Volume 18 • Issue 5 | JUNE 24- 2, 20

Youth Sports

Thriller on the pier as Jays win championship

Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert

Catcher Luke Smith-Stevens, 13, of the Downtown Little League Blue Jays snared a high throw and tagged the runner out in the team’s championship win over the Greenwich Village Little League Pirates Sunday at Pier 40. traded. A few women work on the floor, but most work upstairs.

The Downtown Little League Blue Jays emerged triumphant in the Junior Division championship Sunday, defeating the Greenwich Village Pirates in the final game, 9-8 at Pier 40. In a close game, the key hit came from Blue Jays player Corey Greenblatt in the seventh inning, whose long double to right field brought in the tying runs. Greenblatt then scored the winning run in a long double by Peter Barbieri for a two out R.B.I.

The Pirates pitcher managed to strike out 11 Blue Jays, but the Jays fought back collecting 11 hits and five walks, leaving only four runners on base. Ray Perez of the Blue Jays had a strong offensive game with two hits, including a triple to left field, two walks and four runs scored. Phillip Kay was two for four with one run scored and one R.B.I. Liam Kolb went two for four as well, with one run scored and three R.B.I.’s. Luke Smith-Stevens and Sam Gilberg also had solid offensive performances in a key three run fifth inning, giving the Blue Jays a brief lead.

The Blue Jays defense had to remain strong and consistent throughout the game to hold off the Pirates. Pitchers Kay and Kolb held the Pirates offense to eight runs on 11 hits and four walks. Kay pitched a mix of changeups and breaking balls during the first three innings. Kolb came in to end the game with his fastballs and breaking balls. In the second inning, Blue Jay Victor Smith retrieved a single from right field, throwing it to Kolb, on first base at the time, and relayed the throw to home where Smith-Stevens tagged the runner to prevent a run from scoring. Smith also took a hit away from the Pirates by catching a fly ball, limiting them to only two runs in the third inning. In the fifth inning, Smith-Stevens and Greenblatt combined to run down a Pirates player trying to steal third base. Kolb started pitching in the fourth inning and had a key strikeout in the fifth to keep the Blue Jays on top, 5-4. In the sixth inning, Kolb gave up four runs, but managed to catch a pop-up to the pitcher, along with a strikeout. After two quick outs on ground balls to Gilberg, a bloop single and two stolen bases, Kolb struck out Pirates number 8 hitter, ending the game with the tying run on third base.

The Pirates remained undefeated all season, which was an intimidating situation to face, but the Blue Jays, who finished first in their division, stuck together as a team.

“Every time we were losing, we came back and played as a team,” Greenblatt said. “If there was an error in the game, we came back and worked it out, and came back and won.”

The Blue Jays overcame the Red Sox, 10-5, earlier in the day during the semifinals. Gilberg pitched a complete game, giving up only seven hits, four base on balls and striking out 11 Red Sox players. At centerfield, Perez caught a runner at first base on a long ground ball in the fifth inning. At shortstop, Barbieri took a hit away from the Red Sox, ending the fourth inning. At right field, Smith ran all out to make a catch along the line in the sixth inning and Dylan Estrada caught a long high fly ball to left field, ending the inning. Gilberg ended the game with a five-pitch strikeout in the seventh.

The win in the semifinals helped boost the Blue Jays team morale, who came into the championship series with a 1-5 record against the G.V.L.L.

“It was great to beat the Red Sox because they beat us in a depressing loss during the season,” Gilberg said.

Offensively, the Blue Jays collected nine walks with seven of them coming around to score. Perez went one for two with two walks and three runs scored. Smith walked twice and scored two runs. Gilberg and Smith-Stevens had key two out hits, leading to two R.B.I.’s. Kolb and Kay also singled for important R.B.I.’s.

The victory of the Blue Jays is a first for the league. “Never before in D.L.L. history has this been done,” wrote Vinny Licata, commissioner of the D.L.L. in an email. “This is by far our shining moment.”

