Massapequa, NY – Remember ‘the third thing’? The North Bellmore North Merrick Rebels accomplished ‘the third thing’ on manager Sam Acri’s list of goals that he set for his team when they were entering their first Williamsport Tournament at 10 years old – the year they ran the table through the winners bracket only to lose two games in the championship round to none other than Massapequa Coast. Tonight, the Rebels turned the table when they won their second NY District 31 title in as many years by defeating Coast twice in the championship round and became the first team in the recorded history of North Bellmore North Merrick Little League to take the district flag at 12 years old.
The final accomplishment was anything but easy as the Rebels battled Massapequa Coast LL tonight over six innings before NBNM snapped a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Rebels starting pitcher Brian Porricelli was a monster on the hill. Over 5 1/3 innings of work, he struck out 13 Coast batters and left the game with a no-hitter after reaching his pitch-count limit of 85 pitches. Porricelli left his mark all over this game with his stellar pitching performance and made it indelible when he delivered the walk-off hit to end it.
Coast pitcher John Vento performed well allowing just three hits and Andrew Russell again made highlight reel plays at second base to rob the Rebels of no less than three more. The Rebels mounted a scoring threat in the third inning when Eric Solomon and Jack Delaney delivered back-to-back singles but Vento picked up a big strikeout to end it.
Meanwhile, Coast could do little to muster any offense at all. Only three batters reached base throughout Porricelli’s effort by way of an error in the first inning, a dropped-third-strike in the third, and a walk to Andrew Russell, the last batter he faced.
Kevin McCleneghan came on in relief with one out in the top of the sixth inning. McCleneghan quickly turned in the defensive play of the game for NBNM that started with a 1-2 knuckle-drop to Vento. The pitch hit the dirt and catcher Matt Coster dropped to block it. But the pitch ricocheted off Coster’s shinguard toward the Rebels dugout on the first base side of the field and Russell broke for second. Coster, not seeing the rebound, turned to his left and could not locate the ball. With what appeared to be a golden opportuity to get to third base with less than two outs, Russell rounded second. Alertly, both McCleneghan and third baseman Matt Conry saw the play develop with McCleneghan racing to the loose ball against the backstop and Conry moving to straddle third. McCleneghan spun and fired a strike from foul territory to the third base bag where Conry put the tag to Russell on a bang-bang play. A moment of silence hung over the ballfield as Conry showed the ball to the field umpire who, in dramatic fashion, punched out the baserunner. The play was made even huger when Vento went on to loft a fly ball to right field that was misplayed into a two-base error. But McCleneghan got three-hitter Chris Wasson on a come-backer to end the MCLL sixth, shut-out and no-hitter intact.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Rebels’ Matt Nilsen led-off and reached when he was hit by a pitch on his foot. Delaney then laid down a sacrafice bunt and was safe at first when Coast third baseman Dan Gdanski, with thoughts of getting the lead runner, hesitated and was late with the throw to first. Billy McAdam stepped up to bat in a clear bunting situation. After he ran the count to 2-0, the bunt sign was removed in lieu of a take, and Vento delivered strike one. With the bunt back on at 2-1, McAdam dropped one down toward third base that hit the fringe and kicked just foul. With the bunt still on at 2-2, McAdam got it down, Vento couldn’t get the handle, and the Rebels had loaded the bases with no outs. Vento was then lifted for Wasson. Alec Acri, on a 1-1 pitch, hit a ground ball toward first that was snagged by Coast’s Rettig who threw home to force out Nilsen. Then, after getting ahead 1-0, Porricelli crushed a rising line drive through the left center field gap and off the wall, propelling North Bellmore North Merrick to the District title, into the Sectional round of the tournament, and earning Porricelli his rightful place at the bottom of a fired up dogpile of Rebels players and coaches alike.
With little time to savor their district title, the Rebels will quickly get ready to kick-off the NY Section 6 portion of the 2012 Williamsport Tournament when they face Port Washington LL Friday 6:00 pm at Lions Field.