Nottingham pitcher Aiden Chulamanis delivers to the plate against WWP in the District 12 Little League Tournament. Photo by Michael A. Sabo
By Rich Fisher
July 2: Nottingham played a little game of lost-and-found.
Deacon Bowne lost a baseball over the fence and the Square boys found the spark they were looking for.
Bowne’s three-run homer jump started Nottingham Little League to a 6-1 victory over West Windsor in a 12-year-old District 12 elimination game at Van Horn Field tonight.
Aiden Chulamanis made the blast stand up as he scattered four hits, did not allow a walk and struck out eight in 5.1 innings. Christian Snedeker got the final two outs, with the last one coming on Tyler Tucker throwing a runner out at the plate trying to score on a single.
Tucker also chipped in at the plate with three hits and a run scored.
“I felt good tonight,” the second baseman said. “Yesterday was a little rough. We were a little down. Bowne’s home run meant a lot. That was really good.”
Nottingham entered the game feeling the repercussions of a 10-8 loss to HTRBA Sunday, in which the Square Boys trailed 10-1 before bringing the tying run to the plate in the sixth and falling short.
Jake Pope opened the game with a walk, Christian Finacchio (3 hits, RBI, 2 runs) singled and Bowne then drove one over the centerfield fence to make it 3-0 before a batter was even retired.
“I knew I hit it pretty well,” the catcher said. “I didn’t know if it was going out off the bat or anything, but it was just a fun time hitting it.”
Suddenly, Sunday’s loss seemed far, far away.
“That was huge,” manager Adam Bendas said. “We needed something like that in the first inning to get us going and get pumped up. Sometimes being the visitor isn’t a bad thing if you can jump on the other team and that’s what we were able to do today. We were able to do it Saturday against Sunnybrae so it was huge for us to get the momentum started. The kids were a little flat after losing the way we did, and being right there at the end.”
“It definitely pumped us up a lot,” Chulamanis said.
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The hitter himself made it unanimous.
“It’s huge because as a team we needed to be able to get hyped in the first inning and get pumped, and then continue our way from there,” Bowne said.
They will continue to try and battle from the loser’s bracket when they meet Robbinsville, a 6-1 winner over Bordentown tonight, in a 6 p.m. game at Van Horn. HTRBA will play Lawrence in the late game.
Bendas feels he has enough arms to win four games in the next six days.
“We definitely have the pitching as we showed tonight,” the manager said. “Aiden was huge. His first District 12 all-star game as a 12-year-old, to come out under the pressure, go five-and-a-third innings is incredible. My hat’s off to Aiden. He worked hard and powered through it. He really did a great job.”
Bowne concurred, saying, “He was awesome today. His curveball was working really well, his fastball was going really well. He was just lights out.”
Chulamanis showed what kind of night it was going to be in the first two innings, when he struck out six consecutive batters. He fanned the final two in the first inning and four straight in the second. Two of the victims reached base on missed third strikes.
“I have a curveball as my put-away pitch,” the right-hander said. “With my fastball, I try to let them put it in play because I have my fielders behind me to make the plays.”
West Windsor’s biggest threat while the score was still close came in the third when its first two hitters singled. But he got a pop-out and shortstop Jake Pope turned a 6-3 double play to thwart the uprising.
Nottingham added a run in the fourth on Finacchio’s RBI single, and got two more in the fifth and sixth when Tucker and Finacchio both singled and scored.
With the win, Nottingham feels as if it has its mojo back.
“I think we felt a little down after yesterday, but we know that we have the capability to go all the way,” Chulamanis said.
“Our pitching and our defense will carry us,” Bendas said. “When we get kids like Deacon and Jake Pope and Finacchio putting the ball in play, it should all come together if we continue to play like we played today.”
While Bowne’s home run was the game’s most memorable moment, the skipper felt his importance went beyond that.
“He played behind the plate two games in a row catching six innings in this heat,” Bendas said. “That’s a tremendous hat’s off to him. He hit the ball and still did all the catching.”
And he helped Nottingham find exactly what it was looking for.