TORREY LITTLE LEAGUE’S JOURNEY BOOK 1: Districts
PROLOUGE: The Torrey Little League had never been much of a team. This is the first book of their astonishing journey to Williamsport.
1: “Mom, I’ll be at the field. My team has practice tonight.” “Okay. Be back by eight.” “Okay.” I jumped onto my bike and was off towards the field with my glove and bat on my shoulder. I biked past Downing Little League, our rivals who had made it to Regionals for the past15 years. We had never gone past Districts. I parked my bike at the rack and went over to join my teammates who were already warming up. After warming up our coach gave us a pep talk. “Now kids, as we all know we will be facing Downing in the first round of the tournament. So during this week before the Little League Tournament let’s work our hearts out and let’s go out there and show Downing how to play some baseball. You with me?” “Yeah!” we shouted in return. “So let’s get started.” The practice flew by quickly, as did Pre-Tournament week. But the real stuff, as we were told by Coach Rick, was yet to come.
2: The July sun shone as I quickly changed into my uniform. I ate a quick dinner then headed to our field. Our league was hosting the District Tournament this year. At the game, we got into some trouble early. Our star pitcher, Johnny Heis, gave up four runs in the first inning. After that he was pulled from the game. Meanwhile we were facing the meanest southpaw in the league, Manny Grishaw, who was at least five foot ten inches. After four innings the score was 9-0. We showed a little life when Mike Delenzio led off the inning with a solo homerun but we couldnâ€™t find a way to get any more runs than that. The final score was 13-1. We had been run over. Our coach was clearly frustrated with our performance but tried not to show it. He said that we still have a chance because Little League is double elimination. He also said that weâ€™d have to win the rest of the games if we wanted to win Districts and advance to the State Tournament. After that, we headed home with the harsh sound of defeat ringing in our ears, like nails on a chalkboard. The loss put a bad tone on my afternoon as I sulked around for the rest of the day. We still have next year I thought. But no, next year we would be in Senior League. This had to be our year. It was our only chance at making the Little League World Series. We had to do it.
3: When I woke up in the morning I had a good feeling from the start. That was until I remembered last night. We had 3 games today. Our first was against Wilmington Little League. As I biked to the field I saw the score of the Downing game displayed on the scoreboard. Downing was winning 15-4. No surprise there. In the first inning we scored three runs. It was clear that we had forgotten about yesterday. Our rout continued as we scored two more in the third, and 4 in the fifth. On our team, Patrick Ashaw was pitching. He gave up one run and four hits the entire game. The final score was 9-1. It felt great but I knew that we had more to come. Next we faced Himbergh Township. They were one of the worst teams in the tournament, and we were eager to get started. In the first inning, I was up with the bases loaded. There were two outs. Our team was already leading 2-0 but was looking to add more. “Here we go Matt,” my teammates yelled from the dugout. The pitch was coming right down the middle of the plate. It looked like a white beach ball was floating toward me. “Whack!” The ball went sailing. It hit the wall on one bounce. All of my teammates scored. I had a bases clearing double. That made it 5-0. After the fifth inning, we were winning 14-3. That turned out to be the final score. It was a great win for us and everyone knew it. We would now play Maple Hills in the quarterfinal matchup. The first inning was a disaster for our team. The inning started off with a leadoff walk, which was never good. On the first pitch the runner stole second base. Then Aaron Fedow hit a home run. It was already two to nothing. Maple Hills added on 4 more runs after that. In the inning there were five hits, six runs, and three errors. After the half-inning the coach gave us some encouragement. “Okay guys, that was a tough inning for us. But we have to forget about it and start chipping away at the lead. Hits on three! One two three-” “Hits!” we all replied. We did get two back in the first inning but that was all. Maple Hills added another in the second inning to make it 7-2 after two innings. Both teams were scoreless in the next two innings. In the fifth they added 3 more to make it 10-2, a nearly unreachable lead. Most of us had already given up. But in the bottom of the sixth Mike Delenzio led
off with a triple. Then, Johnny Heis singled him in. The next two batters doubled making it 10- 5. After a stolen base and two walks, the bases were loaded. The next batter, Tommy Herd, put us in reach with a grand slam! I couldn’t believe it! Neither could he! After walking the next hitter on four pitches, the pitcher was taken out of the game. Dean Derang was then put into the game. He was 5’9” and weighed 139 pounds. He threw seventy miles per hour with 44 miles per hour curve ball that broke at least 2 feet. He struck out the first two batters on 6 pitches. I was up next. The first pitch came flying inside for a ball. After a dirty glance at the pitcher I stepped right back in. The next pitch was a fastball knee high. I took a big swing at it. It hit the end of the bat and I thought it was the last out but the ball kept spinning high in the air floating, floating… over the second baseman’s head! We still had hope. The next batter, Willy Ryght was walked. That brought up Mike Dilenzio. The first two pitches were fastballs that were strikes. This was it. We were down to our last strike. In came the pitch. It was a slow rolling curveball. It started off above Mike’s head but then sunk down letter-high. He swung and from what I could see popped it up. I was running as hard as I could so I didn’t know where the ball was. I heard cheering. But from which side? Then I saw the third base coach waving me home. I knew it had dropped. I triumphantly crossed the plate but the winning run was yet to come. I saw Willy, our red-faced burly catcher racing to the plate. The throw was on target. The catcher put out his glove to tag Willy. Willy did as best as he could to avoid the tag… and he did! After the umpire made the call, our players came racing out of the dugout to meet us at home plate. One thing was for certain. We could all sleep well tonight!
