Thursday, September 15, 2005

Late Dramatics Make Baby Bombers Champions

STATEN ISLAND-All season long, the McNamara Division winning Staten Island Yankees had the magic touch late in games. In a fitting conclusion to a perfect season, the Baby Bombers used another rally to win their third New York-Penn League Championship in six years at Richmond County Ball Park Thursday night at St. George.

Reegie Corona's dramatic two out double off Paul Phillips scored Joe Burke making the Baby Bombers 2005 champions. Burke, who earlier came in as a pinch-runner for catcher P.J. Pilittere got the ninth started off with a single. After James Cooper sacrificed him to second, Phillips struckout Felipe Garcia setting up the exciting finish.

With two strikes, Corona served Phillips' outside fastball down the left field line for the winning hit. After Burke touched home plate, the entire Staten Island dugout mobbed Corona between first and second, throwing water and whatever else they could find.

"I just went with the pitch," said a happy Corona afterwards. "We played very good. Thank you Andy [Stankiewicz]. Everybody. Good job."

In regards to being champions, he uttered, "Amazing. Amazing!"

"I just tried to get on anyway I could," said an excited Burke. "I was trying to do whatever I could for my team."

On the late game theatrics, Burke noted, "It's just unbelievable. I can't explain it. We do it extra innings, early in the game and then we cruise control it and then we turn it on in the ninth."

"These guys have been doing it all year," said ecstatic manager Andy Stankiewicz. "Unbelievable. The way these guys have played. You just got to tip your hat to these new young men."

"They've been just working hard and it's paid off."

Auburn's Matt Cooksey put the Doubledays in front for the second time when he doubled in Manny Sena off reliever Hairo Solis with one out. After Chris Gutierrez's infield hit put runners on the corners, Stankiewicz went to the bullpen and called on Mike Wagner to get out of further trouble. He induced Sean Shoffit into a 4-6-3 double play to keep the score 2-1. It would be huge.

Having comeback once an inning earlier, Staten Island did it again. Brett Gardner ledoff with a single, then was sacrificed to second by Kyle Anson and made it to third on Jon Poterson's fly to left when Sena bobbled the ball. With two outs, Auburn skipper Dennis Holmberg called on his closer Phillips to get a four out save. But on his first pitch, Kyle Larsen had other ideas, driving it through the middle for an RBI single scoring Gardner to tie the game.

"I've been struggling," an excited Larsen said after the game. "Just try to get something and hit it hard and just hit it hard. Wherever it goes it goes."

On whether he was looking first pitch fastball, he said, "For sure. Fortunately, I got it."

"All year, we're used to this stuff," he said. "We knew we always had a shot at it. ... We were down just one. We knew if we could stick around towards the end, we'd have a chance. Sure enough, we pulled it out again."

After Wagner got Patton for the first out of the ninth, Josh Schmidt recorded the final two outs. After allowing a single to Ryan Patterson, he retired Nick Thomas and Jacob Butler on pop ups. Schmidt improved to 6-1 on the season.

Early on, both starters pitched well. Jim Conroy went five innings of one-run three hit ball, walking two and striking out seven for Staten Island. Auburn's Eric Fowler impressed with six scoreless innings allowing four hits, walking one and fanning six.

The Doubledays got their only run off Conroy in the third. After a one out triple by Shoffit, Cory Patton's RBI fielder's choice to Larsen put them ahead 1-0. After a Patterson infield single, Conroy fanned Nick Thomas to end the inning, retiring six of the last eight he faced.

The Baby Bombers threatened twice but Fowler shut the door. With Eduardo Nunez on third with one out in the fourth, Poterson's scorcher went off third baseman Jermy Acey's glove to shortstop Gutierrez, who calmly tossed Nunez out at home for a 5-6-2 putout. Pilittere popped to second to end it.

In the very next inning, a leadoff walk to Cooper and a Garcia sacrifice put Cooper in scoring position. After Corona beat out an infield hit, they double stole with Gardner up. But on a full count, Fowler struckout Gardner swinging on a curve and then got Anson to ground out to short.
Staten Island tied it in the seventh off reliever Jesse Litsch. After Pilittere doubled to start the inning, Stankiewicz went to his backup catcher Burke to pinch run for Pilittere. After a Cooper fielder's choice put him on third, Garcia's sac fly to right scored Burke. Little did Burke know how involved he would be in making his ball club NY-Penn League champions.

"That's just Joe Burke," beamed Stankiewicz. "He's a bluecollar kid and he never got down. He wasn't getting the playing time he wanted but he stayed positive."

"He's a team kid and because he's got a great attitude and keeps working, he got himself in the position to," before the manager was doused with Gatorade by jubilant players.

"I struggled a lot this year," added Burke. "So I was working my butt off to get back in the lineup and be a part of this and it was unbelievable."

"Petey [Pilittere] did a great job. We've been great teammates all year. I stepped up. He stepped up."

"He's a great player and I'm just happy to get that tying run. You know to help him out. He's not too fast out there. Help him out in anyway. Hold it down defensively and help in any way offensively."

On being champions, Burke said, "It's my first time. I was Big East champs in the regular season and this is something else. Special guys. Special coaches [Stankiewicz]. It's unbelievable."

With fans chanting, 'We're number one,' the team lined up together and took a picture in front of home plate with the trophy.

"This is great," added Larsen. "It couldn't happen to a better bunch of guys. We've worked so hard all summer. For us to come out here and have it happen like this is just awesome."

"I'm happy for the city," Stankiewicz added. "For the city of Staten Island. For our ownership here and for all the great work that these guys did. It was unbelievable."

What could be better.

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