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Bayside Yanks top Midville Dodgers for title

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But Bayside always picked itself...

By Arthur V. Claps

No matter what the Bayside Yankees do wrong, somehow everything seems to go right. The defense had its worse showing of the year, the offense stalled in the clutch and the pitching fell apart in the late innings.

But Bayside always picked itself up.

Down to the team’s final out Saturday, third baseman Bobby Yodice erased a one-run deficit with a two-out, three-run walk-off homer to give the Yankees a dramatic 6-4 win over the Midville Dodgers and the NABF Northeast Regional Championship at Kings Park High School in Kings Park, Long Island.

The Junior Americans, winners of 21 straight, return to the NABF World Series following a one-year hiatus and will begin a quest for a record ninth championship — and first since 1998 — in Detroit Thursday.

“It’s [the] best moment of my 16-year-old career,” said Yodice, who plays for high school powerhouse Xaverian in Brooklyn. “It was a fastball over the middle of the plate, and I just followed through. I didn’t even know it went out. I just hoped to get a long base hit to drive home [the two runners in scoring position].”

“This is one of [the] most dramatic, exciting ends of a game that I have seen,” said Bayside coach Joe Kessler, who has coached the Yankees for eight years. “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever had.”

Kessler believes the Yankees (41-7-1) are as strong as any of the 10 teams in the World Series.

“They just need to remain focused,” Kessler said of the team, which has won 28 of 29 games and is the reigning FABL regular-season champ. “I’ve kept telling them since this run started that they haven’t won anything yet. . .The pressure is off, but no one wants a let-down.”

All signs pointed to a dropoff on Saturday.

The Yankees’ typically solid defense muffed a pair of easy grounders and that eventually pitted the team in a 3-0 hole after two innings.

Despite the unearned runs, Bayside right-hander Ryan Ekberg pitched brilliantly. He had his off-speed pitches working and consistently got ahead of batters. He kept the Dodgers at bay, giving the Yankees a chance to get back into the game.

Bayside mounted its comeback in the second inning. It loaded the bases with one out for leadoff hitter Tom Larkin. The right fielder swung at the first pitch and lifted a sacrifice fly to right for the team’s only run of the inning.

It continued to get worse for Midville righty Jim Lally in the third. After catcher Nick Derba grounded out to start the inning, the Yankees received four straight consecutive singles — the last two from Mike Testani and Phil Marchese tied the game at three.

Bayside, which has totaled a robust 42 runs in the last four games, couldn’t capitalize on its abundant scoring chances. The team left seven runners on base in middle innings — including the bases loaded in the sixth.

That almost hurt the team after Ekberg unraveled some in the top of the seventh. He walked Danny Pagan, allowed a double to second baseman Denson Ambrose and intentionally walked Vinny Johnson to load the bases with one out. Pfeffer grounded to Ekberg to force Pagan at the plate. But Ekberg walked Matt Rizzotti to score Ambrose and give Midville a 4-3 lead.

The Yankees began a one-out rally in the seventh. They got a couple of runners on and Larkin’s ground-out to second moved them into scoring position for Yodice, who scorched the Dodgers with a game-winning double on Friday.

With the outfield playing in, the lefty-swinging Yodice launched Lally’s second pitch just over the center field fence for the game-winning blow.

“Bobby saved me,” Ekberg said. “When I came off the mound after that seventh inning, I thought we were going to lose. But Yodice saved me.”

“The thing with this team is that we always pick each other up,” Yodice said. “We look out for each other. That’s what gives us an edge.”

Bayside Yankees 14, Hudson Valley Dogs 1. Matt McKenna went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, and Derba and Randy Belfiore each had two-run singles in an eight-run second inning to pace the Yankees in the opening game of the NABF Regional.

Bayside Yankees 12, South Shore Indians 9. McKenna blasted two homers and drove home three, Brian Duffy went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and the Yankees pounded out 14 hits for their second straight regional win.

Bayside Yankees 6, Midville Dodgers 4. Down by one in the sixth, Danny Pirillo tied the game with an RBI single and Yodice sealed the win with a two-run double later in the inning to catapult the Yankees into the semifinal round.

Bayside Yankees 10, Staten Island Padres 0. Derba went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Yodice went 3-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the Yankees to a five-inning mercy victory and propel Bayside into the Northeast Regional Championship.

Reach contributing writer Arthur V. Claps by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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