MOUNT VERNON — Like they had in the first three games of the 2009 14-year-old Babe Ruth State Tournament, the Youngstown All-Stars put a team away with their bats in the championship game on Thursday night.
Youngstown won its fourth straight tournament game by run-rule, beating Steubenville, 10-0, in five innings for the Ohio title. The win advances Youngstown to the Ohio Valley Regional in Robinsin, Ill. Last year, Youngstown won the regional and advanced to the Babe Ruth World Series.
“This feels good,” said Youngstown manager Terry Landis. “We have a good team. They are excellent; Even my bench is good. They’ve worked hard and we’ve got them ready. ... I think this is just the beginning. I expect us to go to the World Series like we did last year. With a little bit of help here and there, I think we can do it.”
It had been a long day for Steubenville already, as it played an 11-inning semifinal against Zanesville prior to the championship game. Steubenville scored in the bottom of the 11th to advance to the title tilt, 4-3.
“I am very happy with our effort,” said Steubenville manager John Banks. “We displayed the kind of character of where we come from — we may be down, but we never quit. I’m proud of the kids. They did a great job. Hopefully we can come back next year and do a little better.”
Against Youngstown, there was little Steubenville could do. Pitcher Christopher Maze set it down in order in the top of the inning, recording a pair of bookend strikeouts. Steubenville’s Matt Petrella pounded a leadoff double in the second inning, but was stranded and Jordan Mavromantis smacked a one-out single in the third, but he too was stranded.
“He is a spot pitcher,” said Landis of Maze. “His curveball wasn’t working that good today, but he was hitting his spots. That’s what made him good.”
Youngstown, meanwhile, put up two runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Taking advantage of what Steubenville was giving it. A walk to Maze and a hit batter started the inning, and another walk loaded the bases. Steubenville pitcher Koby Sronce got two balls into the next batter before he was pulled in favor of Petrella, and Petrella finished the at-bat by walking in Maze with the first run. Steubenville turned a double play in the next at-bat, but Vic Kuchmaner scored from third to make it a 2-0 game.
Steubenville escaped trouble in the second inning after three of the first four Youngstown batters reached. A line drive-turned-double play by first baseman Jim Panella stranded two and kept the game close. That was until the bottom of the third inning.
“I thought we had a shot,” said Banks. “I feel fortunate; I think we are one of the only teams they didn’t score a bunch of runs on. That’s kind of a moral victory right there. They are a great team. My hat’s off to them.”
Youngstown began to time up Petrella, notching a walk and a single in its first two at-bats. Alex Young replaced Petrella, but fared about the same. He walked Sean Coyne to load the bases and then gave up an RBI single to Dan Ferguson. Young then walked the next batter to force in a run before allowing a two-run single to Drew Delsignore, making it a 6-0 game.
Panella came on to pitch and immediately gave up a single to Ryan Strollo and a sacrifice fly to Christopher Maze, which scored another run. Kuchmaner then stepped in and hit an 0-1 pitch over the left-center field wall to run the score to 10-0.
“Once they started getting the ball over the plate, we started hitting it,” said Landis.
Youngstown continued to threaten after a hit batter and a pair of walks loaded the bases with two out, but Panella got Brandon Richie swinging to end the inning.
With the lead in hand, Youngstown simply had to get through the next six outs to earn a regional berth. That’s exactly what happened, though with a little drama. Steubenville had a pair of singles in the top of the fourth, but a fielder’s choice and a groundout ended the threat. Then, in the fifth, Steubenville had two on before a pop-up ended the game.
“It is always difficult, especially coming back after an 11-inning game, but that’s the nature of the beast,” said Banks. “It was a long tournament. Rain hindered us a little bit, but like I said, I am very proud of our kids.”
The Ohio Valley Regional begins play on Friday, July 31. Youngstown will face Eastern Kentucky in the opening game at 11:15 a.m.
“All we’ve got to do is play fundamental baseball,” Landis said. “If we limit our mistakes and get our pitching working, our hitting will come. Hitting is not our problem. I think defensively, we can’t make any mistakes, and our pitchers have to throw like they should.”