LITTLE LEAGUE: Agony and Ecstasy

Pat Bistrian’s Sand Gnats prevailed 19-14 over The Express
The Sand Gnats jumped around after winning the Little League girls softball “world series.” Jack Graves

    There was agony and ecstasy to spare this past week as East Hampton’s Little League finalists — boys and girls — duked it out in best-of-three “world series.”
    Tim Garneau’s Indians came from behind to win the 9-10 boys series at the Pantigo Fields on June 11, thanks to a two-out, two-strike walk-off double hit to deep center field by Jackson Baris that treated the Indians to a 6-5 win over Greg Brown’s Orioles.
    The Orioles had defeated the Indians 7-5 in game one, but the eventual winners took game two by a score of 4-1. Scott Healey got the save in the finale, pitching two scoreless innings during which he struck out five of the Orioles’ batters. “He was key,” Garneau said as his charges were dashing around the bases, celebrating their victory.
    Later, Brown said, “We were up 5-0 at one point, but that’s the game. The kids played fantastic. Our team was built on respect, on respecting the game, our opponents, the umpires, the coaches. And they did that. It was a great group of kids — they played their hearts out.”
    His players had taken the defeat in stride, Brown said in reply to a question. “The main thing we’ve taught them this year is sportsmanship. You don’t see that much anymore.”
    Tom Talmage, the head coach of the 11-to-12-year-old Diamondbacks, said after his team had been swept in two by Steve Minskoff’s Reds, “I recruited him a few years ago and he’s been torturing me ever since.”
    “The last two games we made some uncharacteristic errors that came out of nowhere,” said Talmage, “but my kids are very resilient. We had a few losses earlier in the season and then won five in a row to come out ahead in a three-way tie for second.”
    Minskoff, whose team’s consecutive 7-5 and 13-4 wins polished off the Diamondbacks, said Hunter Fromm, who had pitched three no-nos during the season, one of which had been a perfect game, was his M.V.P. The Reds, he said, also boasted an exceptional 10-year-old fourth grader, Christian Johnson, the team’s starting shortstop, who was his rookie of the year.
    As for the girls, Pat Bistrian’s Sand Gnats prevailed 19-14 over The Express, coached by Rich Swanson, in the third game of the 10-to-11 Little League girls softball series Saturday morning at East Hampton High School’s field, where all three games were played.
    The Sand Gnats, who had been crushed 20-5 by The Express in game two, after having won the first game 15-13, jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the pivotal clash, but The Express came back to tie the score in the second inning before the Sand Gnats put the game, and the series, away with four runs in the top of the sixth inning.
    “We’ve gotten to the final two years in a row,” Swanson said afterward. “We lost last year too, but this year was a bigger disappointment. We were undefeated in the regular season — we’d played the Sand Gnats once and beat them 6-5 — but sloppy play did us in. We don’t normally play like that.”
    The game was delayed for 15 or so minutes in the fifth when the sprinklers came on, chasing The Express’s outfielders toward the dugout. “I thought that might have cooled the Sand Gnats down, but it didn’t,” said Swanson. Dave Fioriello eventually turned the sprinklers off so the game could resume.
    Lina Bistrian, a 12-year-old pitcher with a windmill delivery, got the all-important win. She was smothered afterward by her teammates, who included her cousin, Elizabeth, the first baseman, who caught everything thrown her way.
    Three traveling all-star teams — two boys squads, coached by Garneau and Minskoff, and one girls entry, coached by Swanson — are to play in District 36 tournaments in the coming weeks.