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MAR - Semi: Kingsbridge 5, Sacred Heart 3

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: MAR - Semi: Kingsbridge 5, Sacred Heart 3

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Monday, August 11, 2008

MAR - Semi: Kingsbridge 5, Sacred Heart 3

Avenge last year's Mid-Atlantic Regional loss

CLIFTON PARK - Metro New York champion, Kingsbridge, has made a statement with its batting prowess throughout pool play of the Cal Ripken Baseball 11-year-old Mid-Atlantic Regional.

In Monday morning's semifinal against Southern New Jersey champion, Sacred Heart, the Knights showed that they had the arms and the defense to advance to the tournament final with a 5-3 win over the Angels.

Kingsbridge (5-0) didn't surprise anyone at the Clifton Common Baseball Complex Monday morning, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first.

Home run derby champion, Adam de la Cruz hit a two-out double to left field and came around to score when Lenny Ortiz hit a hard grounder to second that was mis-handled, allowing him to reach safely and de la Cruz to score. Co-captain Randy Taveras followed with an RBI double down the left field line putting the Knights ahead, 2-0. After stealing third, Taveras was plated on Justin Juarbe's RBI single to center field for the 3-0 lead.

"I guess you can say I'm seeing the ball well," de la Cruz said. "But I have to thank all my coaches for helping with my game. Eric, Lenny, Raymond and Michael all help me and the team."

After a 1-2-3 inning to start the contest, Sacred Heart began to work its way through the Kingsbridge rotation in the second inning.

Knight's starter, co-captain Drew Semler was lifted after walking Tim Zeng to start the second. Tyler Lindsey was summoned from the dugout to replace his starter. He struggled against the Sacred Heart line-up with little time to warm-up, walking Ryan Voelker before enticing Kurt Elmer to line out to the shortstop. After walking Angel's birthday boy, Brett Hoffman, to load the bases, Jonathan Benitez came to the mound as the third arm for the Knights in less than two innings. He got out of the inning quickly with a force at second and quick throw to first for an inning-ending double play.

Sacred Heart starter Kurt Elmer found ways to keep Kingsbridge off balance after his first inning of work, keeping the contest close for his Angels squad.

Sacred Heart (3-2) got to Benitez in the third after Josh Morgan walked and moved to third on Jordan McCrum's double over the left fielder's head. Drew Tumbelty gave the Angels its first run with an RBI single, blooped over the second base bag. Sacred Heart was patient, with Tim Zeng and Voelker both walking to load the bases, but Benitez escaped with an inning-ending strikeout.

With the contest hanging in the balance, Kingsbridge tacked on two more runs in the fourth, started when Henry Miller reached on a fielding error by the third baseman. He moved over on Semler's groundout and scored on another double by de la Cruz, giving the Knights a 4-1 lead. Ortiz followed with his own RBI double down the left field line for the 5-1 lead.

Sacred Heart, familiar with Kingsbridge, meeting the squad last year in the 10-year-old Mid-Atlantic Regional, and weren't intimidated.

The Angels rallied for two runs in the fifth after McCrum led off with a walk and was driven in immediately on Tumbelty's triple to center. He ran his way back and forth off third base, drawing a throw on a pick-off attempt and scored when the catcher's throw sailed into left field, cutting the lead, 5-3.

Miller came on in relief for Benitez and closed out the semifinal, getting Tim Zeng to fly out to centerfield and after hitting Voelker, saw the contest end when Benitez corralled the fly ball for the second out and fired back to first for the game-ending double play.

"It was just instinct," Benitez said. "I'm taught to look at the base runner to see if he's off the base. I was just trying to get the ball in quick."

Miller scored the game-winning run and closed out the contest, advancing the Knights to today's first-ever Mid-Atlantic Regional championship final.

"It feels good to get on base with guys like Adam (de la Cruz) behind me," Miller said. "If I get on base, I'm pretty sure I'm going to score."

Like several of his pitching teammates, Monday's work was a surprise.

"I didn't know if I was going to pitch today," Miller said. "I just tried to throw hard. I want to get the first pitch over for a strike and get ahead in the count."

Despite utilizing four different arms on Monday, the Angels couldn't find that one pitcher to tee off on for the win.

"We hit their last two pitchers hard," Sacred Heart manager Rob Fernholz said. "Their center fielder makes an over-the-shoulder catch and their shortstop made two great plays late.

"Our boys played great all weekend long," Fernholz said. "I'm proud of them. They (Kingsbridge) scored 10 runs in almost every game and we held them to half that. Next year we'll go up to 50/70 and hopefully see them again."

The Knights earned more rest between contests as the second semifinal between Northwestern Pennsylvania champion, Spring-Ford and Eastern New York consolation winner, Niskayuna, was postponed until 10:30 this morning. The winner will face the Knights at 2 p.m.

Kingsbridge manager Michael Navarro wasn't nervous about his use of pitchers Monday morning.

"Tyler (Lindsey) is usually very good, but didn't have it today," Navarro said. "Jonathan Benitez came through big and Henry Miller took it home."

The Knights, who went 4-0 to capture the Metro New York championship, continue be a triple threat in the tournament with its hitting, pitching and defense.

"Our pitching has been superb and we haven't had an error all tournament," Navarro said. "Last year was tough, losing in the last inning. The boys wanted to win this game and play tomorrow for a championship."

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