By Rich Fisher
July 19: If you’re a Hamilton Little Lads baseball supporter, break out the Lynyrd Skynyrd CDs, because Sweet Home Alabama has become your new favorite song.
On July 17, the Little Lads 10-year-old All-Stars defeated Bridgewater, 15-0, to claim the Cal Ripken 10-year-old Mid-Atlantic Regional championship. That puts the Lads in the Ripken World Series, which will be held July 30-Aug. 8 in Phenix City, Alabama. Hamilton is one of 16 teams to qualify for the big event.
One good thing is that Phenix is a lot easier to pronounce than North Tonawanda, NY, which is where the regionals were held.
But a long name with lots of syllables wasn’t about to slow down the Lads.
“When entering the regionals, we knew we had a great group of kids that loved the game and are very competitive and so easy to coach,” manager Daniel Tozzi said. “We knew we could make a good run. We weren’t sure how far they would go but here we are off to the World Series!”
The championship roster features Jose Calzadilla, Asher DeLue, Chase Whitman, Anthony “AJ” Liberto, Noah Kerlin, Jomar Olivero, Rocco Valentino, Daniel Tozzi, Janniel Hernandez, Stephen Wright, Kaiden Hurley and Elijah Kerlin.
Hamilton blew through pool play with a 4-0 record, starting with a 12-2 victory over North Colonie. That was the Hurley show, as Kaiden belted a three-run homer over the fence to set the tone. Calzadilla and DeLue added three hits apiece and DeLue drove in four runs. That was followed by an 18-2 victory over host North Tonawanda, as Whitman and Wright each threw two innings and Tozzi had a single, double, triple and four RBI.
In a 13-3 win over Kingston, Tozzi had four more hits, including two doubles, while Hurley, Tozzi, DeLue and Hernandez had RBIs in a pivotal six-run third inning. Hernandez threw 3-2/3 innings with seven strikeouts to notch the win, while Valentino finished it up with 1-1/3 innings. The Lads completed a perfect pool play run by taking a 14-5 win over Upper Dublin. The third inning was again the big one as Hamilton pulled away with three runs. Wright, Hurley and Kerlin all shared in the pitching. Whitman, DeLue, Hernandez, Valentino and Liberto each had multiple hits.
After getting a bye in the first round of bracket play, Hamilton continued its domination with a 7-1 win over East Fishkill, which was the Lads closest game of the tournament. DeLue had three hits and three RBI, Whitman had two hits and Liberto and Hurley each had a hit and RBI. Tozzi got the win, throwing 4-2/3 innings of four-hit ball, while DeLue finished it up.
The championship game was a 15-0, three-inning win over Bridgewater as Calzadilla had three hits, four RBI and two runs scored, while Valentino added two hits, two RBI and three runs, Tozzi had a hit and two RBI, Hernandez had two hits and an RBI and DeLue drove in a run.
In the six games, Hamilton outscored their foes by a combined 79-13.
“They were at the top of their game,” manager Tozzi said in an understatement. “I believe they turned at least 10 double plays from all over the field which was an amazing huge group effort defensively.”
With such a dominating effort, the group is fired up to head south.
“I think they have a chance to win it all if they keep playing the way they have been, with such heart and courage,” Tozzi said.