With the district title on the line, the Ridge-Beverly 10U baseball team was undone by some early nerves and fell behind by 4 runs against rival Kennedy Park.
However, the Celtics didn’t waste long in shaking off those early butterflies.
Scoring 2 runs in the third and 6 runs in the fourth, Ridge-Beverly (RB) rebounded for an exciting 8-4 victory over the Kennedy Park (KP) Cobras on July 11 in Blue Island to win the Little League District 7 title.
“We came out with the plan to win. They’re still only 10 years old, and nerves can get to them,” said RB Coach Jason Fennell. “It took them a little while and one big hit from Luke Cutrara to get our team going.”
RB advances to Sub-State, which will start July 19 in Hegewisch.
Fennell said the Celtics 10U team has a district winning streak dating back 7 years.
“A lot of pressure to win on RB, I’m reminded of that a lot,” Fennell said. “It was big for them to win it. I’m so proud of these kids.”
After KP tallied 4 runs in the top of the third, Cutrara started the rally for RB in the bottom half. His hard-hit single to right field brought home Johnny Fennell (2 runs) and Jake Roney to cut the deficit in half.
In the fourth, Gabe Toussaint (3 hits) ripped a single to center to score Brian Ortell (single, 2 walks). The next batter, Fennell hit a screamer to right to bring home 2 more runners, Jimmy Lotito (2 walks) and Toussaint.
Running hard on the play, Fennell capitalized on 2 KP errors on the play, racing hard around the bases to score and put RB up 6-4. Ortell’s 2-run single (Colin Harrigan, Cutrara) gave RB some breathing room five batters later.
Closing out the district championship, Cutrara (3 walks) helped squash the KP comeback in the sixth.
With the Cobras threatening with 2 runners on and 1 out, Cutrara cleanly fielded a hard-hit liner, tagged the runner in the base path and calmly threw to first for the game-ending double play.
As Coach Fennell said, practice makes perfect.
“The kids have been practicing since January,” Fennell said. “All this stuff for them is mostly muscle memory. You train, train and train, and hopefully it works out that way when the ball is hit to you.”
Harrigan (2 scoreless innings), Cutrara, Fennell, Lotito and Toussaint handled pitching duties for RB.
The RB roster also includes Bobby Rusch, Seamus O’Leary, Miles Sanders, Ryan Moonan and Connor Spatz. Fennell is assisted by Aaron Sanders, Matt Cutrara and Reed Ortell.
For KP, Nick Gall (2 singles) and Jacob Soto knocked in a run apiece. Mike Flynn (2 singles), Cullen Winters (walk, 2 singles), Matt Murzyn and Patrick Coakley scored a run each for the Cobras.
Coach Mike Murzyn said that, despite the loss, his team gave their all.
“They were in the game. We were hustling and really hitting the ball,” Murzyn said. “We were making the plays we were supposed to. It was a tough game today with 1 bad inning.”
The KP roster includes Ray Boyd (5 strikeouts in 3 IP), Matt Winkler (2 strikeouts), Mick Carr, Robert Flynn, Bill Nitsche, Danny Leyden and Emmett Breakey.
Murzyn is assisted by Jake Soto and Vince Winters.
Murzyn also coaches much of the KP team in basketball and volleyball.
“This group has been together for a while, a majority of them since they were 7,” Murzyn said. “It’s a good group that has a lot of fun. Offensively, we were pretty smooth, and the guys lower in the order were coming through. We have one of the best defensive teams in the league, too.”