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Yanks, Cards vying for trip to NABF World Series

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One team is rolling while the other has been erratic. But starting Thursday, both the Bayside Yankees Junior Americans and the Long Island Cardinals are hoping to stamp their ticket to the NABF World Series in Detroit, Mich. as each will compete in the regional playoffs.

The Yankees will stay home, playing in the Suffolk County Regional, while the Cardinals are off to Welland, Canada.

Bayside, which has won 15 straight and 22 of its last 23, is one of the hottest teams around and will kick off the Suffolk County Regional Thursday morning, although the time and opponent were decided late Wednesday night.

“Everything is perfect right now, we’re peaking at the right time,” said Bayside head coach Joe Kessler. “When you’re getting good pitching, hitting and solid defense like we’ve been getting, you go on a tear.”

The Yankees wrapped up their FABL regular season slate in style, sweeping doubleheaders from the Long Island Tigers and the North Shore Braves this weekend.

The pitching has come from a strong staff consisting of Brian Franklino, Ryan Ekberg, Keith Christensen, Steven Schult and Robert Boland, while Joshua Sitz from Tennessee has provided stellar middle relief.

Michael McKenna, who is 10 for his last 11 and drove in 10 runs against the Tigers Saturday, Nick Derba and Rob Yodice, has led the hitting.

“It’s fun when everything is going right,” Kessler said. “People have asked me if I think we can keep up this momentum and I think we can because whenever there is a big game, they come motivated and ready to play.”

Like the rest of his teammates, Charlie Forster has grown from adversity. The ace righthander hasn’t pitched his best this summer, but remains one of the top pitchers in the FABL. His Long Island Cardinals have been inconsistent, but are resilient enough to remain competitive.

Forster believes his team’s intangibles are the difference in the NABF regional playoffs, which begin for his team Thursday in Welland, Canada.

“We’re a different team when this part of the season comes around,” said Forster, who may get to start in the opening game of the double-elimination tournament. “When the big games are on the line, we turn our play up a notch. We could make some noise in the postseason.”

The Cardinals (28-15-1, 16-7 FABL) haven’t hit their stride this season. While pitching and defense have flourished, the team’s potentially potent lineup has floundered. The team ended a topsy-turvy season on a sour note Saturday, playing its worse game of the season in a 15-3 loss to the Long Island Braves South in the second game of a doubleheader split at Francis Lewis High School.

“It’s absolutely disappointing to end the year like that,” Cardinals coach Craig Everett said. “This team is so resilient, but we even make mistakes like we did. We can’t give the other team a chance.”

Though they don’t know which team they will face in the opening round — the South Troy (Conn.) Dodgers, which the Cardinals faced and split two games in a tournament early in the year, is a strong possibility — the Cardinals are confident they have worked out the kinks.

They take solace in that they have the best defense in the league and three durable righthanders in Forster, Robinson Reyes and Danny Rosenbluth.

“We’re going to fare well,” Rosenbluth said. “We have the pitching, the defense is solid and we could hit. We just need to get more timely hits.”

“This is a team, a very good team,” Forster said of the Cardinals, which is one of four FABL teams that got bids to the NABF tournament and will participate in the USABF Tournament in San Diego, Calif. later in the month. “Anytime we hit a low point, we just seem to get better.”

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

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