Forest Hills will not be playing in Williamsport for the Little League World Series this year. Their 16-3 loss to the Lewisboro Lightning in the second round of the New York Section 3 tournament assured that. Yet, the 11-12-year-olds from Central Queens accomplished a great deal these last few weeks.
After rallying from deficits in four of their five District 26 Major Division tournament games to claim their first crown since 2004, the comeback kids repeated the feat once again.
In the opener of the sectionals, they fought back from a four-run, fifth-inning hole, clawing their way past Mount Vernon, 8-7.
“They were very resilient,” Manager Phil Fragale said. “They have a lot of guts. Again, as I have said on more than one occasion, I have had much more talented teams, but this team, it never felt out of a game. The kids had a lot of spirit; they never thought they were out of it.”
Against Mount Vernon, they trailed the entire way. It was 5-1 until Daniel Scarpulla delivered a two-run single. However, Mount Vernon built the lead back to four runs in the fifth. Forest Hills, though, was not done.
Mike Rogers led off the home fifth with a single and scored on Greg Boyle’s two-run shot to left center field. Daniel Gaitan later walked, and scored on Scarpulla’s laser shot over the fence in right center.
Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Gaitan tossed his helmet in the dugout while rounding third base, and was called out for throwing equipment, and suspended for the eventual next game. Forest Hills protested the call, which the Little League office, contacted by phone in Connecticut reversed, but the suspension stood.
In the sixth, Brett Wisner worked out of a bases loaded, one out jam, fanning two batters to end the threat. In the bottom of the frame, Wisner started the dramatic rally with a walk. Rogers doubled to right, and Boyle was intentionally walked. Chris Woo, batting in place of Gaitan, grounded to third, and Wisner beat the play at the plate to cap another win.
“I was feeling really good, but before that it was really nerve wracking,” Woo said. “He threw a fastball a little inside and I just hit it.”
As thrilling as this victory was, there would be no repeat the next morning in Peekskill, New York. With Gaitan, their planned starting pitcher, suspended, the Lewisboro Lightning had their way. They scored seven runs in the first inning and cruised from there.
John Favara, Wisner and Rogers all drove in runs for Forest Hills.
“We just ran into a better team,” Fragale said. “But they overachieved. I’m just very proud of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Meanwhile, the 11-year-old travel team from RGMVM won the District 27 title, 5-3, over Ozone Howard behind the pitching of Gerard Fraracci.