The Kingsbridge Little League minor division team captured the District 23 championship with a razor’s-edge 10-9 win over the Forest Hills Bombers from Queens on Saturday.
The game was held in Marcus Garvey Park in central Harlem.
“This is the best game we played in this kind of tournament,” said Kingsbridge catcher Brandon Fernandez following the tense contest.
After Kingsbridge pitcher Gabriel Riollano did not allow a run in the top of the first, Fernandez got the KLL’s opening rally going in the bottom of the inning when he walked and advanced to second on a base hit by Alec Ducasse.
Both runners then advanced a base on a passed ball.
A walk to Riollano loaded the bases. Fernandez scored on Raphael Reyes’ ground out to first, giving Kingsbridge a 1-0 lead after an inning.
The Bombers responded with 4 runs in the top of the second.
A base hit by Chris Mazza and a double by Jacob Arocena put runners on second and third. Justin Montalvo smacked the ball deep into the outfield to score both runners. A base hit and stolen base by Denis Coppin followed by a stolen base again put runners on second and third. Ethan Weintraub’s base hit let Montalvo score, and a subsequent double by Richie Solomon brought in the 4th run for Forest Hills.
Despite trailing by 3, the Kingsbridge boys pushed on. Base hits by Fernandez and Luis Santos and a walk to Ducasse loaded the bases. Riollano belted a double deep into right field to bring all three teammates around to score and tie the game.
He was eventually tagged out while attempting to come home on a passed ball.
Forest Hills regained what appeared to be a commanding lead with 4 runs in the top of the fourth.
With Jamie Barrios and Weintraub on base, Mazza hit a 2-RBI double. Nick Patin hit a single and Arocena’s added 2 more runs on a grounder into centerfield.
Trailing by 4, a Kingsbridge comeback looked iffy with 2 quick outs in their half of the fourth. But Fernandez got a base hit, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. A Ducasse hit brought in Fernandez. Riollano smacked a double to score Ducasse, who had been trapped between second and third and finally got lucky after a Forest Hills throwing error.
Bradley Nivar walked and both he and Riollano advanced on a passed ball. Reyes’ base hit scored Riollano and then Jaimar Almonte’s double brought Nivar around. Reyes was tagged out at home to end the inning, but the local boys had tied the score at 8.
Batista took the mound for Kingsbridge in the fifth, an inning in which Forest Hills took the lead again.
The KLL went quietly in the bottom of the fifth. Ducasse replaced Batista on the mound and Forest Hills did not score in the top of the sixth.
Kingsbridge started the final half inning trailing by 1 with the top of its order coming to bat.
Ducasse and Riollano both got base hits and advanced on a passed ball. Both were in prime scoring positions at second and third. With 2 outs, Reyes came to bat with the weight of the world on his back. But he responded in a big way, hitting a bomb deep into right field. Ducasse and Riollano had plenty of time to make it home for the winning runs.
Reyes was mobbed by his teammates and Kingsbridge fans after his heroic hit gave the Bronx team the title.
“I just said, ‘I love you God’ and took the swing,” said a beaming Reyes.
Fernandez was philosophical after his team’s comeback victory.
“When you believe in yourself, you succeed at life,” he said.
three of three
The South Riverdale Animals, the league’s travel team for boys 13-years-old and under, won three games in a span of three days this past week in the Westchester Baseball Association (WBA). Nine of the first 10 Animals’ batters scored in the first inning in the team’s first game of the week, a big 12-2 win over Hillcrest, a Yonkers team on July 11.
Jesse Cooper-Leary, Brian Alberts, Zack Farber, Danny Moynihan, Ike Fields and Griffin O’Keefe all reached base at least 3 times during the game.
On the mound, Moynihan allowed only 2 runs over the first five innings. He struck out 6 batters and only threw 71 pitches. Closer Adam Berni struck out 2 of the 4 batters he faced to end the game in the sixth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.
The other two games were parts of a double-header against the Mid-Westchester Tiger Sports team on Saturday, July 13 at Seton Park.
In the top of the first inning of game one, the Animals again started off strong, scoring 2 runs. Kenneth Rodriguez and Berni both walked and came home when Alberts hit a booming double.
The Animals offense did not let up in the second inning, as Fields, Jonathan Katzman, and Steven Stavrianopoulos all scored. Stavrianopoulos had a stellar game at the plate, getting on base and scoring with every at bat.
Animals hurler Rodriguez did not allow a hit until the fifth inning when the Tiger Sports scored their 2 runs. Great defense also helped the Animals, including a Fields-Farber-Moynihan double play in the second, as well as great catches in the outfield by Jonathan Sherman, Katzman and Berni. The Animals tacked on a few more runs to make the final score 12-2.
Game two of the double header was the tightest game of the week, but the Animals prevailed over the Tiger Sports, 5-3.
The Mid-Westchester team jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead, but the Animals responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Moynihan walked, stole 2 bases, and scored on a single by Rodriguez.
In the second inning, Katzman led off with a walk and ended up stealing bases until he finally scored, a feat he repeated in the fifth inning.
The Animals infield defense of Alberts, Farber, Moynihan and Lucas Ludgate kept thwarting any Tiger Sports rallies. And Ludgate was equally impressive at bat, reaching base all 3 times he hit.
With a 4-1 lead after four innings, Animals starter Michael Tiso allowed only 2 more runs. He was frugal with his pitches, too, needing only 60 in the win.
The Animals are co-sponsored by the West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital and the Riverdale Wellness Group. Home games are played at Seton Park. To view their summer schedule, go to the WBA site, www.eteamz.com/WBA.