Aug 27, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A summer-long baseball odyssey by North Syracuse’s 13-15 All-Star team has resulted in the highest honor possible – the championship of the Babe Ruth World Series.
And it was won in dramatic style during Friday night’s championship game in Monticello, Ark. Completing a perfect 6-0 run through the tournament, North Syracuse rallied in the seventh and final inning to beat Saginaw Valley, from Michigan, by a score of 7-4.
Not since 2003, when Onondaga took the 16-year-old World Series title, has a Syracuse-area squad won a Babe Ruth national championship.
Entering the top of the seventh, North Syracuse trailed Saginaw Valley 4-3, just three outs from seeing its three-year quest for a national title fall short one last time.
Ten of the players on North Syracuse had participated in Babe Ruth World Series in 2008 (in Jamestown) and 2009 (in Appleton, Wisc.), and had not won on either of those occasions. North Syracuse was determined not to endure the same sad ending here.
Leading off, Alex Caruso drew a walk. When Gabe Levanti followed with a single, Saginaw Valley took out starting pitcher Luke Scharich, replacing him with A.J. McInnis.
Up stepped Nick Pilotti. With the tying and go-ahead runs on base and nobody out, Pilotti intended to follow traditional baseball strategy and bunt to move Caruso and Levanti into scoring position.
But after a called strike and a foul ball, Pilotti got a chance to swing away. McInnis obliged with a curveball, just what Pilotti was looking for – and he drilled it over the center-field fence for what prove to be a World Series-winning three-run home run.
Now up 6-4, North Syracuse tacked on one more run before Ryan O’Kane returned to the mound, where he had been from the start. Blanking Saginaw in the bottom of the seventh, O’Kane clinched the title.
So ended a diamond classic that was, from the start, a back-and-forth affair.
Saginaw Valley jumped ahead with a pair of runs off O’Kane in the bottom of the first inning, the two runs a result of four clean hits, Grant Bridgewater and Zach Olszewski getting credit for the RBIs.
Fighting back, North Syracuse got a run in the top of the second with Eric Hamilton’s solo home run to cut it to 2-1. An inning later, O’Kane tied it with an RBI triple and Pilotti, in a hint of what was to come, doubled to push North Syracuse in front 3-2.
Saginaw didn’t flinch, though. In the bottom of the fifth, O’Kane, with a runner on, made one more mistake – and Ryan Jankowski took it over the fence for a two-run homer.
Now trailing 4-3, North Syracuse endured a scoreless sixth inning as O’Kane settled down. Overall, he would give up nine hits, recording five strikeouts against a pair of walks, and head coach Dom Caruso never gave a thought to taking O’Kane out, despite the high stakes.
North Syracuse also finished with nine hits, and while the run total was modest compared to what it had done earlier in the tournament, it hardly mattered once Pilotti made his big swing in the seventh inning.
For the six games of the tournament, North Syracuse outscored its foes 58-13, averaging nearly 10 runs per contest. And the last four of those runs helped produce a World Series title.