— Lauren Dzura


The Blue Jays defeated the Cubs 9-5 for their seventh win of the season and moved within half a game of first place in the Majors Division.  Josh Lawrence was the hitting star, doubling with the bases loaded and driving in three runs.  He also had another R.B.I. in his next at bat for a total of four for the game.  Jackson McGonagle, Jess Coleman, Curtis Seeman, Liam Gallagher and Charles Porcaro each had one hit with Jess and Curtis each getting an R.B.I. to round out the offense. Charles Porcaro and Harrison Hatton each pitched well in their three innings of work to help secure the win.  The Jays defense was stellar with Nick Licalzi's unassisted double play and Jackson McGonagle throwing out two runners trying to steal second.

The Devil Rays shut out the Astros 10-0 behind the sterling pitching of Justin Valenzuela, who held the first-place Astros to two hits and did not allow a runner past second base. On offense, Valenzuela had two hits, including an R.B.I. double and a stolen base. Mathew Sheridan and Felix Chmiel also starred for the Rays, with Chmiel stealing three bases including a bold theft of home in the victors' five-run third inning. For the Astros, Jake Goodman and Rafe Lepre notched singles, while Jack Scordato and Travis Brandon flashed big-league leather in the outfield.


In a tense showdown between two of the best teams in the minor bracket, a deep, well-balanced Angels club overcame the slugging White Sox by a final score of 12-5.  Michael Porter, starter for the Sox, was in peak form throwing heat.  The defense behind Porter was consistently excellent, with John Zito in left field barely missing what would have been the catch of the year on a bomb by Jack Hatton.  The Angels, having used their frontline pitchers in a Wednesday battle with the Mariners, relied on steady Adam Kester for two innings, bringing catcher-second baseman Henry Costello on for the save.  The White Sox rallied bravely in the final frame but their budding rally was choked off by two smooth and rangy plays by the Halos’ shortstop, Friso Clarke.

In the fourth inning of last Wednesday's showdown between two undefeated teams, the Angels and the Mariners, star catcher Leighton Brillo-Sonino came to the plate with the bases loaded.  The Angels had an early lead thanks to the fine pitching of Eren Gallagher, Jack Hatton, and Matt Fragliossi.  But Mariners' manager Ernie Shore, weakened by recent surgery, but there to cheer his team, led them back into the game.  In the fourth the Mariners loaded the bases with two outs, and Brillo-Sonino delivered the key hit – or so it seemed.  The long drive to dead center was snared by the Angels' Wil McArdle on the run and the rally was put down.

Baseball is a game of inches.  The Mariners kept battling, with an R.B.I. from Teddy Lau, and great pitching and defense from Sam Ryman and Oren Shore.  But the Angels simply overwhelmed them. Chris Riddick laid down a pivotal bunt single off the Mariners great fire-baller, Josh Blaney.  Weston Priest slugged a bases-clearing triple down the right field line to seal the Halos' win.

The Rangers and Braves played an absolute thriller last weekend that players from both teams will talk about for years.  After two innings, the Braves were ahead 2-1.  The game appeared to be a pitchers’ duel as both starters, the Rangers' Ethan Gooderaum and the Braves' Peter Manny, were throwing well.  In the next two innings, however, an offensive explosion occurred and 22 runs crossed the plate. The Rangers scored 11 unanswered runs to take a 10-run lead into the bottom of the fourth.  But the Braves showed no signs of quitting and chipped away at the lead with a walk here and a hit there. Eleven runs later, the Braves left the field with a 13-12 victory.  David Hersey led the Braves with three hits – two of them doubles that came in the final inning of play.  For the Rangers, Brian Boyd had three hits as well.


The Phillies jumped out to an early lead with the big bat of Anthony Randazzo. His two-run triple in the first inning gave the Phillies a lead they never lost, winning by a score of 14-4. The offense was paced by John Barbieri, Rachel Licata and Gabriel Ponce, who each had three hits. Anthony Marino had two hits and played solid defense behind the plate, as did Thomas Caruso, who made a couple of sparkling defensive plays at third. Cliff Benfield, who went three for three, led a tough Devil Ray squad. Moses Rubin, Lucas Berger and Chloe Lombardi all drove in runs for the Devil Rays.

Two weeks ago, the real Red Sox and Cubs battled for the first time in 87 years when they played three games at Wrigley Field. This weekend, the Downtown Little League's Red Sox and Cubs met on Battery Park City's north field and, in a remarkable parallel to the big league game, the see-saw contest featured the stellar play of Justin Wenig at the hot corner for the Cubs and a David Ortiz-like blast in the Red Sox final at bat by first baseman Will Merrill.

