The Garden City U10 baseball team's thrilling run to the verge of the NY State Little League Tournament came to a heartbreaking end last Thursday evening with a 9-8 loss to South Shore National Little League of Staten Island in the Section 5 semifinals.
Two days later, South Shore went on to capture the Section 5 title and earn a trip to the state tournament in Warwick, NY with an 11-0 victory over Oceanside Little League.
The semifinal loss by Garden City ended a five game winning streak and brought the Garden City players' dreams of a state title to an end. Despite playing on the road for the second consecutive game of the Section 5 tournament, the U10 team showed remarkable resolve and composure in battling the District 24 champions right to the end of an exciting and pressure-filled game.
Indeed, after the game, many supporters of the Staten Island squad, which was managed by Mike Zaccariello, who managed the South Shore U12 team to the Little League World Series in Williamsport in 2009, noted how impressed they were with the talent and poise displayed by District 29 champs from Garden City.
The game was played on a perfect night for baseball and the festivities began with the players being introduced by a PA announcer whose voice was remarkably similar to that of Yankee Stadium legend Bob Sheppard. After the introductions and national anthem concluded, the game itself began quietly with both teams going down in order in the first inning.
The Garden City team was again held scoreless in the top of the second, but South Shore's big bats finally broke through for the first runs of the game in the bottom of the second. By the time the second inning was over, the boys from Staten Island had grabbed a 4-0 lead and several of the Garden City faithful, who braved rush hour traffic to support their team in person, later admitted that after South Shore's initial outburst, they feared the game would turn into a rout.
Fortunately, the Garden City team believed differently and immediately roared back to score two runs in the top of the third behind aggressive baserunning and timely two out hitting. The Staten Island squad tacked on another run in the bottom of the third, but the Garden City bats exploded in the top of the fourth to score four runs and grab a 6-5 lead. After South Shore went quietly in the bottom of the fourth and Garden City added two more runs in the top of the fifth, Garden City led 8-5 and stood just six outs away from shocking the perennial little league power.
The Staten Island squad, however, was also battle tested and lived up to its billing by scoring three times in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. A final Garden City rally in the top of the sixth was stymied when an unfortunate break led to an inning-ending double play. South Shore then took advantage of the last licks it gained by winning the pre-game coin flip to score the winning run with one out in the bottom of the sixth on a solid RBI single to leftfield.
The sudden and dramatic loss by Garden City followed an equally thrilling win in the Section 5 quarterfinals played two days earlier at Fort Tilden in Rockaway. In that game, the cardiac kids from Garden City were down to their final out before they pushed across the tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning and the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. As happy as the coaches were with that 6-5 extra inning victory over District 27 champion Rockaway Little League, they were even more proud the next day when they received an email from the manager of the Rockaway team praising the Garden City boys not just for their play on the field, but for the class and dignity with which they carried themselves throughout the game and in victory.
The Garden City boys first mastered the art of dramatic baseball a week earlier, when they twice defeated traditional rival Franklin Square to capture the double-elimination Section 29 tournament. In the final game of that tournament, Garden City rallied for five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to prevail by a score of 8-5. One game earlier, the team had escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam in the the bottom of the sixth inning to hang on for a 3-2 victory. The two heart-stopping wins over Franklin Square followed a 12-1 win over Garden City South and an 11-0 triumph over Floral Park in the first two games of the District 29 tournament.
After the loss to South Shore, manager Joe Macchiarola and coaches Steve Baymack and Bob Boland reminded the boys that despite having fallen short of their ultimate dream of capturing a state title, through hard work and dedication, they had met their initial goal of capturing a District 29 championship. That title will be memorialized with a plaque that will hang with other District champion plaques on the backstop at Community Park Field #2.
The team and its supporters look forward to the unveiling of that plaque, which will recognize the following boys as 2012 U10 District 29 champions: