Chesterland, Ohio – The 2022 16u OPL Tournament began on Friday with all 8 teams – E80 Iron Pigs, DNA Raiders, Lakewood Rangers, Titans (Red Pool), Ohio Hurricanes, Ohio Tide, Blaze Baseball, and Bay Blue Rockets (Blue Pool) – in action on Saturday, which saw the Iron Pigs, Raiders, Hurricanes and Tide reach the semifinals. The Tide took the first one 7-3 over E80, and the Hurricanes won the other in a pitcher’s duel 2-1 as their starter Christopher Russo outpitched George McGuinness of DNA. So, the championship featured the undefeated Hurricanes, the only one in the tournament, and the 3-1 Tide, who had three in a row since dropping their opening matchup to the Canes.
The pitching matchup for this contest was Braeden Barker for the Hurricanes, and the Tide tabbed Brandon Henderson, which began as a showcase of pitching of great defense. Barker retired 9 of the first 10 batters he faced, then the fourth inning happened when he lost his command. It started to unravel with a walk to Tide leadoff hitter Abe Campbell, and then Joseph Payne grounded out to Joe Barch, which moved Campbell to second. Kenny Friihauf hit a pitch right back up the middle for the game’s first run, but the Tide wasn’t done. Barker walked both Tyler Gideon and Charlie Mitchell to load the bases. Richardson drove in another run, and that was all for Barker. Domenic Menta replaced him on the mound and faced James Carter Jr. The Tide’s 7th placed hitter laced one down the left-field line to bring in a pair.
Just with Barker in the top of the inning, Henderson entered the frame on a roll, but hit Holden Cope and walked Rocco Monastero. Henderson is taken out and Richie Hill entered to get three outs in the fourth. Hill allowed a Barch RBI single and Brandon Lurie to hit a sacrifice that cut the deficit to 4-2 Tide. Menta tossed two scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth innings, however, Hill kept them off the board with two of his own.
The Tide added a huge insurance run in the seventh when Carter Jr singled with one out. Then, two batters later, Mason Carter hit a ground ball to the Hurricanes shortstop, who double pumped and airmailed the throw to Barch at first, allowing Carter Jr to score, which made it 5-2. The crucial error made it a steeper challenge for the Hurricanes to come from behind in the seventh against Hill. The Tide righthander retired Lurie, Menta, and Jonathan Taub to give his club the 16u OPL Championship.
Hill tossed 4 shutout innings in relief to earn the win after the Tide scored four in the fourth frame, which was the turning point of the game. So, was the error the Hurricanes shortstop made in the seventh. Despite only collecting 3 hits, the Tide managed to score 5 times, allowing just a pair of singles along without committing an error in the field.