RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph Little League West All-Stars won the District Championship for the third consecutive year by edging the Tri-Town All-Stars 4-3. It was a nailbiter game that came down to the wire when Tri-Town made a furious rally late.
Randolph was led by pitcher Joe Reed, whose final pitching line included five complete innings with nine strikeouts, two walks and five hits, while knocking in two RBI’s of his own.
Randolph came out swinging, scoring all of their runs in the first inning.
Dylan Haun led off with a walk, followed by a Paul Recchia single. Then Reed struck, ripping a double to knock in both runners for a quick 2-0 lead. Matia Clement knocked in Reed with an RBI single, and Jake Hart’s fielders’ choice RBI scored Clement for a 4-0 first inning lead.
Manager Dave Tamres expected Randolph's hitters to be a strength against their opponent. "We like to come in with our bats early, and we feel confident that we're going to hit anybody that comes after us," said Tamres. “But then they brought in Ian Kern, and he gave us a tough time, really shutting us down the rest of the game. He was fantastic.”
Reed knew a few days ago that he would be taking the mound to face Tri-Town. "I knew I was going to pitch this game because the last time we played them, which was on Saturday, they kept me to 35 pitches so I could pitch in this game," said Reed.
The added physical rest helped to him to ease into the mentality of starting this important game. " Because I knew I would be throwing and I had pitched [against] this team twice before, It wasn't that stressful," Said Reed.
Though eight batters came to the plate for Randolph West in that first inning, the rest of the night was a difficult one offensively. They scattered 10 hits throughout the game, but were unable to push anymore runs across the plate against Kern.
"So, we had to win it a different way," said Tamres. "We had to win it with defense and we had to win it with good pitching."
One of those defensive plays came in the second when Jason Roskum fired a laser from center field to catcher Dylan Haun to nail a runner trying to score. In the fourth, Jack Bibbo made a catch on a deep ball at the fence, and Erich Recchia made two diving stops at short in the game.
In the waning hours of the evening, Tri-Town’s bats woke up as they responded with a barrage in the fifth. Reed allowed a long double to deep center, followed up by a longer shot from Nick Nelson that cleared the fence for a two-run homer, cutting the lead to 4-2.
After the leadoff batter reached base in the sixth, Reed was lifted, and Hart was called upon to close out the game. Hart retired two batters, and then give up an RBI single that cut the lead to 4-3, setting up a dramatic showdown with Nelson, who had belted the HR in the fifth.
With the tying run on base, and the fans on their feet, Reed completed his work by fanning Nelson, blowing high heat past him to seal the win. "I Wasn't really trying to give them anything good to hit, and it worked," said Hart.
It is a day that will live on with Hart as it was his thirteenth birthday, the number he also wears on his jersey. "It was exciting to have this be my first pitching outing as a 13 year old," said Hart. "I have never pitched on as big a stage as this, and I will remember it for a long time."
Randolph continues to be confident, partly because of their previous playoff experience. "I think we'll do very well because after a win like this we always perform better, and I think we'll play well off in the upcoming games," said Hart.
Even with some of tonight's difficulties, Tamres still espouses the confidence he has in his squad. "This is the lineup that got us here, in three years of District play, we have never lost a game, so we have a lot of confidence," said Tamres.
Randolph will move on to compete in the Sectional Championships which will be played in Triboro in Bloomingdale. If the squad succeeds there, they will move up and be one of four teams in the State Finals.
After all these years, a kinship has tethered these players together. "I'm so proud of this team, we're a family, as we've been together for five years," Tamres said. "I love them as my own kids. I'm so proud of them."