October 16 (Yaphank, NY) – Winning a championship at any level is difficult, defending the title is even harder. After claiming the 2015 crown at the Antonia Agostinelli Memorial, the 2016 New York Nine Fall 18u club set their sights on repeating championships this weekend at Baseball Heaven.
Opening pool play at 8am on Saturday, the Nine were successful against Team Steel by a score of 8-2. Matt DeMartini fired a complete game, while Jessie Spellman and Mike Garcia each scored twice and eight different players had hits.
The second pool game pitted the Nine against an elite Team Connecticut Select squad, with the Nine emerging as 3-1 winners. Chris Moreno gave the Nine some breathing room in the second as he stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch with a brilliant headfirst slide. Danny Alfonzo’s two RBI double plating Randy Flores and Robinson Plata proved to be the difference in support of Danny Betances who allowed a single run in a brilliant complete game victory.
Looking to secure the pool with a win the Nine faced off with Long Island Baseball Prospects at 10am Sunday and behind some poor defense and timely LIB hitting fell behind 3-1, which is where the score stood into the 6th inning. With two outs, Danny Alfonzo’s double, Joseph Caba’s single and German Sepulveda’s double knotted the score at three. With Tyler Paulino running for Sepulveda, pinch hitter Brian Lopez plated Paulino with what turned out to be the winning run. Mike Ruffini was brilliant in relief, not allowing a hit in two scoreless frames, picking up the win.
With the 3-0 record, the Nine clinched the #2 seed in their bracket and had to wait around until 6pm to play in the semi-final against the Next Level Titans. The Nine couldn’t muster much offense against William Gilbert, who was outstanding in his own right, fanning eight. Austin Cole, ultimately the winning pitcher, was every bit as masterful as he allowed one unearned run in his five frames of work under the watchful eye of the multiple MLB scouts there to see him. The 6’7 RHP ran his fastball up to 90mph and worked through some defensive lapses behind him. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 5th, Joseph Caba scored on a Tyler Paulino ROE and Robinson Plata’s daring advance of home on a ball just next to the Next Level catcher provided reliever Julio Suero, who worked through runners on the corners, the one run needed to secure the save in relief.
In the Championship game, some 11 hours after the first pitch of the day seen by the Nine, Adirondack Heat hurler Rob Debrino bested the Nine offense. Debrino fanned ten, allowing only two hits, a single to Robinson Plata and a double to Randy Flores, as the Heat claimed the crown with a 2-0 victory. Nine starter Mark Novello and reliever Derrick Jimenez threw well enough to give the Nine the chance to win. The Nine finished in second place, having posted a respectable 4-1 record in 36 hours of baseball action in the Agostinelli Memorial Tournament.