When the Geneva-United All-Stars and Ashtabula All-Stars squared off for the third time in a week, this time with a District 1 title on the line Monday at Carraher Field, counting pitches become a key to victory.
Geneva-United got off to a fast start, but it was the 9- and 10-year-olds from Ashtabula who did the finishing as they rallied to claim the championship with a sound 10-6 victory.
“This was the third straight time we’ve had to play them,” Geneva-United manager Paul Thomas said. “We came through the winner’s bracket, so they had to beat us twice in a row coming out of the loser’s bracket, and they did it. They’re just a very good team at this level that plays well fundamentally.
“We have a good team, too, that I’m really proud of. When you get to this point, pitch count becomes important, and our top starter didn’t have much left to give, but our kids really did a fine job as well.”
Ashtabula now moves on to state tournament action the weekend of July 28 in Cuyahoga Falls.
Ashtabula manager Brian Mehalic agreed about the effect pitch count had on the game.
“We definitely had to deal with pitch counts tonight,” he said. “We came through
the winner’s bracket with them and then had to come back to win two games in a row, so naturally it effected how we used our pitchers today.”
A strong finish is what got Ashtabula into position for the win.
The Boys from ’Bula scored four times in the second inning to overcome a quick 3-0 lead Geneva-United had garnered through the first four hitters in the game.
After going down 1-2-3 in the first, Ashtabula did a magnificent job of manufacturing four runs in the second.
Alec Radwancky walked and Alex Tulino was plunked by a pitch. After a strikeout, Ryan McClure sent a grounder to short that erased Tulino. Having taken third on a wild pitch, Radwancky scored as Shane Gibson sent a grounder that glanced off the third base bag for a single. Will Walker walked, McClure scored on a passed ball and Gibson came home on a wild pitch.
Zach Griffith capped it all with a single to center for the fourth run
Ashtabula then scored two, one and three runs in each of the next three innings to expand the lead.
A sixth inning rally by United produced a pair of runs, but only simply threw a scare into the Ashtabula faithful and braintrust. Mehalic did well in maneuvering his pitchers in the sixth to put and end to the threat.
After an error on a ground ball and a walk issued by Ashtabula pitcher Mateo Snyder set runners at first and second with no outs, Radwancky walked a hitter to load the bases. A pop up to first got the first out, a grounder to third was fielded and taken to the bag for the second out, but a run scored. Two more walks, one by Radwancky and one by Gibson, forced home another run, before Michael Cooper sent a solid grounder back to the mound and Gibson tossed to Andrew Mehalic to give Ashtabula the victory.
“This is just such a good group of kids to work with,” Brian Mehalic said. “I’d just love to have any of them as part of my family. They work so well together, they listen when you talk to them, and they always try to stay positive no matter what happens. We had some tough games with United that could have gone the other way, but the kids stayed sharp and intent and just played good baseball.”
Balance was the key on offense for Ashtabula. All 11 players made contributions. While they only had six hits, Mehalic, Alex Katon, Radwancky, and Gibson each scored twice, with Gibson being the only player for the winners with more than a single hit. He hit a single and double.
Ashtabula’s early runs were well manufactured by taking advantage of walks, a couple hits, and errant pitches allowing runners to move up.
Katon delivered what proved to be the final nail in the coffin with a two-run triple to the left field fence in the fifth and he scored on a wild pitch to close things out.
Geneva-United got off to a dynamite start.
Danny Wilms singled to center, Brett Goff drilled a single to left and Vincent Varckette drilled a slicing shot down the right field line for a triple and promptly came home as Charlie Hughes sent a ground ball to short. The throw home was tardy, Geneva-United had a 3-0 lead and it didn’t look good for Ashtabula.
While issuing seven walks of their own and committing a trio of errors, a combined four Ashtabula pitchers allowed only one more hit to keep Geneva-United from mounting any further rallies.
“Both teams just are phenomenal,” Thomas said. “They just have a great team. Ours is pretty darn good for this age level, but they all played solid baseball and earned the victory today.”
Wilms had a pair of hits, scored twice, and reached base in all four at bats for Geneva-United. Varckette also had a trio of RBI and Logan Mallory scored twice.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.