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Bayside Yankees capture CABA World Series crown

The victory was the Yankees’ fourth CABA Senior World Series crown and first since winning three straight between 1997 and 1999.

“This team was certainly not the most talented team I’ve ever had, but I’d be hard-pressed to compare any of the other championship clubs to this one in terms of heart, desire, focus and the ability to overcome adversity — with all the injuries to key players — throughout the season,” said Senior Americans skipper Marc Cuseta of Kew Gardens Hills. “It was a storybook ending, by far the most satisfying of my six National Championships as a coach.”

The championship game at the Baseball USA Complex concluded the eight-day tournament, where the Yankees were 4-2 in pool play to qualify for the double-elimination championship round. The Yankees then swept four straight games to win the World Series, defeating the Midland Indians, 6-4, the Houston Heat, 8-0, the Nashville Yankees (Tenn.), 11-3, and finally the rematch with the Midland Indians, 6-2.

Yankee catcher and Archbishop Molloy product Nick Derba, who caught eight out of the 10 games the Yankees played in the 90-plus degree temperatures of southern Texas, was named the World Series MVP. Derba was 7-for-25 with eight RBIs for the tournament and threw out a perfect 5-for-5 would-be base-stealers to hold the opponents’ running game at bay.

Joining Derba on the all-tournament team were fellow Yankees Mike Baxter, who batted .450 (13-for-29, including seven runs scored, six RBIs and five stolen bases), and Eric Williams, the catalyst of the Yankee’s offense (7-for-26, nine runs scored, five walks, 11 stolen bases).

It was Williams’ defensive play in the first inning of the championship game that turned the tide and momentum in the Yankees’ favor. After the Yankees failed to score in the top of the first inning — leaving runners on second and third with one out — the Midland Indians started off the bottom of the first with their lead-off hitter reaching on a hit batsman and their second hitter reaching on a bunt single.

Yankees starting pitcher Keith Christensen, who pitched 7.2 innings of scoreless baseball in the World Series and was the winning pitcher in the championship game, was in an immediate jam. The No. 3 hitter for Midland launched a deep fly ball to left field, where Williams jumped over the fence and brought the sure three-run homer back into the ballpark for the first out of the game for the Indians.

“That play was the turning point of the game,” Cuseta said. “You never know if they go three up on us in the first with no outs if the game would have evolved the same way. It was the most clutch play under the circumstances I have ever seen in World Series play.”

After the first two innings remained scoreless, the Yankees scored all six of their runs in the top of the third and never looked back. Naturally, Williams started the rally with a one-out double down the left field line. Keith Hahn walked and Baxter loaded the bases with an infield single. Derba promptly lined a two-run double down the left field line, and Mike Testani followed with a two-run single to right-center to provide the Yankees with their first four runs.

Robert Yodice then blooped an RBI single to left that plated Testani and eventually scored the last of the six runs on a wild pitch. With Christensen cruising through five scoreless innings, the Yankees were poised for another National Championship celebration.

In the Midland sixth, the Ohio team plated two unearned runs. With runners on first and second, two outs and the Texas heat starting to take its toll on the lefty, Cuseta went to the bullpen and summoned fire-balling righthander Ryan Gavagan. The reliever retired the last four hitters of the game in order, with his fastball topping at 92 mph on the radar guns. The last out of the game was an easy 6-3 groundout to five-year Bayside Yankee and Senior Americans MVP Baxter, another Molloy alum.

“It was ironic that the final out was a grounder to Baxter at short,” Cuseta said. “He did a great job playing shortstop the entire World Series, filling in for the injured High School All-American, Jason Donald. Entering World Series play, Mike had not played one inning at shortstop all season. In fact, the last time he played shortstop was in high school, where he led Archbishop Molloy to the (CHSAA title) in the spring of 2002.

“I told Baxter that I have the other five baseballs in a trophy case at home from the final out of each of the National Championships, but this one was for him. He is the heart and sole of this team and has an extremely bright future ahead of him at Vanderbilt University and in professional baseball.”

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