WHEELING - Dan Cecilia of the CNY Thunder Americans belted a two-out, walkoff single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to provide a thrilling finish to the 24th annual Edgar Martin Beast of the East Baseball Classic on Sunday night.
With darkness settling in and the threat of a thunderstorm hovering over the Capt. David VanCamp Memorial Ballfield in Elm Grove, the St. John Fisher recruit got his big opportunity after the Baltimore Devil Rays elected to intentionally walk Alex Stacy, who had already doubled and singled in this exciting, down-to-the-wire battle.
Cecilia, already with a sacrifice fly that tied the score in the bottom of the sixth, took a high fast ball from hard-throwing reliever Kyle Chevront and lined the ball into left center for the single that brought the Thunder its 4-3 victory.
The CNY Thunder
Americans celebrate after a
scoreless inning during Sunday’s Edgar Martin Beast of the East 19U Final. The Thunder Americans defeated the Baltimore Devil Rays for the title.
Both teams carried undefeated Beast of the East Classic records into the Under-19 final and they put on an impressive show to entertain the nice-sized crowd that turned out to watch the championship game.
''We've been coming here since 2006 and it's been an absolute pleasure every year,'' said John Sheedy, co-coach of the Syracuse-based travel squad. ''This was the first time we've ever made the championship round in a major tournament like this and are kids are delighted to come out on top.
''Tip your cap to the Baltimore Devil Rays. This was a great game and both teams battled their hearts out. We had a lot of chances to put some runs of the board but their No. 13 (Evan Griffin) was making great pitches when he needed them. We were very fortunate to capitalize at the end.''
Although just seven runs were scored by the two teams, the lead changed hands twice and the score was tied on three occasions.
The Thunder went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first as John Larca walked, stole second, advanced to third on Dave Anderson's ground out, and scored when Ryan Paige was retired on his one-hopper to shortstop John Linn.
River Laskey drew a walk, followed by singles from Andrew Hofmeister and Shroan Sinha that came ahead of Curt Haynes' force out to tie the score at 1-1 in the top of the second.
An inning later, the Devil Rays moved on top 2-1 as Griffin doubled, moved up 90 feet when Linn was retired on an outstanding play by Anderson who raced in from third base to field the sacrifice bunt and make a strong throw to Brian Hughes at first.
CNY got even in the fifth inning, helped out by a huge break when the ball was dropped as Anderson took a called third strike. Larca started the rally with his one-out single up the middle. The catcher had the ball get past him on a called third strike, allowing Larca to advance a base. Paige then hit a flare into left field for the game-tying single.
Both teams scored in the sixth inning. The Rays' Tommy Mee singled and was awarded third base after Mike Heverling flied out to center field and the ball was thrown past first and out of play on an attempt to complete a double play. Griffin then struck out Laskey and was nearly out of the inning but Hofmeister's single put the Devil Rays ahead 3-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Thunder got the equalizer as Stacy doubled, stole third with a head first slide that just beat the tag and came home when Cecilia was sent up as the pinch-hitter and skied out to center field.
After relief pitcher Michael Parra retired the Rays in the top of the seventh, allowing just a two-out single to Griffin, Anderson worked Chevront for a seven-pitch walk to start what would be the final half-inning.
Paige reached on a fielder's choice as John Linn made a fine play up the middle for a forceout at second. He took third when Jordan Delaney singled into center and moved up to second on the throw home. Hughes popped out and the decision was made to walk the dangerous Stacy. Cecilia spoiled the strategy with his game-winning hit that triggered a huge celebration by the Thunder players as they poured on to the field as soon as the ball landed on the grass in left.
Mike Cariseo, who shares coaching duties with Sheedy on the Thunder staff, pointed out that two other players on the Beast of the East championship team will be playing college baseball this fall. Paige, the slick-fielding CNY shortstop, has signed with Division I Niagara University, while Anderson was recruited by Muhlenberg.
Having brought teams to Wheeling the past several years, Sheedy and Cariseo knew what was needed to make a serious championship run.
''I think one of the keys was coming here with a 23-player roster,'' Cariseo said. ''And they all contributed in one way or another. Every game we kept switching our lineups to give everybody their chance to play.
''We also knew to bring 10 pitchers with us. When you end up playing nine games in four days like we did, you can never have enough pitching. It couldn't have worked out any better than this.''