For the third consecutive year, a talented group of North Syracuse Babe Ruth all-star baseball players saw its dreams of appearing on the ultimate stage -- and like in 2007, it had a special group from central New Jersey to blame for it.
Nottingham came to the Gillette Road complex on Tuesday afternoon and took over in the late stages of the Age 13-15 Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game, handing the hosts a 13-1 defeat and advancing to the Babe Ruth World Series later this month in Arkansas.
These same two teams, with many of these same players, had faced off in the Age 14 and under Babe Ruth division a year ago in the finals in New Jersey. Nottingham won there, and did so again last Thursday in a 4-3, eight-inning thriller.
Here, at first, it was just as close. With runners on first and second and nobody out in the bottom of the first inning, North Syracuse squandered a big early chance when Shawn Peake hit into a double play and Dave Campese grounded out.
Nottingham inched ahead 1-0 in the top of the second inning, then made a tactical decision in the bottom of that frame that proved decisive.
With nobody out and Andrew Schreyack on first base, Nottingham starting pitcher Charlie Battis was removed, having walked three batters in an inning of work.
James Pugilese replaced Battis -- and proceeded to strike out the side on just 10 pitches. Even though North Syracuse sneaked across a run in the bottom of the third to tie it, 1-1, Battis would prove to be too stingy.
By the time it was over, Pugilese had recorded eight strikeouts and allowed just two hits, giving Nottingham ample time to take charge.
Matt O'Kipney, starting for North Syracuse, lasted until the top of the fourth, when Nottingham went in front with three runs, two of them coming home on Andrew Immordino's bad-hop double just inside the third-base line.
Then Nottingham broke it open with four runs in the sixth inning, three of them coming home on Pat Harris' bases-loaded double, and five runs in the top of the seventh as North Syracuse went through several pitchers, all in vain. The only negative was a foul tip that dislocated the thumb of Nottingham star Doug Warrick.
North Syracuse fans can take consolation in the fact that its 13-year-old All-Star team won the state title and will be part of the Babe Ruth World Series that runs Aug. 16 to 23 in Jamestown.