The Phillies, seeded fourth going into the East Hampton Town Little League’s Final Four, emerged Monday as the playoff champions, edging the third-seeded Montauk Marlins 6-5 in a nail-biter played at Montauk’s Lions Field.
To get to the best-of-three final, the Phillies first had to overcome the top-seeded Pirates, which they did two games to one. In similar fashion the Marlins defeated the Dodgers in the other semi.
Tim Garneau’s Pirates, the league’s pennant-winner, had gone into their semifinal series riding a 10-game winning streak after having lost their first two games of the season. The Phillies, on the other hand, had not begun to jell, their coach, Liz Genovesi, said, “until near the end of the season. Our middle schoolers missed some games, and one of them, Jackson Baris, was injured for half the season.”
It was Baris who was the Phillies’ hero in Monday’s clincher, coming on in relief of Anthony Genovesi in the top of the sixth with Marlin runners on second and third, with no outs, and with the Phillies clinging to a 6-5 lead.
The first batter to face Genovesi walked, and the second was put on intentionally, a move that some spectators questioned, given the generally erratic nature of Little League pitching.
A subsequent wild pitch by Genovesi enabled the runners to move up to second and third. That was when Baris, who had been playing first base, switched places with Genovesi.
A strikeout, a walk, which loaded the bases, a full-count strikeout, at the knees, and another strikeout by Baris ate Montauk’s dreams, and prompted a gleeful celebration by the victors.
While the Phillies had rather easily handled the Marlins in game one, by a score of 15-8, Monday’s showdown, in which the teams’ best pitchers, Logan Gurney of the Phillies and Lou Britton of the Marlins, were matched, was a different story.
Gurney and Britton can also hit, as each was to demonstrate that evening — Gurney with a triple to left field in the bottom of the second inning that upped the Phillies’ margin to 4-2, and Britton, a lefty, with an eye-popping two-run homer to deep right-center in the bottom of the third that narrowed the Phillies’ lead to 5-4.
An error and two walks later, the Marlins scored the tying run as the result of a wild pitch.
Baris crumpled as he tried to leg out a third-to-first groundout in leading off the bottom half of the inning, and had to come off for a while. Soon after, Britton himself was administered to after hurting his non-pitching hand in trying, unsuccessfully, to get an out at first as a Phillies runner advanced from second to third. The eventual winners managed to get the all-important sixth run in before a popout to first closed out the frame.
When Britton came to the plate following two strikeouts in the top of the fourth, the Phillies’ right fielder retreated so far back that he was barely visible. Britton was intentionally walked, however, by Gurney, before he gave way — apparently because he’d eaten up his permitted innings — to Genovesi.
A subsequent single just over the shortstop’s extended glove that put runners at first and second with two outs kept the Marlins alive, but a force play at third ended the threat.
Britton shut down the Phillies in the next two frames, changing up on a changeup to fan the final batter to face him in the bottom of the fifth, and the rest you know.
Garneau, who thinks East Hampton’s 11-and-12-year-old all-stars have a chance this year to make some noise in the District 36 tournament, was one of Monday’s spectators, scouting out Gurney, Britton, and others.
His travel team roster includes them, as well as Baris, Christian Johnson, Patrick DeSanti, Owen Ruddy, Austin Brown, Liam Leach, Devon Merritt, Henry Garneau, Elian Abreu, and J.B. Stewart.
The 9-10 all-star team, which is to be coached by Genovesi, comprises Tucker Genovesi, Tucker Coleman, Burton Garneau, Colin Ruddy, Matthew McGovern, John Rutkowski, Charlie Condon, Joey Suter, Ayden Herlihey, Trevor Stachecki, Luke Walter, Kody Vela, and Colin Wright.