SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Staten Island’s dream run in the Little League World Series sadly came to an end on Thursday night as it lost to Georgia, 7-3.
The Mid-Island squad had been fighting to stay alive in the loser’s bracket of the youth baseball tournament and was attempting to reach the US championship.
“They didn’t win, but they got to Disney World [of baseball],” said manager Joe Calabrese.
The boys from the “forgotten borough” seemed like their old winning selves at the start of the game — scoring three runs in the first inning with hits from Chris Bedford, Steve Martinez, Derek Mendez and John Calabrese.
Georgia fought back, though, and was able to take the lead in the second and hold it through strong defense and big bats.
“Come on Mid-Island, stay in there!” one fan pleaded.
The crowd’s energy was all but gone following the third inning, but they eventually got behind their kids and let them know how proud they were — regardless of the score.
“Pick your heads up!” yelled one parent.
Some of the fans were even having a hard time staying in good spirits.
“When you’re up 3-0, you’re on cloud nine,” said Gregory Bruno Sr., whose son, pitching ace Gregory Jr., was not eligible to pitch this game due to Little League pitching limits.
“But all of the sudden when the lead slips away,” he explained. “You could see them starting to understand the gravity of, ‘If we don’t come back we’re not gonna make it.’”
The Staten Island crowd spent much of the game taking out their frustration on the umpire.
“I think it’s harder for the parents than the kids sometimes, to tell you the truth,” said Nicky Cancel, whose son Christopher is the team’s catcher.
When the game finally ended, Mid-Island could be seen carrying on the Little League tradition of bringing home a handful of dirt from Lamade Stadium.
“Thank you boys! Thanks for the memories!” the crowd shouted.
While the loss hung heavy on the team, their families looked forward to all the memories they’d have to share of this year’s run.
“It’s hard for them to wrap their heads around that possibility,” Nicky Cancel said. “It’s an age-related thing. They don’t quite know how to overcome adversity. Mentally, this has to be a tremendous strain on them.”
Coach Calabrese, while upset about the outcome, was just pleased to see his team make it this far.
“I’m gonna miss these kids,” he said. “I love what we do.”
The proud father hopes other parents and kids can look at what his squad did and appreciate the experience they got out of it.
“They learned hard work pays off,” Calabrese said. “I can’t emphasize how hard these kids worked, for a year. Not just since June 1. The winter workouts. These kids, they work hard. And that’s a life lesson — you work hard, and good things happen.”
Calabrese added, “If they put that same effort into their life they’re going to go far, and I’m very happy about that.”
Additional reporting by Chris Perez
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