The final bracket for the 68th annual All American Amateur Baseball Association Tournament had a different look in August.
Those who immediately scanned to the championship game might have noticed a few names missing.
No New Orleans.
With Washington, D.C., and Detroit out of the picture for years now, that meant the group once known as the Big Four – or more recently the Terrific Two – had no representatives in the title round.
The New Brunswick (N.J.) Matrix beat the Cleveland Blizzard 5-2 in the championship game to earn the franchise’s first tournament crown.
The Matrix became the first team to be a first-time AAABA Tournament champion since 1965.
New Brunswick also was the first champion other than either Baltimore, New Orleans or Washington since 1994, when a Brooklyn squad led by future major leaguers Julio Lugo and Nelson Figueroa beat Altoona for the crown.
“It was so unusual looking at two different names instead of the usual powerhouses,” Johnstown Oldtimers President George Arcurio III said prior to the title game. “Everyone is used to seeing Baltimore and New Orleans, and Washington and Detroit from years past. Not to take anything away from those teams, but this is very good for the tournament because it means some of the areas that were not competitive for a long time are becoming competitive. It can only strengthen the tournament.”
Baltimore had won eight of the previous nine titles, including a record six straight from 2003 to 2008. Baltimore leads the tournament with 28 titles overall, but Youse’s Maryland Orioles lost to Cleveland on Day 5 in 2012.
New Orleans, which ranks second all-time with 13 AAABA Tournament titles, lost to Baltimore on Day 4 after the Orioles scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to eliminate the Boosters, who won the 2009 tournament.
The Matrix made their second championship game appearance in four years. New Brunswick had to play Cleveland three times to earn the title. Cleveland won the first meeting 9-6, but New Brunswick had back-to-back victories on the final two days.
“The main thing coming out here was to make a deep run,” New Brunswick manager Glenn Fredricks said after the title win. “We’ve done that before, but we didn’t close the deal so it feels really good to come out here and finally accomplish what we came out here to do. We started coming back out here four years ago and through trial and error and just hard work and dedication, these guys just put it together and made a heck of a run in this tournament.”