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Bayside Jr. Americans falter in bid for World Series berth

There’s no place in the world Joe Kessler wanted to be more than Northville, Mich. this week. That’s because it is home to the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series. But instead, Kessler and the Bayside Yankees Junior Americans will stay home after being upset in the Regional in Welland, Ontario.

“It’s disappointing because I expected this team to do well in the World Series,” Kessler said. “We pitched well, but we just didn’t get the clutch hits. The kids took it hard.”

Heading into the Regional, Kessler and the Yankees were confident. And for good reason. With at least six strong arms on his staff, a potent hitting lineup and a solid defense, Kessler thought his Yankees could return to the World Series by winning in Canada for a second straight year.

Bayside was a game away from winning the Regional, but standing in their way Saturday was the Detroit Cobras, coached by former Tigers pitcher Dan Petry. The two teams met earlier in the Regional with the Cobras routing the Yankees, 8-0.

The Cobras took a 1-0 lead with two infield hits in the first inning, but Joe Graziano’s double in the third inning put the Yankees ahead, 2-1, as Mike Baxter and Bryan Cipolla scored.

Detroit tied the score in the fifth inning on a single and a double and went ahead 3-2 in the top of the seventh when a soft ground ball eluded a diving Graziano at third.

Mike Schaetzle led off the bottom of the seventh lining out to third and Anthony Vernaci popped out to first. Bernie Estevez gave Bayside a glimmer of hope by reaching on an error, but Baxter grounded out to second to end the game as Bayside (38-12) suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

Matt Fealey went the distance, allowing three runs — one earned — on five hits, striking out four.

“He threw just 70 pitches in seven innings, he had pin-point control,” Kessler said of Fealey. “Maybe he reached three balls on three batters all day. But we left 10 on base and we just didn’t get any breaks.”

The Yankees opened the Regional with a 26-0 trouncing of the Rotterdam Pirates from Albany, N.Y. last Thursday. Bayside pounded out 22 hits as Jason Leberfeld, Patrick Fletcher, Vernaci and Graziano each had two hits and reached base five times. Fealey, Mike Api and Ryan Rowe combined to throw five innings of no-hit ball, with the only blemish a fifth-inning walk by Rowe.

Bayside returned to action in the afternoon and defeated the host Welland Renegades, 8-3. Baxter went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Estevez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the way offensively. Rich Moran improved to 4-1 as he allowed just two hits while fanning 11.

In the third game of the Regional Friday, the Cobras defeated Bayside 8-0 behind the pitching of Dan Petry, Jr., who scattered six hits and walked just one in seven innings.

The Yankees returned to their winning ways Saturday, defeating the Youngstown Astro Falcons, 4-1. Rich McGraw broke a 1-1 tie with a single in the fifth inning. Kevin O’Neil’s double put the Yankees ahead 4-1. Cipolla also tripled and scored on a throwing error.

But Bayside’s joy was short-lived, as the Yankees suffered the heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Cobras later that afternoon.

While the team will not compete in the NABF World Series, the season is not over for Bayside. The Yankees will be playing in the Elite 8 Super Series in Marrietta, Ga. August 9-12. Eight of the top 16-year-old teams in the United States from 2000 will compete, based on Baseball America’s rankings.

In other summer baseball news, the Long Island Cardinals ‘Blue’ 17-and-18 year-old team, coached by Francis Lewis assistant coach Ian Millman, will compete in the NABF Regional in Altoona, Pa. Thursday. If the team wins, they will play in the World Series in Wilmington, Del. The Long Island Cardinals ‘Red’ squad, coached by Craig Everett, will play in the United States Amateur Baseball Federation World Series in San Diego, Cal. from Aug 1-12.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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