Boardman's 12-year-old All Stars, many of whom were playing in the State Little League tournament for the third year in a row, started off hot. Then came their third game against New Albany. Reeling from a 12-6 loss to the Columbus-area boys, the team hoped to start their ascent toward the title. Alas, it was not to be as Boardman earned third place in the state following a disappointing drop to West Side Hamilton, 15-11, on Friday, July 26.
On Thursday, Boardman's 12-year-olds found themselves in a face off at Ashtabula's Cederquist Field. After a 5-4 win over Dover and a 15-1 mercy win over Guernsey County to start the post-season, Boardman was paired with New Albany. Both were undefeated and the winner would have to win only one game to take the title, while the loser would face three more grueling trips to the diamond in order to take the next step to Little League Regionals in Indianapolis. Boardman's play was extended as New Albany overtook the locals, 12-6.
After an opening inning featuring a solo home run by Travis Harvey, New Albany earned six runs to jump ahead. In the second, Boardman swiped at New Albany's 6-1 lead by putting up four runs before New Albany relief pitcher Sam Smith stopped them cold.
Photos by Jeffrey A. Wilson, Town Crier
Michael Fetsko took the mound for Boardman's 12-year-old All Stars in the fifth inning against West Side Hamilton in the Little League State Tournament on Friday, July 26.
Boardman held New Albany scoreless in the top of the second, and their hot bats looked promising as Nick Yallech nabbed a single, Michael Fetsko grabbed a base after being hit by a pitch, and Shay Eicher singled to load the bases. With two outs, lead-off hitter Harvey nailed a grand slam over the left field fence for his second homer of the day.
For the next two innings, the locals trailed by only one run until New Albany rallied for three tallies in the fourth inning. Harvey once again showed his prowess, hitting a double and scoring on an error to cut their deficit to 9-6.
It came down to the sixth inning, where New Albany finally silenced the Spartans with three runs, including a home run by Parker Thompson.
Facing an uphill battle from the loser's bracket, Boardman set their sights on beating two-time state champs West Side Hamilton in play on Friday, July 26. The boys from Cincinnati brought their "A" game, but Boardman wasn't about to make it easy on them.
Harvey smashed one over the center field wall in the bottom of the first, and Alex Cardona followed with a solo homer to left taking a 2-0 lead to start the afternoon.
"To strike first (is always a good thing)," Boardman manager Brian Fonderlin said.
In a show of defensive skill for the 12-year-olds, Troy Waliszewski made an ESPN-worthy diving catch in left field for the second out while Hamilton had bases loaded in the top of the second inning. After pitcher Harvey walked in a run, a grand slam by Hamilton's Cameron Tenhundfeld took their lead to 6-2. A line out to Griffin Schantz at second base put Boardman back on the offensive.
Fetsko took a base on balls, Schantz nailed a triple and Harvey popped a single to close Hamilton's lead to 6-4 and close the second inning.
Hamilton's trip to the plate to start the third frame included a two-run homer by Montana Allgaier. In his second highlight-reel play of the game, Waliszewski nipped a fly ball as it sailed the left field fence for the second out. Caleb Owens then hit a shot to center that narrowly missed Michael O'Horo's glove, but he recovered and hit Alex Cardona at shortstop who stopped a steal to second for the third out.
Waliszewski proved he wasn't just a defensive force by blasting a homer to lead off the locals, but that was all they could muster to close the third inning down 9-5.
Following a strikeout, a walk and a single to centerfield, Cameron Kreps took the mound for Boardman. His first batter walked, then a drive to centerfield brought in two more runs for Hamilton. Catcher Jake Fonderlin expertly handled a passed ball, recovering quickly and making the tag at home for the second out. A grounder to Schantz ended the top of the fourth with Hamilton ahead 11-5.
But Boardman wasn't about to surrender. Daniel Brunck took the hill for Hamilton as Fonderlin earned a single. Cardona's ground rule double and a double from O'Horo brought in a run. Yallech, Fetsko and Eicher all singled, earning a total of four runs on the inning, bringing the score to 11-9.
At the dawn of the fifth, Hamilton came out strong with back-to-back home runs by Peyton Pennington and Owens. Boardman countered by sending Fetsko to the mound where he shut them down with a fly out and two strikeouts.
Seeing an opportunity to take back the game, Harvey and Cardona each blasted a homer in the bottom of the fifth, making it a two-run game with one frame to go. O'Horo showed some strength at the plate, taking nearly a dozen pitches for striking out, but making Brunck work hard on the mound.
At the dawn of the final frame, Boardman pulled Waliszewski out of left field to take the helm on the rubber. With two outs, Owens sent a shot down the third base line to plate two runs. Alex Mills' drive to third on a bounce caught him at first for the final out.
Boardman was unable to pull through the 15-11 deficit.
Hamilton went on to win the state title for their third time, having earned the 9- and 10-year-old trophy in 2011, as well as the 10- and 11 title last season. They beat New Albany in a double header on Sunday, 10-6 and 14-9. Hamilton will play in the Little League Regional Tournament in Indianapolis, starting Thursday, Aug. 1.