The Cubs took an early lead in this contest, scoring three runs in the first inning on a pair of doubles by Wenig and shortstop Dylan Prior. Nyima Ward also drove in a run with a fielder's choice. They threatened for more, but playing in her last game of the season, Laila Fadel scooped up a grounder and fired to Merrill at first for a key putout. The Red Sox answered with one run in their half of the inning, when Alex Hirsch singled to drive in Alec Tullock. Wenig prevented further damage by making an unassisted putout at third base.

In the second inning, the Cubs were threatening when shortstop Rafi Misak snagged a line drive and fired to Tullock at third base for a 6-5 double play to kill the rally. The Sox then scored five runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. The Cubs scored a run in the third and Wenig, who had moved on defense to first base, turned an unassisted double play that kept the Red Sox from scoring further. That set the stage for a dramatic fourth inning. Not giving up, the Cubs rallied for five runs in the top of the frame to take a 9-6 lead. Mikayla Halpern delivered the big blow for the Cubbies, driving in both Laila Costello and Elan Halpern. Not to be outdone, however, the Red Sox came back with five runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. The final two scored on a line drive Merrill pulled to right field to secure the 11-9 victory.

The Mets overpowered the Junior Minor Cardinals on Sunday to consolidate their six-game winning streak. After the Cards failed to score in the first inning, despite singles by Jasmin Rocha and Alexander Irikura, the Mets came on strong with a single by Lily Seibert, a double by Jake Jiler, and a line-drive sacrifice double by Sean McGowan to drive home Siebert and Jiler.  Quick fielding by the Cards’ Inoa and Rocha kept the runs to two despite an additional single by Cooper Weaver.

In the second inning the Cards scored on a double by Sadie Solomon, and singles by Ricardo Rocha and Jason Polychronako.  The Mets retired the Cards quickly at the top of the third with fine fielding by first baseman Jake Jiler.  They hit their stride again at the bottom of the third with singles by Jonathan Sexton, Lily Seibert, and William Steere to load the bases.  Then, clean-up slugger Sean McGowan hit a double to bring home two runs.  McGowan went on to score on singles by Cooper Weaver, Noah Sutter, and Jerry Juarbe, but the Cards’ Thomas Rauffenbart ended the rally with a squeeze play at third base.

The Cards scored again at the top of the fourth with singles by Alexander Irikura, Shammiel Fleischer-Amoros, and a sacrifice single by Sadie Solomon to bring home Irikura.  Fast footwork by Mets’ pitcher Max Wilson and first baseman Jake Jiler held the Cards to a single run for a score of 5-2 Mets.

The bottom of the fourth was busy for the Mets.  It started with singles by Oliver Mettle, Max Wilson and Mathieu Bialosky.  Mettle was forced out by Rauffenbart at third, but Sexton loaded the bases again with a strong single, and Lily Seibert singled to drive Wilson home.  With the bases loaded for a third time, William Steere singled to drive home Bialosky, and Jake Jiler hit a sacrifice single to load the bases for a fourth and final time.  A double by the hard-hitting Sean McGowan and a power triple by Cooper Weaver finished the inning with four more runs to make it 11-2 Mets.

The Mets scored again in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of doubles by Noah Sutter and Jerry Juarbe, and a single by Oliver Mettle to bring Sutter home.  Mathieu Bialosky and Lily Seibert also hit singles, but good fielding by the Cards’ Jasmin Rocha retired the side with a score of 12-2 Mets.

The Cards fought back hard at the top of the sixth with a double by Jasmin Rocha, and singles by Rauffenbart, which allowed Rocha to come home, and Irikura and Fleischer-Amoros drove home Rauffenbart.  A double by Solomon and sacrifice singles by Inoa and Rocha brought home two more runs to make the final score Mets 12, Cardinals 6.

The Rockies took on the Dodgers in an exciting early morning match up. Xavier Russo, was flawless at third base, also going two for three with two R.B.I. Chris Bauman, was perfect at first base and three for three with three R.B.I. Raphael Santore went three for three and Luke Deseyne displayed great defense. The Rockies lineup saw Conner Cimmno, Jack Weil and Wyatt Gray all go two for three. In the third inning, with the Dodgers threatening, Rockies third baseman, Wyatt Gray, caught a smoking line drive on the hop and threw a perfect strike across the field to first for the putout. In another outstanding double play, Rockie Halle Menking snagged a ball on the pitcher’s mound, made a perfect throw to first for an out, and then, turning on a dime, stellar first baseman Balthazar Merrin threw a fireball to catcher Sean McGowan at home for the third out of the inning. The Rockies infield put on an outstanding defensive game, stabbing and snagging Dodger line drives all morning long. The tough Dodgers took the day by putting up four runs in the sixth to close out the game 11-6.


