By Ryan Buck
Four lead changes and 24 hits between the two teams highlighted the 9-10 Little League district championship game Friday night at Fields of Dreams.
After taking leads of 4-0, 6-5 and 8-5 over Boardman, Canfield battled back from a 9-8 deficit in the sixth and final inning to claim the district crown in a 10-9 thriller.
The two teams have met numerous times. A wild, high-scoring contest was of no surprise to anyone, even as Canfield took an earlier tournament game 2-0.
The latest victory sends Canfield to the state tournament.
“We battled with this Boardman team all season long, in and out of tournaments, and it’s been close every time,” said Canfield manager Duke Starr.
Boardman manager Jason Triveri was certain the game would be decided by the slimmest of margins.
“It’s funny — we’ve played them a lot over the last few years and it’s always tight one way or another,” he said. “It comes down to making simple plays and they did that tonight.”
Boardman trailed for most of the game before a four-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Down 8-5, Patrick Hubert and Michael Pastella quickly reached base and scored to bring Boardman to within one run.
“It’s something were capable of doing,” Triveri said of his team’s powerful offense. “We’ve been waiting for that kind of explosion because we’ve done it in the past. It was perfect timing when we were down three runs.
“One-through-nine and with our bench, we have 12 kids that can hit the ball hard.”
Boardman had finally gotten to Canfield reliever Brandon Mikos, who entered the game in the bottom of the first inning.
Mikos tossed three scoreless innings, exhausting his Little League pitch limit, after Boardman opened the first inning with five runs.
“We let him pitch out his entire number of pitches that he had and we rode that horse as long as we could,” Starr said.
Cory Rose spelled Mikos with runners on second and third for Boardman shortstop Justin Jones.
Down two strikes, Jones ripped a single to right that scored the younger Jason Triveri and John Hyde for a 9-8 Boardman lead.
“He was hitting the ball well all day,” Triveri said of Jones. “Again, that doesn’t surprise me. In big situations he always seems to come through.”
From there, it was Canfield’s turn.
Luke Holland and Mike Pelini reached base with walks to put runners at first and second. Dominic DeBonis was hit by a pitch from Hubert, who came on in relief in the fourth.
Down in the count one ball and two strikes and with bases loaded, Sam Starr rolled Hubert’s offering in front of third base, scoring Holland to tie the game. Two batters later, Magliocca’s ground ball found its way past the Boardman infield to score DeBonis and give Canfield the lead that sends them to the State Tournament at host Hamilton Westside Little League near Cincinnati on July 27.
“That’s how you play the game,” Starr said. “Sometimes you need the big inning and if you can’t get the big inning, you’ve got to manufacture runs and these kids did exactly what they needed to do to get the win.”