Host Bruisers take first place in baseball tournament

Cowle Post 151 18U Dugout Bruisers players and coaches pose with the first-place trophy after winning their own American Legion tournament on Sunday at Jefferson.

JEFFERSON — The Cowle Post 151 18U Dugout Bruisers needed a little magic on Sunday to win their own American Legion tournament and they found just enough.

They started their day with a scheduled game against Millcreek Post 773 and scored nine in the fourth to erase a multi-run deficit and clinch a spot in the championship game. In the title game, Meadville Post 111 jumped out to a 6-1 lead, but the Bruisers stormed back and withstood a seventh-inning rally to win 12-11.

“Awesome, just absolutely awesome,” coach Joe Zappitelli said of the title. “It was a grind.”

Recent Grand Valley graduate Logan Newell received the game ball for the championship and had an unusual outing.

After a three-up, three-down first inning, the southpaw surrendered six runs in the top of the second. He opened the frame with a strikeout, but Meadville took advantage of several bloopers and defensive miscues to take a 6-1 lead.

Newell did not allow a run in the third, fourth or fifth innings, then was removed in the sixth after a trio of singles.

“They found gaps and there were some Texas-league bloopers,” Newell said of the offense the opposition manufactured against him. “But with this team, the run support’s awesome and it’s real nice to pitch, because you don't have to worry much.”

The Bruisers answered with seven runs in the third inning to retake control. Former Grand Valley Mustang Nick Reichek drew a one-out walk to kick off the rally and scored on a Jon Susnik home run.

After a fly out, Newell reignited the rally with a triple to right field. Jacob Zappitelli, a 2019 Edgewood graduate, drove in Newell and scored on a Benjamin Salesky base hit.

Ryan Boruszkowski later cleared the bases with a three-run double.

“It’s fun to pitch for them and fun to watch, too,” Newell said of his team’s lineup.

The Bruisers carried a 9-6 advantage into the sixth and Meadville scored three to tie the game. The Bruisers answered once again, though, and plated three more runs to re-up their lead.

Salesky drove in the first two with a triple to left-center and ran 90 more feet after a throwing error for the team’s 12th.

Meadville scored two in the seventh and had the tying run on third, but Susnik closed the game and tournament without his team needing another at-bat.

“Resiliency is what I’ve always told these guys I’m most proud of them (for),” coach Zappitelli said. “Fall behind, they realize there's still a lot of innings left and they're going to make the best of it.”

The tournament was the first the Bruisers held. Games were played at Jefferson’s Baseball Havens Complex as early as Friday morning and play ended in the late hours of Sunday.

“It was very gratifying with all the work we put in,” Zappitelli said. “Win or lose this game, it was very gratifying to see some very good baseball come into this facility. … It was right in our backyard and the competition was as good as what we’ll see when we go to these big tournaments.”

The Bruisers’ next big tournament will be the Beast of the East in West Virginia.