4: The next morning, a Sunday, was definitely much better than any other. The feeling of 3 wins still buzzed through my body. We had (hopefully) two games today, the semifinal and the championship. I raced downstairs and gobbled down a quick breakfast and yet again rode my bike to the ball field. The other team was already there but only half of our team was present. As the others arrived we started to warm up. I saw that for our team, Patrick Ashaw was pitching. After the National Anthem, the game got underway quickly. Neither team scored in the first, or the second. In the bottom of the third, Huro Little League hit a two run homerun to take the lead. It stayed that way until the fifth when Mike Delenzio hit Willy and me in with a triple. The next batter, Johnny Heis hit a towering homerun into left field. That gave us the lead! In the sixth inning it was still 3-2. Our pitcher was getting into some trouble though. It was first and third with just one out. Often in these situations the runner on first will steal second. If we throw to second the runner on third could score. That’s why our coach called out the number 6 which meant we would throw it to the shortstop who would then throw it home. On the first pitch the runner stole second! The shortstop, Mike. came in to the grass. As soon as the runner saw Willy throw it, he took off for home. But Mike cut the throw off and threw home. The throw was there. It was going to be a close play and he was…out! That was the second out. The next batter stepped up to the plate. The batter swung at the first pitch and hit a ground ball to me playing second. I fielded it cleanly and threw to first for the out. We had won! We would now play in the championship game against Downing. For our team, Johnny Heis would be pitching. In the first inning no one scored. Same with the second, third, and fourth. But in the fifth, the bases were loaded with two outs for Downing’s best hitter, Daniel Kirk. The pitch came in. It was a fastball about belt high. That could be trouble. Kirk lifted it in the gap. Our speedy left fielder, Ryan Runes laid out into a dive... and missed the ball! The ball rolled all the way to the 211 feet sign in left center field. It turned out to be a bases clearing triple that gave Downing a 3-0 lead. Heis then struck out the next two batters to finish the inning. We had one more inning to comeback. The top of the 6th. In the top of the sixth I led off with a walk. Willy walked right after me too. Patrick Ashaw was up next. He hit a fly ball to right field but the fielder caught it. Fortunately, I was able to tag up and go to third. The next batter, Mike Delenzio hit a single on the first pitch that drove me in. That made it 3-1. After a pitching change, the next batter struck out on 3 pitches. The next batter got behind 0-2. This was it. The end was here. The next pitch came zipping down the middle of the plate.
â€œStrike three!â€? the umpire called. But Ryan, the batter, was bolting to first. I also noticed that all of the men on base were running as hard as they could. Then I realized that the catcher had dropped the ball. All of the Downing players were too busy celebrating to notice this. One run came in, then another. It was a tie game now. Ryan was chugging around third. Just then, the catcher realized what everyone was doing. He bolted to the backstop picked up the ball and ran towards home plate. He dove and tagged Ryan a foot before he touched home. The call was coming. I knew he was out. I knew we would have to go into extra innings. Just then the umpire threw out his arms signaling that the runner was safe. The catcher flew upwards and argued with the umpire spitting in his face as he yelled. But it didnâ€™t matter. He was safe. The game was over. We made a dog pile around home plate. We, Torrey Little League, had made it to the State Tournament for the first time in our 66 year history.