Area teams begin NABF Junior World Series
By Greg Gulas
The 57th annual NABF Junior (16-U) World Series begins Thursday with defending national champion Astro Falcons of the local Class B league as one of three local entries in an 11-team field.
Joining Astros will be Baird Brothers and Prospects with Astros kicking off the action when they play Michigan Red Sox at 9 a.m. (Field No. 1) at Bob Cene Park.
Baird Brothers will meet Brooklyn Bonnie Rockets, also at 9 a.m. (Field No. 2) while the Prospects go up against West NY Tigers at 2 p.m. at Austintown Fitch High School’s Rich Coppola Field.
“This is our first time hosting the 16-U tournament and we are absolutely ready to get going,” said Scott Ruark, tournament director and Class B president. “In the past, the tournament was played in Northville, Michigan, Knoxville, Tennessee and Toledo so we are excited about hosting both the 16-U and 18-U tournaments at the same time.”
In addition to three local entries, the other two Ohio teams include Ohio Longhorns of the Cleveland Diamond League and Toledo Hawks with three New York teams (West NY Tigers, Frozen Ropes Outlaws and Brooklyn Bonnie Rockets), two Michigan teams (South Central 517 and Michigan Red Sox) and Canada’s Team Ontario rounding out the field.
Astro and Baird just completed their best of five championship series on Tuesday with Astro winning, 14-1, to cop the league championship.
Astros finished second in the league during the regular season with a 20-2 overall mark under manager Jason Triveri.
“The strength of this team is pitching. They hit well, but more than anything they have a cohesiveness unlike any other team I have been around,” he said. “You can have talent, but when they have unity and chemistry it’s a great feeling and fun to watch. They get on each other all the time and keep each other loose. They just play great together.”
Their one-two pitching punch includes lefty Brayden Beck of Canfield — he also plays center field — and righty Chase Franken of Columbiana. Triveri calls catcher Connor Miller of Boardman a coach on the field while offensively, he said that shortstop Vince Armeni of Ursuline has all the tools and is one of the very best at his position.
Second baseman Colin Balas of Ursuline and Andrew Sabella, a first baseman-designated hitter also from Ursuline provide much needed leadership.
Triveri added three pitchers to his roster for the tournament, including right handed twirlers Will Shaffer and Jorge Leedham of Dura Edge, and left hander Patrick Coleman of Knightline Embroidery.
Baird is managed by former big league twirler Matt DeSalvo and will enter play with a 25-5 overall mark.
DeSalvo called his pitching staff, all right handers, “an excellent unit” which includes Brandon Mikos, Bren Kilpatrick, Austin Vogt, Andrew Vance and Rocco Bernadino.
Catcher Trey Pancake is one of the league’s best receivers while infielder Sean Helpy and outfielder Dylan Dominguez join Pancake as offensive threats.
Prospects enters tourney play 20-12 overall, defeating Knightline Embroidery, 6-5 for the regional title as they scored all six runs in their final at bat.
“Both players and coaches are excited for this opportunity to represent our local Class B league in the tourney,” manager Britt Taylor said. “We’ve adjusted to the wooden bats, are set and ready to go.”
Pitcher Trevor Strohmeyer of Liberty and Shane Cato of Shenango High School, both right handers, had an excellent June on the hill with Strohmeyer posting a stingy 1.25 earned run average and Cato equally as stingy with a 2.00 ERA.
Cato also plays shortstop while outfielders Joe Gallo of Niles McKinley, who batted .720 in regional play and Cameron Hollobaugh of Warren JFK, who also pitches, batted .600 in the tourney.
Admission is $10 per day or $30 for the entire weekend.