-2 when right fielder Will Mesa, who had singled, eventually came around to score on a single from center fielder John Schroeder for a 4-2 lead.
Bordentown’s ace, Kyle Kato, gained two outs in the last of the seventh but manager Tom Dolan called on reliever Joe Horton, who closed the game with an out to secure the victory.
Following the victory, Dolan claimed that his squad played to their potential in the district tournament.
“They came to play,” Dolan said. “They played the game like it’s meant to be played. They got clutch hits, great pitching and made all the plays.”
Although the Bordentown skipper felt confident in team’s overall ability, two players he pointed out who had an exceptional regular and postseason run were Kato and Lopez.
Kato, who allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out two batters, pitched six and two-thirds innings to earn the decision.
“Kato is our beast,” he said. “He is a kid that when he comes out, you know he is going to give you 110% every time. He has four pitches, knows how to work batters, hits his spots, doesn’t get nervous and keeps the innings close, so opponents don’t create anything big against us.”
Building off a hot run down the stretch of the regular season, Lopez didn’t skip a beat in the district tournament.
“Julian has been red hot for us,” Dolan said. “We moved him in the lineup when he was hitting ninth for me in the beginning of the year because I love his speed, and he always puts the ball in play, so when our leadoff hitter began to struggle a bit, me moved him up there. Then, I dropped him back into the sixth hole because he was seeing a lot of fastballs. The kid is a player. He hits all the time.”
Lopez said he felt the decision from the manager to settle him into the sixth spot in the lineup has helped him see more hittable pitches to his liking. Along with his strong play, he said the team’s overall performance has helped carry them to success.
“Going up to bat, I’m in the six-hole, so I’m getting more pitches to hit than I would normally see in the one-hole,” Lopez said. “Even at the top of the lineup, the whole lineup is hitting, playing great defense, great pitching – it all revolves around each other, so when we get good hits and great plays, good things happen.”
Gearing up for the game against Hopewell in the final eight, Dolan said he felt his side can hang with any opponent for the upcoming weekend.
“We are playing well and we feel we can play with anybody,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter who we face because we are playing against seven other great teams, so we are going to have to bring our ‘A-game’ and hopefully, we will go from there.”