In what has been a promising season for New York baseball, even the kids are approaching a World Series.
The 11- and 12-year-old boys from Massapequa Coast Little League continued a magical summer with a 7-5 win over Fairfield American of Connecticut on Monday in Bristol, Conn., to advance to the Metro Region championship.
Fairfield and Toms River East will play Wednesday night in the semifinal, and the winner will take on the Nassau County squad Friday night for the right to advance to Williamsport.
It took more than five hours to squeeze in six innings of a game that included two rain delays, but Massapequa, which won the first state championship in its league’s 72-year history, weathered the weather. Head coach Roland Clark’s team is one win away from the Little League World Series.
“It’s been an emotionally draining and physically draining day,” Clark said about the phone after a game with about three and a half hours of delays. “For 12-year-old boys on both teams, for how each team responded and what they went through … was just tremendous.”
Massapequa was outhit, 12 to nine, but was not outfielded. A two-run home run from Joey Lionetti gave Massapequa a first-inning lead it would hold because their gloves held every ball hit to them.
Massapequa did not commit an error and made several diving plays as well as fundamentally sound ones.
“We’re not the biggest team,” Clark said. “We might not have the pitchers that throw the hardest, but we have 11 boys that can play any position, and defense is something that my coaches and myself have stressed for a long time with these kids.”
In the third inning, Fairfield had runners on the corners and tried to get into a rundown between first and second to allow the runner on third to score. Catcher Ryan Huksloot, shortstop Christian Bekiers and third baseman Michael Clark executed the classic Little League play perfectly, with Clark eventually throwing to Huksloot for the out at home.
In the fifth inning, each Massapequa outfielder made a catch to record the frame’s outs, including dazzling dives from right fielder Brendan Hanley, who took away an extra-base hit, and left fielder Lucas Mininni, who sprinted in before laying out his body.
“The defense from beginning to end was tremendous,” Clark said.
Fairfield mounted a rally in the sixth, scoring four and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but Massapequa’s Bekiers notched a game-ending strikeout.
“At no point, looking at my players’ demeanors, did I think that they were thinking they were going to lose it,” Clark said.