LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (John Cifonelli) –
Onondaga beat Pine Forge, Pennsylvania twice on Thursday afternoon to win the Babe Ruth 16-18 year old Middle Atlantic Regional and advance to the World Series. Onondaga won the tournament in improbable fashion, winning six consecutive elimination games on their way to a 7-1 overall record. Of the six elimination-game wins, Onondaga had to come from behind in four of those wins.
In Thursday’s opener, Onondaga started slowly. They allowed two unearned runs and got little going offensively in the early innings. Trailing 2-0, Onondaga finally got the offense rolling in top of the fifth when Kent Wilson (CBA) led off with a double. Wilson advanced to third on a balk and then scored on an RBI groundout by Phil Zollo (Westhill.) David Cifonelli (Bishop Grimes) followed with a single and advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt. McKyle Sands (Solvay) came through with a clutch two-out, pinch-hit RBI single to score Cifonelli and tie the game. Onondaga would score the winning run in the sixth inning when Brendan May (McGraw) laced a single to left-center field, Skyler Gashi (Mohawk Valley C.C.) was hit by a pitch, and Wilson was walked to load the bases. Zollo then hit another RBI ground ball to score May with what would be the winning run. Starting pitcher Liam Barry would bring it home from there, finishing off the final six hitters on five ground balls and a game-ending strikeout. Barry finished the game allowing only two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts on only 80 total pitches.
The second game was not as dramatic as the opener, although Pine Forge did take the lead in the bottom of the first. But a diving stop by Wilson with the bases loaded prevented any major damage and kept the Onondage deficit at a manageable 1-0. Onondaga immediately took the lead back in the top of the second on RBI singles by Cifonellil and Adam Douglas (SUNY Brockport.) Run scoring singles by Gashi and Douglas in the next two innings gave Onondaga a comfortable lead. Then Onondaga broke it wide open with an eight-run fifth inning, as Pine Forge’s pitching depth had clearly been tested. Meanwhile, Jack Gordon was cruising on the mound for Onondaga. Gordon picked up his second win of the tournament, walking two and striking out five.
The reward for Onondaga’s amazing Regional run will be a trip to the World Series, which will be held in Mobile, Alabama on August 2-10. The format of the World Series is much different than the Regional format. Instead of a double elimination tournament, the World Series features pool play. Ten teams will be divided into two pools with each team playing four pool games. The top three teams in each pool will advance to the single elimination bracket for the World Series title.