Volume 75, Number 5 | June 22- 28, 2005


Blue Jays nip Bucs in Juniors Championship Game

By Gabriel M. Zucker

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert
A Downtown Little League Blue Jay rocks back to deliver to the plate in the match-up with the G.V.L.L. Pirates at Pier 40.
It was an overcast Sunday afternoon at Pier 40, and after coming from behind to take a three-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, the hitherto undefeated Greenwich Village Little League Pirates seemed poised to win the Juniors Championship. After the first pitch of the seventh was lined back to the mound, the home team was just two outs away from winning the title.

Then Ray Perez shot an infield single on his first pitch, Phillip Kay followed with a single, Liam Kolb pilfered a shot through the right side and Corey Greenblatt and Peter Barbieri bombed doubles. And just like that, the mighty Pirates were down a run and the elated Downtown Blue Jays were three outs away from becoming the victors.

Yet this isolated instance was nothing more than a stop along the way for a game that saw the lead bounce back and forth no less than seven times. Following an entire weekend of seesaw, nail-biting, playoff action, the championship game — ironically a showdown between the G.V. and Downtown leagues — also featured 15 stolen bases, 15 K’s, 19 hits, some of the hardest shots the season has seen, a mere three errors and just about as much action as seven innings can hold.

The party started back in the top of the first, when a Pirate error opened the door for an early Blue Jay run. The lead did not last long, however, as Aaron Yellin’s stand-up double, Mark Masullo’s slap single and David Gabella’s daring base-running scored two for the Bucs.

Rapid-fire relays to the plate by Yellin and the Jays’ Victor Smith kept the second scoreless, but the visitors tied it in the third. Perez slammed the ball to the leftfield wall for a stand-up triple and scored on Kay’s sac fly. But the tie immediately vaporized, as Gabella’s single, a walk and a couple of errors scored two for the Pirates.

The game remained locked at 4-2 through a relatively uneventful fourth. With both teams executing perfectly — to the tune of 12 hard grounders fielded cleanly by game’s end — and pitchers Masullo and Kolb going strong, a blowout rally seemed unlikely.
But the Jays, far from giving up, mounted one in the fifth, and the tension in both dugouts surged considerably. Smith-Stevens singled to start the inning. Masullo punched a strikeout, but Gilberg rifled a shot over second, Perez walked, Kay stroked one to right and Kolb’s RBI groundout gave the Jays a one-run lead.

The overeager Bucs went down in order in the fifth; but, after holding the Jays in the sixth, they matched their opponents with their own big rally. Jimmy Velasquez knocked an infield single, and Jacob Katz belted an RBI shot over short. With men on second and third, Kolb bore down to get two straight outs, but Yellin broke the tie with a clutch 2-RBI single through the hole. Tyler Scrima followed with an RBI rope up the middle, giving the Pirates a comfortable three-run lead going into the last inning. Half the stands were rocking and the game seemed all but over.

Then, two outs from the finish line, Masullo gave up four straight hits, tying the score. A strikeout brought the rally’s end tantalizingly close, but Barbieri rocked a double to right-center, and Greenblatt, as the go-ahead run, narrowly beat out a relay from the outfield. Yellin caught Barbieri getting greedy at third, but the damage had been done. With the third big rally in three innings, it was suddenly the Bucs, not the Jays, who were down to their last three outs.

Now the other half of the stands were rocking as the Jays went out to hold the Pirates and claim their victory. The Bucs watched three outs dwindle to one on back-to-back groundouts, but Katz, as their last hope, smacked a single and stole his way to third. With the tying run 90 feet away, Ethan Zien worked the count full. Kolb reared back and delivered. The pitch nipped the outside corner. Strike three. And the Blue Jays won the championship.

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