DANBURY, C.T. — Coming from behind to win has become second nature for Yorktown’s 9-and-under baseball squad, as it did so one more time this summer in thrilling fashion over the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Tigers in the Greater Hudson Valley Baseball League championship game on Sunday, July 30, at Rogers Park in Danbury.
The second-seeded Lightning ended up beating top-seeded Larchmont, 9-3, but trailed 3-0 early on. They chipped away to eventually knot the score, and from there it took eight innings of concentration and close calls before they poured on six runs during a pivotal top of the eighth.
“We just don’t give up,” Yorktown coach Tom Masillo said. “We have a great group of families and kids. This was a tough team, but our kids stood in there. We’re constantly coming back and these kids have so much heart.”
Taking full advantage of the California Rule, which starts the inning with a runner on second base, Yorktown’s Robert Viglione scored to break a 3-3 tie after stealing third base and watching the throw sail into left field.
That was what began the domino effect, as second baseman Jeffrey Nunez knocked a sharp grounder that zipped past the shortstop with the bases loaded to extend the cushion to 6-3.
A single from first baseman Vinnie Fabrizi loaded the bases once more for Viglione, who rolled a grounder to the second baseman and beat it out with great speed after the second baseman bobbled the ball.
Liam O’Connor and shortstop Alex Ornstein walked with the bags full to put the Lightning in golden position, up 9-3.
Ornstein took the mound in the bottom of the eighth. After two runners got on base, he retired the next three hitters in order and struck out the final one to seal Yorktown’s second summer league title in a row. It also won the GHVBL fall championship.
“We play defense, that’s why we win,” Masillo said. “We hit the cut-off man, we have good pitchers who throw strikes. But we make the plays. That’s what we’re known for, and we attack the plate. Also every kid on this team hits, from the first to the last.”
Right fielder Dylan Leitner scored the first run in the second inning after racing home on a wild pitch to make it 3-1.
Gio Carucci added another run with an RBI groundout to second in the third inning. The Lightning finally tied it in the fifth when O’Connor’s rocket of a hit deflected off the pitcher’s glove and into center field to plate Dylan Katz.
Pressure mounted on both teams thereafter as neither could score throughout the next two innings. Luca Masillo started the game on the hill and pitched well, but it was O’Connor who escaped a crucial one-out bases-loaded jam with some help from the field in the bottom of the fifth.
Nunez caught a pop-up in shallow right field then quickly turned and gunned down the runner trying to tag from third base to ring up the inning-ending double play after a low tag from catcher Lirim Biberaj.
O’Connor worked his magic again when the stakes were high in the bottom of the sixth. He retired the first two batters, but loaded the bases once more to put the winning run 60-feet away. Settling down, the left-hander fanned J.P. Donahue on three pitches.
Another left-handed pitcher for Yorktown in Kurtis Maher did a wonderful job in relief to keep it tight, tossing two scoreless frames.
Maher even hit the game-winning RBI single up the middle in the Lightning’s semifinal victory over the Larchmont Wildcats, who they also defeated through the California Rule in eight innings after trailing by two runs before their last licks.
Yorktown concluded a remarkable summer season with a final mark of 15-1. It got contributions from every single player and will shoot for a second-consecutive GHVBL fall championship come September.
“Last year there were probably four key kids,” Masillo said. “Now everybody has come out. One of the greatest things for a coach is to see kids at the bottom (of the lineup) getting hits. There is nobody getting up that I worry about. Our last kid Liam O’Connor got two great hits today and pitched.”