Niskayuna’s magical run in the 13-15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series at Van Buren, Ark., is turning out to be better than anyone involved could have imagined.
Player of the Game Taylor Parks ripped three singles, walked twice and drove in three runs, and Garrett Whitley blasted a three-run homer to help Niskayuna beat Lumber River, N.C., 17-10, in the final game of pool play of the 13-15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series Wednesday at Field of Dreams Stadium.
Niskayuna (4-0) had 10 hits in the game and scored three runs in the second, sixth in the third, three in the fourth and four in the seventh inning. Joe Apkarian pitched the first four innings and picked up the win, with reliever Chris Wilk finishing up.
Niskayuna, the National Division pool champion, advances to the semifinals tonight at 8:45 against Brazoswood, Texas, a 2-0 winner over Kelso, Wash., on Thursday.
“This is very exciting,” said Niskayuna coach Chris Bianchi. “When you start, your goal is just to get out of pool play with your head intact. But we’ve had great pitching performances and timely hitting. We’ve beaten some very good teams so far. To be 4-0, you’ve got to have had contributions from everybody up and down the lineup. Plus, our defense has been almost flawless.”
Bianchi said his team made 28 of 29 defensive plays in its 10-inning victory over Pittsfield earlier in the tournament, and also turned five double plays in that game.
“That’s been indicative of our entire tournament,” Bianchi said. “Some of the teams here have been watching us, and they’ve had some very nice things to say about our defense. Obviously, the mark of a good team is to be well-rounded. You score a couple of runs when you need them, and you add some good pitching and defense. We’ve had a little bit of everything so far.”
Niskayuna’s pitching has been stellar, with Ryan Feeney and Tom Favata starting and notching wins in the first two games. The third game went so long that starter Mike Gabriel didn’t get a decision, and Bianchi had to use his fourth starter, Adam Gleason, in relief. Gleason pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.
“We’ve also had great contributions from our bullpen, with Chris Wilk, Sean Connors and Brian Toy. All eight of our pitchers have done great for us. Our depth has really helped us, just like we thought it would,” Bianchi said.
Niskayuna has spread the wealth with its team MVP. Feeney was the player of the game in the opener after ripping a pair of hits and driving in four. Patrick O’Brien and Kyle Pick also were named game MVPs, along with Parks.
“Our attack is so well-rounded that even our ninth-place hitter, Tommy Spataro, has six RBI,” said Bianchi.
“Plus, we’ve been drawing a lot of walks and getting a lot of guys on base. The guys in the middle don’t hit the ball every time, but we’ve been getting production up and down the lineup.”
Bianchi added that the team’s support, both on site and from back home, has been fantastic.
“Our following has been unbelievable. The first night, when we beat the team from Arkansas, I checked the phone right after the game and I had 13 text messages within 10 minutes after the game was over. Some were from family and friends, and some were from people we met or played against along the way.
“This is a fun thing for the kids, because they are the center of attention. The setting here is beautiful, and everyone has been great to us. They had a banquet of champions here, and more than 1,000 people attended. Plus, the games, especially at 5:30 and 7:30, are packed with people.”
If Niskayuna survives the semifinal Friday night, it will play in the championship game at 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
Niskayuna 136 300 4 — 17 10 3
Lumber River, N.C. 001 603 0 — 10 13 4
Joe Apkarian, Chris Wilk (5) and Tom Spataro.