Preparing to head to North Dakota for a shot at the Babe Ruth World Series championship in his age group, Liam Davison on Monday night called the opportunity “once-in-a-lifetime.”
“It’s thrilling,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard throughout the season, the offseason, through the winter, the spring. We’ve jelled together amazingly and worked hard. It’s paid off.”
Liam is an infielder and pitcher on the Niskayuna 13-and-under team, which is headed for its first trip to the national tournament.
The team made its way to the World Series by winning the Mid-Atlantic Regional, held on its home field at Blatnick Park. The victory came with several close games and a championship game where the team ran away from its competition, beating South Colonie 11-1 a week ago.
The trip is the town’s second in two years. The 15-and-under team won its way to the 2012 World Series tournament in Arkansas, taking third place.
Along with the World Series berth, team members and coaches get their travel paid for by the national Babe Ruth organization. The team begins its journey to North Dakota late tonight, flying out of Boston. The destination is Williston, in the northwest portion of the state.
Each of the 15 team members is expected to have family representing them in North Dakota, parents said. There’s been some fundraising to cover the costs for the relatives, who must pay their own way.
Families have also planned ahead, delaying family vacations for just such an event.
“This is so exciting,” said Liam’s mother, Erin Davison, one of the parents who delayed a vacation. “I can’t believe this is happening to our family, to our community.
“We’ve been watching these kids play, for some of us five, six, seven years together, and to see them jell like they have, it’s so exciting.”
Those left behind are expected to have viewing parties, as the games are streamed online.
The 15 players on the team hail from the area that comprises the Niskayuna School District.
Chris Bianchi has been a youth coach in Niskayuna for a dozen years. The 13-and-under team is the second straight he’s managed to the World Series. He was the coach for last year’s 15-and-under World Series team.
Bianchi credited his players. The team overall was 26-5.
“These kids have worked really hard to get where we’re going next week,” Bianchi said. “They certainly earned it. It makes it easy for me to coach such good players.”
Right fielder Gabe Antonikowski recalled that final out in the regional championship game, the game that sent the team to the World Series.
“It was amazing, I was ready to go to the World Series,” he said.
As far as the destination, North Dakota, Gabe noted it wasn’t the ideal physical destination, “but it’s the World Series, so I’m excited.”
Teammate Alec Ritzenthaler echoed the excitement.
When he steps on the field in North Dakota, he said, “I’ll still be in disbelief.”
The structure of the tournament guarantees the team four games. If they do well, they get more. It runs Aug. 17 to 24.
“To play one game, I think, is just going to be such a memorable event for these kids,” said Erin Davison. “The fact that they get to play four is such a gift.”
Members of the team are Conor Graham, Gabe Antonikowski, Ben Funyak, Andrew Barber, Ryan Dell, Chris Ryan, Dylan Sheely, Kyle Cox, Liam Davison, Sean Barry, Jack Evans, Matt Toy, Tyler Senecal, Alec Ritzenthaler and Christian Mastroianni.
Chris Bianchi is the manager; Glenn Ritzenthaler and Anthony Spataro are the coaches.