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Heart of a champion

Federal rallies for victory over New Jersey to stay undefeated at regionals

Federal rallies for victory over New Jersey to stay undefeated at regionals

August 07, 2008|By Paul Angilly / The Bristol Press

BRISTOL, Conn. - They didn't need to win the game. They just wanted to.

And so they did.

Down 6-0 after three innings, Hagerstown Federal Little League bounced back with seven runs over the final two innings for an 8-7 victory over New Jersey's Bordentown Little League in their final Mid-Atlantic Regional pool play game at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Crosse Barvinchack delivered the game-winning hit - a two-out RBI single up the middle to drive in pinch runner Adam Blenckstone from second base. Blenckstone was running in place of Dalton Jobe, who one batter earlier had belted a dramatic two-run double down the left-field line that tied the game.

"I was just thinking, stay relaxed, see the ball," Barvinchack said of his clutch at-bat. It was his first walk-off hit since All-Star play began.

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"It was exciting," he said.

Hagerstown Federal (4-0) finished in first place after pool play, while New Jersey (1-3) earned the No. 4 seed over Delaware and Washington, D.C.

The teams will face each other again with much more at stake in Friday's semifinal round at 3 p.m., in a game to be televised by New York's MSG network. The winner advances to Monday night's championship game, to be televised by ESPN2.

New Jersey starting pitcher Zack Gakeler bent but did not break over the first three innings, as Hagerstown Federal put two runners on base in each inning but failed to score.

Then in the fourth inning, trailing 6-0, Josh Moats got the Maryland champions on the board. After a leadoff walk to Blenckstone, Moats drilled a single deep into the outfield that sent Blenckstone to third. Moats ran halfway to second on the play before turning back to first, drawing a wild throw that allowed Blenckstone to score.

In the fifth inning, with Federal still down 6-1, Andrew Yacyk hit his fifth home run of the tournament to shave a run off that lead. That started a rally as Zane Schreiber was hit by a pitch, Jobe singled and both advanced on a wild pitch before Barvinchack greeted reliever Austin Chaszar with a two-run single and Josh Barron followed an out later with an RBI double that cut the gap to 6-5.

New Jersey's Austin Papp homered to lead off the sixth inning, pushing his team's lead back to two runs, but Federal's bats weren't done yet.

New Jersey reliever Patrick Welsh walked No. 9-hitter Mark Grunberg to lead off the bottom of the sixth - a bad start as as the next four batters in Federal's lineup each have at least two home runs in regional play. Welsh retired Ryan Byard on a pop-up, but put the tying run on base when he hit Yacyk with a pitch.

Papp came in to pitch and struck out Schreiber before Jobe delivered his double to tie the game, setting the stage for Barvinchack's game-winning hit.

"We knew we were in for a battle," Federal manager Bill Abeles Jr. said. "At the end of the game, we just wanted to keep chipping away (at the lead). I knew the bats would come alive at some point."

Although already guaranteed a spot in the semifinals after their third victory in pool play Monday, Barvinchack and Abeles agreed Wednesday's game was one they wanted to win.

"It's not as much pressure, but you want the No. 1 seed," Barvinchack said.

Being in front of TV cameras (the game was televised by NESN and MSG) provided an added incentive.

"You want to win, because you're on TV and you want to have a good game," Barvinchack said.

By clinching a semifinal spot early, Abeles took advantage of the chance to rest or limit all his best pitchers to 20 pitches or fewer on Wednesday, ensuring they'll all be available for the semifinal and possibly the championship game.

Federal used six different pitchers Wednesday, with just one (Barvinchack) exceeding 20 pitches. Three others - starter Ryan Kinter, Yacyk and Josh Barron - threw exactly 20 pitches before being relieved.

"Obviously, (our) strategy was to keep all the top pitchers available going into Friday," Abeles said. "We put a lot of thought into it."

Despite the loss, New Jersey manager Pat Welsh was pleased that his team accomplished what it needed to do in pool play by securing a semifinal berth.

"We're moving on," he said. "Right now we're in the top four in the Mid-Atlantic region. That's what we came here to do."

Welsh said of his players, "They've got to keep their heads up. ... They're a little upset that we lost the game, but win or lose, everything starts over again on Friday."

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