The Boardman 11- and 12-year-old all stars headed to Elyria over the weekend to face district three champ Avon in the first round of the state tournament, Saturday afternoon.
As the mercury soared over 90 degrees, Boardman took the field with Trent Humphreys on the mound, holding Avon scoreless in the first frame. The local boys got things started off right with two runs in the first inning, but Avon came back to tie the contest at the end of two and held it there through the third.
The top of the fourth saw Avon score on a long fly ball to the right field fence for a triple, but Boardman's defense held strong with Humphreys lodging a strikeout and first baseman Efrain Velez nabbing a fly ball for the third out.
Their bats came out strong at the bottom of the inning, with Velez shooting a strong one down the first base line for a single. But Boardman remained down by one in the bottom of the fourth despite two stolen bases by Preston Stitt, in as a special pinch runner for Velez, and a walk by Brandon Fuese. Jack Lynch flew out to second base and Gavin Dill flew out to short, stranding two runners on base.
Danny Boerio took over duties on the mound in the fifth. On a sharp hit to shortstop Lynch, he made an easy out to Dill at first. After one runner got on base, the fun began when Avon cracked one to Lynch who made the out at second before making the sweep so Dill could catch the runner at first for a double play.
With their adrenaline pumping, Boardman's Geno Beato rolled one up the third base line for a single then stole second on a passed ball. Beato advanced when Lou Cardona ground one past the shortstop for a single. Alex Duda came in as a special pinch runner for Cardona as Mario Graziani headed to the plate. His pop over second base scored Beato and took Duda to third to await his turn to cross the plate. He didn't wait long as Boerio hit a sacrifice to first for the second run of the inning. Stitt flew out to third to end the at-bat with Boardman in the lead by one.
As the final frame dawned, Avon got on base with single after Dill narrowly missed on the throw coming from Beato at second. Avon put one into the infield next, but Humphreys was faster making the throw to Beato for the out at second. Next, a single to Lynch went through his glove on the ground to put Avon runners at first and second. A Lynch-to-Humphreys tag at third let an Avon batter on with a single but took away the scoring threat. With two outs and Boardman still ahead by one, the sunburned crowd looked to Boerio to save the day. And he delivered, striking out the Avon batter to win 4-3 and advancing the Spartans' Little League World Series hopes.
Boardman now faces district four winner North Canton at 5 p.m. Monday, July 26.