Win Tough Matchup Vs. Lawmen
Rienzi and Sons from the RGMVM Little League captured the Minor Division Championship with two tough consecutive victories over Cutrone’s Lawmen last Wednesday June 20, and Saturday, June 23.
In game one of the best-of-three series, Rienzi turned to Sam Navarra to start the game. After keeping Cutrone’s off the board in the first, Rienzi took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning when August Larsen crossed the plate for the first run of the series.
A deep shot to center off the bat of the opposing pitcher, Jose Reyes, was caught by Massimo Todaro to stall Cutrone’s scoring drive.
In the top of the second all went wrong for Rienzi when Cutrone’s took a 7-1 lead, scoring seven runs on two hits. Rienzi was forced to go to Derek Portalatin for relief early in the second inning.
After allowing the seventh run to score on a fielder’s choice, Portalatin pitched the best game of his young career. He left Cutrone’s with the bases loaded in the top of the second and allowed only two more runs and only two hits the rest of the way, giving Rienzi a chance for a game one comeback. He struck out only two batters over the next four innings but the Rienzi defense played flawlessly. A double play in the fourth started by Frank Navarra at third and another deep fly to center caught by Kevin Klaar in the fifth were critical plays for Rienzi on defense.
Rienzi went quietly in the bottom of the second, and found themselves trailing by eight after 2 1/2 innings, but in the third inning, they rallied to narrow the gap. Joe Pizarro started the rally leading off with a walk. Larsen followed with a triple. Nicholas Hutson and Aidan Mooney’s walks were followed by Frank Navarra’s single and a deep triple by Todaro. Portalatin completed the scoring by adding a run scoring single to aid his own cause. In all, six runs crossed the plate and Rienzi trailed, 9-7.
A.J. Leggio walked in the fourth and scored on a double by Sam Navarra, leaving Rienzi trailing by a single run, 9-8.
In the bottom of the fifth, Rienzi scored three runs to take an 11-9 lead. Frank Navarra walked and the hot hitting of Todaro brought him home with a double. His double was followed by Portaltin’s triple to left.
Portalatin set down Cutrone’s in the fourth and fifth before yielding the closing duties to Mooney, who pitched a scoreless sixth for the save. Sam Navarra returned to the field just in time to make an outstanding catch in short left and preserve the victory for Rienzi. Mooney got the final out on a fielder’s choice hit to third.
In game two of the series, the teams’ number one pitchers would face off in a rematch of their June 1 meeting won by Rienzi, in a well played 2-0 final.
Shane Vazquez got the start for Cutrone’s. After having pitched just two days earlier, Rienzi was curious to see how much he’d have left in the tank. The answer: plenty. Vazquez pitched five scoreless innings and struck out 13 of the 18 batters he faced, including nine in a row and 10 of 11. Vazquez turned in a performance not seen by Rienzi since early in the season.
With Rienzi’s bats stifled, the team needed Larsen to match Vazquez’s effort. After yielding two first inning runs, on consecutive steals of home, Larsen found his groove. He came on to strike out the side and went on to pitch four complete innings, allowing only a single hit and striking out 11.
Every out was recorded by strikeout except a grounder to first handled by Frank Navarra.
Despite Larsen’s outstanding performance, the Rienzi bats were very quiet. Even the big bat of Kyle Conlin, who resurrected Rienzi several time throughout the season, could not jump start the offense and was held hitless. The Rienzi lineup also missed Matthew Moussa who was always a threat to score whenever he reached base.
Scoreless through four and trailing 2-0, Rienzi forced a run home when Mooney stole home with two outs, finally putting Rienzi on the board, but still trailing 2-1. Heading into the sixth trailing 2-1, it appeared that there would be a game three of the series. Vazquez was now out of the game due to Little League’s pitch limit.
Todaro gave Rienzi hope with a leadoff single. After a strikeout, Brandon Balsamo came to the plate and tripled down the right field line to score Todaro to even the score 2-2. However, he was left stranded at third with Larsen in the on-deck circle. Balsamo’s triple brought the momentum back to Rienzi who regained their confidence knowing that they had Frank Navarra on the mound to pitch through the extra frames. Navarra followed Larsen throughout the season, which became a devastating 1-2 punch for opponents. Navarra pitched the fourth and fifth setting down six in a row.
In the top of the seventh, Cutrone’s would have to face the top of the Rienzi lineup. Larsen doubled and was brought to third on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Sam Navarra. Nicholas Hutson singled to score Larsen with what proved to be the game winning run. Frank Navarra cleared the bases with a double that gave Rienzi a 5-2 lead. He then went out to pitch a scoreless seventh to give Rienzi the win and the RGMVM minor division championship.
After an 0-3 start, manager Mike Columbia and his coaches led Rienzi and Sons to 14 wins in a row on their way to the title.