Before it could even get settled, the North Syracuse 14-year-old baseball team found itself in some trouble during round-robin play at the start of the Babe Ruth World Series - but it bounced back to earn a split of the weekend's games to improve its chances.
Traveling to Appleton, Wis., North Syracuse joined Eau Claire (Wis.), Chandler (Ariz.), Youngstown (Ohio) and Jupiter (Fla.) in a four-team bracket. They would play three games in five days, with the top three teams in each bracket advancing to single-elimination play that starts on Saturday.
In the tournament opener on Aug. 22, North Syracuse faced Chandler and got hit around in the course of a 12-4 defeat.
Chandler scored twice in the first inning off North Syracuse pitcher Ryan O'Kane, but saved its biggest blows for the top of the third, where it pounded out eight runs on eight hits, none of them more than a double.
For a brief moment, North Syracuse would answer, getting all its runs in the bottom of the third. Brett Charbonneau singled and came around to score, Nick Polotti drove in two runs with a double and Pilotti raced home on O'Kane's single.
That would be all, though, as Chandler blanked North Syracuse over the last four innings and tacked on two runs in the fourth. O'Kane took the loss, with Dan Brower going 3 1/3 innings in relief.
All this made North Syracuse's Sunday-night game against Eau Claire a crucial one, as it could not afford an 0-2 start.
Again, it would prove to be one-sided - only this time, North Syracuse won big, crushing Eau Claire 10-1.
The two sides traded runs in the second inning, but North Syracuse went ahead for good in the top of the third, scoring twice, the key blow being Pilotti's double.
A run in the fifth inning followed, but North Syracuse sealed victory with a six-run sixth inning. Charbonneau's two-run double sparked the rally, with Gabe Levanti and Pat Wright also driving in runs.
Meanwhile, Jake Sparger, Nick Stanke and Mike Kapla combined to give North Syracuse a solid pitching performance, holding Eau Claire to just five hits combined.