After series after series of sterling defense and clutch performances on the mound, the error bug finally caught up with the 14-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star team from McLean/Great Falls.
Costly errors and blown leads proved the unraveling in a pair of losses by the McLean/Great Falls Babe Ruth baseball team at the World Series in Wilson County, N.C. and have pushed the squad to the brink of elimination. The team has gone 1-2 in pool play and, with one more game remaining, their storybook run could be coming to an end.
Playing at the historic Fleming Stadium in N.C, the team first eked out a win against the home squad from Wilson County 9-3, but promptly dropped two in a row, falling to the Pacific Southwest champion from Citrus Valley, Calif. by a score of 9-8 on Sunday, then losing to Midwest Plains champion Minnetonka, Minn. 6-4 Tuesday.
Against Wilson County, the McLean/Great Falls squad came out firing, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings Friday night. Joey Zarella hurled six strong innings and Tommy Maselli homered to lead McLean/Great Falls to the victory. Closer Patrick Albrittain entered the game in the seventh to secure the victory for the Virginia State Champs. Reily Beiro contributed to the win with two stolen bases, as did Abraham Yi and Chris Russo, who each scored two runs.
Next, the M/GF team squared off against the squad from Citrus Valley with Sean Fitzgerald toeing the rubber once again. The McLean team once again proved to be strong in the first inning, as Beiro and Fitzgerald both scored. Three Citrus Valley errors in the top of the fourth contributed to five more M/GF runs, giving them a commanding seven run lead. Not long after, however, the team from California responded with a three-run fourth, and a two-run fifth to come within two of the Virginians. Barely hanging on to their lead, the McLean/Great Falls team knew they had to get some insurance for their pitcher, but were only able to muster another run against the strong relief pitching of Citrus Valley. The otherwise solid defense of M/GF was not able to hold up against the California bats, as the Southeast Regional champs committed three errors in that final inning, leading to a 9-8 loss.
The team looked to bounce back against Minnetonka, who, up to that point, was also 1-1 in pool play. For the second time in three games, Zarella took the hill to start the game. Minnetonka jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in the second and the third, aided by a combined three errors by M/GF. The Virginia state champs responded with two runs in the fourth, a two-run shot by Maselli, his second of the World Series. Once again, errors proved to be the difference, as was the case in the top of the fifth, when Minnesota scored two more runs to put the game out of reach. Two more runs scored by M/GF in the bottom of the seventh were not enough to come back from the deficit, as the Minnetonka group prevailed 6-4.
With pride and a slim shot to move on to elimination play on the line, the McLean/Great Falls team looked to put its best foot forward, as they squared off against the 2-1 squad out of Washington Township, N.J. Wednesday. Results were not available at press time.
Washington Township beat Citrus Valley 6-5, but lost to Minnetonka 12-11. The game took place on Wed. August 23, but results were not available at press time.