On Saturday, the Pirates hosted the Mets on field two.  The Mets had several nice hits.  Christian Plota led off with a smack to second base and set the tone for the Pirates.  Jack Ferguson also had a nice hit, and was thrilled to hear the cheers from the parents as he stood on first base.  In the second inning, the Pirates made four outs.  Two of those were consecutive plays at home by James Borelli.  Another was a grounder to second baseman Tyler Rohan, who fielded the ball, then stepped on second for a force out and then tagged the runner, just in case!  Tai Manheim made the fourth out at third base. In the third inning, the Pirates made some nice defensive plays, and Jacob Morris, Jackson Mansfield, Oscar Sullivan and Mak Manheim played consistently to support the team.

The Red Sox were off to a good start as Rick Morteson made his team members proud as he opened the first inning with an extra base hit. Cole Hawthorne displayed great hitting ability by knocking in teammates Cameron Lamser and Jackson Mansfield.  James Carney showed his leadership ability at the pitcher's position by demonstrating his defensive skills and coordinating other team members.  The Mariners were off to a slow start early in the game, but picked up momentum as Thomas Burns and Kate Woolverton started a rally with key hits.  Blas Lee got a clutch R.B.I., helping his team get on the scoreboard. Justin Tyler Lee and Lauren Barragan led off the third inning with solid hits that allowed the Mariners to tie the game with the Red Sox.  But it was Matthew Burnett's defensive wizardry that enabled the Mariners to maintain the tie.  At the end, both teams appeared exhausted as the Red Sox and the Mariners battled it out to the final at bat.


In the first game of the twilight double header, the Powder Kegs hosted the Greenwich Village Blue Smokes in inter-league play. Starting pitcher for the Powder Kegs, Mackie Charter, kept the Smokes off the board in the top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, it didn't take long for the Kegs’ wood to come alive. Katerina Michaels led off with a walk, to be advanced to third. Lindsay Holcomb, returning from a four-week injury, wasted no time getting back to her slugger form when she smacked a double. Sarah McGowan took no time in capitalizing on this with an R.B.I. single. Mackie Charter followed with a towering three-run homer. Greta Jenkins continued the rally with a single. The bases were then loaded when Aimee Chico was hit by a pitch and Willa Nathan stretched her hitting streak to three games with a single. The inning ended when Marina Ouranitas drew a walk and a run.

With Lindsay Holcomb on the mound, the Blue Smokes came back with a run in the top of the second and shut the Kegs’ bats down in the bottom, limiting the offense to one hit by Katerina Michaels and striking out two of the Kegs.

The drought continued in the third when Powder Kegs’ pitcher Emma Dries pitched a shut out in the top of the inning and the Blue Smokes pitching proved to be too much. The Kegs left the bases loaded after Sarah McGowan singled and Greta Jenkins and Aimee Chico drew walks to end the inning.

In the fourth, with the score 5-1, mid-reliever Greta Jenkins took the mound and continued her scoreless streak with shutting the Blue Smoke down. The bottom of the inning saw the start of another Powder Kegs rally when the bases loaded with Marina Ouranitas who drew a walk, Miranda Strand was hit by a pitch and Katerina Michaels walked. Emma Dries drove home a run with a single. Singles from Lindsay Holcomb and Sarah McGowan loaded the bases again, all to be driven home with a grand slam smash from Mackie Charter to end the inning.

Keg pitchers Aimee Chico and Greta Jenkins held tough when the Blue Smokes staged a three run rally of their own in the fifth. Aimee Chico led the offense for the Kegs in the bottom of the fifth with a single. The bases were loaded when Willa Nathan singled and Willa Rubin drew a walk. Miranda Strand drove in one run with a single, and Katerina Michaels hit an R.B.I. single, going two for two for the day. The Powder Kegs closer Sarah McGowan then pitched a perfect sixth to end the game.

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