Nine-year-olds lose in Ripken final to Monroe BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer The Hazlet Hawks 9U baseball team completed its summer with an excellent 38-13 overall mark. Along the way, the Hawks captured the District 11 title with four straight wins, downing Middletown in the finale to advance to the Ripken state tourney. Hazlet defeated Mount Olive, Flemington, Middletown and Bayonne to reach the finals before losing a 4-3 nail-biter to Monroe. “A lot of the boys have been playing together for two years now and it showed,” Hazlet assistant coach Anthony Cofone said. “They’re very experienced for their age and they seem to be able to rise to the occasion for the big games.” The Hawks also entered several tournaments during the season, adding to its laurels championships in both Cranford and East Brunswick. Hazlet relied on a five-player pitching staff. James Howarth and Danny Lehan were the ages, but Matt Birdsall, Anthony Cofone and Joe Dressler also pitched well when called upon. While the pitching was superb, the Hawks piled on the runs. Howarth led the team with a batting average above the .500 mark and drove in 60 runs in 51 games. Michael Lind drove home 46 runs and Billy Hutchins added 42 RBIs. Both Lind and Hutchins batted over .400. The younger Cofone also hit more than .400. Birdsall and Lind provided solid defense behind the plate, while Ryan Ruziecki and the younger Cofone played superbly at first base and second base, respectively. Other members of the team include outfielders Noah Errichetti, Thomas Glackin, Jason Glensor and Mike Kenneally and infielder Nick Borow, who also played the outfield. “This is a hard-working group of real good kids,” Coach Cofone said. “They all pull for each other and look to help each other out. We have a great group of parents and it’s a real team atmosphere.” Charlie Hildner manages the Hawks. Hazlet’s other assistants include Bob Birdsall, John Dressler, Tim Hildner and Marty Ruziecki. After taking a few weeks off in August, the Hawks will begin their fall ball campaign in the Central Jersey Baseball League on Aug. 30.