By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
The 1080 Media team of the Class B League finally has a championship.
Despite finishing with a 25-2 regular season record, 1080 Media faltered in the Class B League playoffs and were outed in the semifinals.
1080 Media fell short of a title again in the recent NABF regional tournament.
But Sunday night, 1080 Media captured the Connie Mack State Championship tournament by defeating Class B League rival Rondinelli, 6-3, at Cene Park.
“It’s finally nice to win a championship,” 1080 Media catcher Dan Popio said. “We weren’t able to win anything despite our great season until now.
“It feels great and it’s even nicer that we beat another local team and our nemesis this season.”
1080 Media and Rondinelli are two of the top teams in the Class B League. In the eight times they have played each other, 1080 has come away with five wins.
None was more important than Sunday’s game.
“This was special for these kids because we didn’t win the league this year,” 1080 Media coach Andy Timko said. “The kids were a little disappointed in that but they made a great run here in the Connie Mack and I’m happy for them.
“That [Rondinelli] team, they are winners. They’re tough to figure out but they know how to win. We were never thinking we had this game won until it was over.”
1080 Media was cruising with a 4-0 lead after five innings behind the outstanding pitching of Justin Summers when Rondinelli’s bats came to life against the West Virginia University recruit.
Four straight hits to start the sixth inning by Tony Koch, Dan Ferguson, Brent Messett and Zach Stein plated three runs and got Rondinelli back in the game.
After a visit by Timko to talk to Summers, the lefty struck out the next two batters to end the rally.
“Coach came out and asked me how I felt,” Summers said. “I told him I had enough to finish the game and win us a championship.
Summers got a little help in 1080’s half of the inning when Popio shattered his wooden bat but still was able to line the ball to left for a two-run double.
“I just tried to hit the ball hard after I got new life when they dropped by foul ball,” Popio said. “Those runs were nice but I knew Justin would be okay because he was still throwing hard.
Rondinelli’s Kyle Vaclav led off the seventh with a walk but was picked off by Summers. Summers then retired the final two batters to gain the victory.
“It was a good game. They are a good team,” Rondinelli manager Tony Gorvett said. “We didn’t get the hits when we needed them and their kid pitched a great game.
“A couple plays hear and there and it’s a different ballgame.”
1080 scored one run in each of the first two innings as Rondinelli pitcher Brandon Easton struggled with his control.
In the first inning, Cavon Cohoos and Joey Aulizia had back-to-back singles with one out. Aulizia’s single came on a hit-and-run and Cohoos scooted to third. He came around to score on Popio’s groundout to second.
Media scored again in the second after Easton hit Mike Watson with a pitch and walked Justin Vrable. The two runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Summers and Watson scored on a ground out to second off the bat of James Coates.
Rondinelli had an opportunity to strike against Summers in the fourth inning.
Koch led off with a single and after Summers coaxed Ferguson and Messett to fly to left, Stein singled to right.
Koch and Stein moved up to second and third on the play on an error on the rightfielder but Summers left them stranded when he struck out Rondinelli’s next hitter.
1080 pushed the lead out to 4-0 in the sixth when Aulizia and Popio scored on RBIs by Matt Shelton and Watson.
Both teams declined invitations to enter the Connie Mack Regional tournament in Cincinnati and will begin play today in the CABA tournament at Cene Park.