An “A” for effort, but no Williamsport

Downtown Little League 11-12 Tournament Team, following a tough loss in an elimination game to the Harlem Tournament team on June 30. Kneeling, left to right: Ryan Porcaro, Nicky Leong, Dave Conover (Coach), Ethan Wallis, Luca Romeo, Will Best. Standing, left to right: Douglass Stapler, Niall Gallagher, Tyler Kraehling, Clyde Huibregtse, Jim Vertucci (Manager), Jackson Vertucci, Tyler Rohan, Michael Bogdanos, Scott Noga (Coach), Oscar Tubke-Davidson, Devin Minnihan. Missing from photo: Blas Lee and Jackson Kaufman. Photo courtesy of Diane Rohan

The Downtown Little League (DLL) started off their tournament season with a scrimmage against the Greenwich Village Little League (GVLL) at their home turf at J.J. Walker Field on June 24. After a disastrous first inning for the DLL team that could’ve been attributed to nerves, the DLL team came back. Not only did they start hitting in the second inning, beginning with singles from Blas Lee, Michael Bogdanos and Niall Gallagher, but they started scoring (RBIs for Gallagher, Devin Minnihan and Ryan Porcaro, whose double drove in Gallagher for the third run).


Now only behind 5-3, the DLL team held them to one run in the bottom of the third. Gallagher led off with a walk in the top of the fourth, and stole all the way to home. Will Best singled to right field on the seventh pitch he saw, and Luca Romeo’s single drove in Best to make the score 6-5 in favor of GVLL.

In the top of the fifth, Nicky Leong doubled to right field. Tyler Kraehling’s hard grounder into the outfield drove in Leong to tie the game at six, and Gallagher’s RBI double gave DLL the lead. The DLL team was able keep the 7-6 lead with a one-two-three inning in the bottom of the sixth.

Things didn’t go so well at Con Ed field in the first official game vs. Stuyvesant on Saturday, June 25. Stuyvesant solidified its reputation as a skillful team, shutting out the DLL team 8-0.

For game two, the DLL team traveled up to the Westside Fields to face the Harlem Tournament team on June 30. Jackson Vertucci drew a walk in the top of the first, but was stranded there when the Harlem defense shut down the rest of the batters. In the bottom of the first, Tyler Paulino and Niall Salley each walked, but pitcher Luca Romeo struck out the next batter for the first one. He wasn’t so lucky with Anthony Garcia, who just turned twelve and was recently honored for academic excellence in school. He drove the ball well over the right field fence for a three-run homer. Romeo struck out the next batter, and Niall Gallagher fielded a grounder at short to end the inning.

Down 3-0 in the top of the second, the DLL team led off with a single by Clyde Huibregtse, but he only made it to third before Harlem’s Koch retired the rest of the DLL side.

In the bottom of the second, the first batter reached first on a throwing error, and was driven in on a double by Salley. Poll lined the ball to center, bringing Salley home, and Koch followed with a two-run homerun. Andre Chapman drew a walk, and advanced two bases on passed balls, but was caught stealing at home for the final out.

Now down 7-0, DLL coach Scott Noga reminded the players to keep their thoughts positive and their shoulders back. In the top of the third, after one of the parents doled out the traditional bananas, their bats came alive. Romeo drove the ball down the first base line for a double. Next, Ryan Porcaro’s single advanced Romeo, and Vertucci’s fielder choice forced out Porcaro at second but allowed Romeo to score. Tyler Kraehling’s base hit up the third base line drove in Vertucci, and by the end of the inning, the score was 7-2.

In the bottom of the third, Devin Minnihan struck out the side, but not before Paulino’s bloop single brought him safely to first; from there he was able to score on a series of passed balls. Garcia came through again for Harlem with an RBI single, giving his team a 9-2 lead.

And then the fourth inning happened. Will Best led off with a deep drive to right field that was caught by the Harlem outfielder, and Koch struck out the next batter. From there, the DLL team began an exciting two-out rally. Michael Bogdanos singled, and stole during the next at-bat. He was driven in by an RBI single from Minnihan. Porcaro’s deep fly ball to right-centerfield looked as if it might head the fence, but it dropped just short, giving him a double. Next, Vertucci singled to load the bases. Tyler Rohan followed with a well-placed groundball that made it to the outfield, scoring Minnihan and Porcaro. Kraehling’s hit gave him another RBI single, as did Huibregtse’s. Ethan Wallis reached first on an error, and ended up scoring the sixth run of the inning for DLL, cutting Harlem’s lead to 9-8. In the bottom of the fourth, the DLL defense held Harlem to their first scoreless inning.

In the top of the fifth, Niall Gallagher singled to center but was later forced out at second, and DLL failed to tie the game.

In the bottom of the fifth, Harlem led off with a walk. That runner was driven home by a home run over the left field fence, Harlem’s third of the game. When the next two batters walked, and there were still no outs, the DLL coaches had Porcaro relieve Minnihan on the mound, and he rose to the occasion by striking out the next three batters.

Now down 11-8, the DLL team rallied again in the top of the sixth. Rohan led off with a single to centerfield to get things started. Kraehling and Huibregtse also singled to load the bases with no outs. Wallis then drew a walk, forcing in a run. Next, Bogdanos singled to drive in another. Gallagher’s perfectly-placed double, which landed just inside the right field foul line, drove in two more runs to give DLL its first lead of the game, 12-11. Porcaro was able to drive in another run, increasing the lead to two, but Salley, now on the mound for Harlem, struck out the next batter to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, DLL tried to keep their nerves at bay and hold onto the 13-11 lead. But the first batter walked after taking Porcaro to a full count. Porcaro then struck out the next batter for the first out. Paulino singled, and Salley also drew a walk, frustrating DLL players and fans who thought that the plate umpire was having trouble calling Porcaro’s curve balls correctly. Poll then walked, forcing in a run to make the score 13-12 with the bases still loaded and only one out. Garcia followed with a deep line drive off the center field wall, scoring both the tying and winning runs and killing the DLL team’s dreams of Williamsport.

As Coach Dave Conover wrote to the entire team the next day, they “showed a lot of grit coming back the way you did… and represented yourselves, your league and your community with class. I speak for all the coaches and parents when I say it was awesome to watch and be a part of. I know you guys don’t want moral victories, but what you did last night was a real accomplishment.”