The New Providence Pioneers 11U Gold team played Westfield Blue for the Green League Championship on Friday night at Oakwood Park. The Pioneers finished the regular season with a record of 9-2. That was good enough to win their division and secure the #1 seed in the playoffs with the best overall 11U league record.
In the playoffs, the Pioneers defeated the 7th seeded Madison Maroon in the opening round, 5-1, and defeated Summit Maroon, 10-1, in the semi-final game to advance to the championship game. After losing consecutive one run games in the semi-finals the previous two seasons, the Pioneers were ready to take it home.
In the Championship game, Jack Fitzgerald took to the mound. After striking out the first batter, the next two batters were hit by the pitch. The next batter hit a single to right field and the Right fielder Grant Blankenbaker fielded the ball, threw to Fitzgerald, who relayed to the catcher Troy Faucher, who tagged out the runner for the second out. The next batter popped out to the pitcher and Westfield was unable to score.
In the bottom of the first, Devin Cumiskey led off the inning with a four pitch walk and immediately stole second. Cumiskey would advance to third on a ground out and score the first run of the game on an infield hit by Faucher.
In the top of the third, Westfield started out with a single, advanced the runner to third and scored on an infield hit to tie the game, 1-1, going into the bottom of the third.
New Providence began the third inning when Ryan Walsh walked on five pitches. Grant Blankenbaker would get hit by the next pitch and Colin McAloon worked out a walk after going 0-2 on the first two pitches. With the bases loaded and no outs, Luke Palschakov laid down a perfect bunt to score Walsh and the Pioneers took a 2-1 lead. Blankenbaker would score on a passed ball increasing the Pioneers lead to 3-1. Cumiskey walked for the second time and the bases were loaded again. After a fly out to left, the Pioneers scored again on a passed ball and would score two more runs when Faucher got his second hit of the game with a timely single up the middle. The Pioneers held a 6-1 lead heading into the top of the fourth inning.
After a walk and a hit to start the inning, Westfield was looking to get back into the game. The next batter would ground out to third basemen Daniel Porretti and the runner from third would score to make it 6-2. Fitzgerald and the Pioneer defense was able to bear down and close out the inning and the Pioneers took the 6-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning. Westfield's defense was up to the task and made some very nice defensive plays to keep the score 6-2 heading into the fifth inning.
In the fifth inning, Jack Fitzgerald was reaching his pitch limit so the Pioneers brought in Noah Morales to finish the game. After giving up a single to the first batter, Noah settled down and was able to get the next three outs without allowing a ball to leave the infield.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Pioneers looked to add some insurance runs. After the first batter grounded out, McAloon worked out a four pitch walk. The Pioneers were looking to add a run when then next batter struck out looking. With two outs, Cumiskey hit a single up the middle and the runner looked to score on the play. It took a great throw, catch and tag, but McAloon was tagged out at the plate. The Pioneers would go into the last inning with a four run lead.
Down four runs and with three outs to go, Westfield was not ready to go quietly. Westfield started out the inning with a single to right field. After a ground out and hit by pitch, Westfield was still alive in the game. The next batter would ground out for the second out and the Pioneers were feeling confident. That confidence didn't last long as the next batter would reach on a walk to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. The Westfield fans were cheering loudly as the batter stepped in. After looking at the first two strikes, the fans were all excited on both sides. The Westfield batter put a big swing on the next pitch and hit it to deep center field. The Pioneers Centerfielder AJ Whitehead was playing no doubles deep and came storming in on the ball and secured the catch to seal the win.
The championship victory was celebrated by the players, coaches, parents and fans who were all treated to a great competitive championship game.