It was the stuff of backyard legend. Championship game, bottom of the final inning, 2 outs, bases loaded, tie score, and a 3-2 count to the batter. The home team then walks off as the champs as the winning run crosses the dish. Little boys and girls have played out that theoretical moment a million times in the sandlot. But last Sunday night at the 2017 Denbigh 15u Invitation Tournament, theory became reality for the Williamsburg 14yo All Star team when Ryan Labella drew the walk, and Isaac Tucker strode home to secure a 6-5 win and the tournament title.
The Denbigh Invitational promised to be a grueling event that would test the endurance and the depth of the participating teams. With two pool game scheduled on Saturday, July 29, and then three more games scheduled on Sunday, July 30 (a final pool game, the semis, and the finals), a victorious team was going to need a long bench, especially at the pitcher and catcher spots. Unfortunately for Williamsburg, due to either injuries or family priorities, four players were missing from the squad that went to the 14yo Babe Ruth state championships two weeks ago. As the Denbigh tournament was a 15u event, however, the team was allowed to add four 15u players, including Aaron Adam, Sean Tracy, and Mike and Ryan Labella, to fill out the roster of 13 and 14-year olds.
The tournament began on an overcast, drizzly Saturday morning with Williamsburg squaring off against the host team Denbigh. Williamsburg fell behind early, 8-3, but, as has been the case all summer with this squad, they refused to give in. A big fourth inning, highlighted by base knocks by Jack Salamy, Isaac Tucker, and Daniel Gonzalez, recaptured the lead and Williamsburg won 11-8.
The team then faced the 15u Aberdeen All Stars, and the 15u All Stars from Richmond's Metro Junior Baseball League to finish pool play. Williamsburg cruised to easy wins in each, 11-1 and 11-0. Undefeated in pool play, the team then had a rematch against Richmond in the semi's, and won easily 10-0. That set up the finals against Denbigh on a cool, dry Sunday night.
Williamsburg fell behind early, and trailed 4-0 in the middle of the second inning. Travoz Harrold then stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second, and launched a titanic, moon shot home run at least 30 feet above the center field fence. The trees beyond the fence stopped the ball's flight, otherwise it had a chance of travelling major league home run distances. The epic homer rallied the lineup which then loaded the bases with nobody out. Unfortunately, Denbigh wriggled out of the jam without further damage and the score remained 4-1.
Denbigh added another run in the fourth to make it 5-1 as the sun set in Newport News. Jacob Chew then took the mound for Williamsburg in the fifth, and shut down Denbigh over the last three innings, allowing no runs and scattering three hits. Two fantastic outfield assists from Mike Labella, and two inning-ending double plays by the Williamsburg infield backed up their hurler, and the inspired play helped restart Williamsburg's potent offense.
Williamsburg got one back in the fifth thanks to a deep sac fly by Jacob Chew that plated Mike Labella. Williamsburg got three more in the sixth. Aaron Adam grounded out to short allowing Jack Salamy to score. Then, with two outs in the sixth, Williamsburg got two more runs when Branko Jaworski laced a 2-out, 2-RBI shot into center to plate Travoz Harrold and Sean Tracy. After Chew set down Denbigh in the top the seventh, the scene was set for the storybook ending.
Isaac Tucker led off and smashed a long fly ball to right field that landed just inside the line in fair territory. Williamsburg's speedy shortstop then promptly stole second, and Jack Salamy expertly moved him to third with a grounder to second. That brought Travoz Harrold to the plate with the winning run just 90 feet away. Denbigh decided to take no chances and issued the intentional walk. Another walk loaded the bases, and a strikeout gave Denbigh its second out of the inning. Ryan Labella then came to the plate with Tucker itching to score. Labella fell behind early in the count, but worked the game-winning trot to first that brought Tucker and the title home for the burg.
For the tournament, Williamsburg went undefeated (5-0) and outscored its opponents 49-14. Jack Salamy and Isaac Tucker each had 6 hits, Daniel Gonzalez had 4, and Jacob Chew, Branko Jaworski, and Aaron Adam each had 3 hits. Chew also walked 5 times and scored 7 times for Williamsburg, which was second on the team in both categories. In 16 plate appearances, Travoz Harrold homered, was walked 12 times, was hit by a pitch twice, and scored 10 times for Williamsburg. Ten different pitchers (Salamy, Adam, Ryan Kordek, Ryan Labella, Mike Labella, Jaworski, Gonzalez, Tracy, Harrold, and Chew) contributed to the cause on the mound, posting a combined 3.21 team ERA, and 1.42 team WHIP.
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