Little League Champions Rockies Roll and Purple Reigns

Special to the Transcript

The Orioles and manager Paul Pellechia had their backs against the wall on Monday June 10th when Patrick O’Mara-Gomis took the mound against the Angels.  Both teams had lost on Sunday and faced elimination in the B Division playoff tournament.  But O’Mara-Gomis dug deep and came up big on the mound and at the plate as he also hit a home run for the Orioles, keeping them alive for another day as the Orioles won in a slugfest, 19-13. 

On Wednesday it was Marissa MacMullen who pitched a complete game gem against the Dodgers.  She also came up with a timely bases-loaded double in the first inning to set the tone offensively, and the Orioles prevailed 10-2.  Just like that, the Cinderella squad and 4th place seed had overcome a first round defeat and earned their way into the championship game.  But they would need to wait another day, as the Thursday night showdown with the Rockies would be postponed until Friday night because of rain.

The Rockies meanwhile, were feeling confident after their 8-0 victory over the Orioles in round one Sunday June 9. That day Francesca Indrisano, Joe Dalton and Luke Griffin combined for the shutout.  Dalton, while pitching, had made an amazing snag when JJ Melchionda smashed a line-drive right back at him in the second inning.  “That catch saved us at least two runs, and probably saved Joe his teeth!” quipped Coach Jack Joyce.  Orioles manager Pellechia commented “JJ has come up big for us all over the field and at the plate all year.  I thought he’d done it again, but that catch was something else!”

On Tuesday night the Rockies faced the Dodgers, and starting pitcher Danny Connolly.  The Rockies batters oohed and ahhed as they watched Connolly fire in his warm-up pitches before the bottom of the first.  “He throws hard,” acknowledged Rockies second baseman Will Beattie, who had taken a Connolly pitch in the back earlier in the season.  But the Rockies breathed easier after a one-out single by Dalton and an RBI double by Griffin, who would later be driven in by Owen Carver, giving the Rockies a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish, ultimately winning 12-0, highlighted by a bases loaded triple by Dalton in the second inning.  Dalton had also started the game at pitcher, going 2 1/3 innings before handing off the ball to Antonio Sullivan who closed out the inning, and Luke Griffin who would lock down the fourth.  “Hats off to those kids,” commented Rockies manager Greg Sullivan, “they’re a very good team, and they have a lot of heart.  They never let up.”  

Friday afternoon the sun shone brightly, and the field was in great shape when the Rockies took the filed.  They had finished the regular season in first place with a 10-4-1 record, but their last defeat was at the hands of these same Orioles.  That was on coach Kim Griffin’s mind during pre-game warm-ups.  “These kids can hit,” said Griffin, ”we’re going to need to be sure to score runs if we’re going to beat this team.”  Coach Steve Indrisano agreed, “They’re a good team, and they play ‘till the end.  Just because we beat them in round one doesn’t mean anything tonight.”

But Luke Griffin took the mound and took control of the day, pitching a complete game no-hitter.  Meanwhile the offense took care of business scoring 5 in the 1st, highlighted by an Indrisano 2 run double.  But Orioles pitcher Kyle Johnson settled down and shut them down in the second.  Then they scored another 5 in the third, to go up 10-0 heading to the last inning.  “We were still nervous,” admitted Sullivan, “things can turn on a dime.  We had a 10 run lead earlier in the season against he Dodgers and we were lucky to walk away with a tie!  No lead is really safe, and Luke was nearing his pitch limit, but we had everyone ready if we needed them, Franny (Indrisano), Joe (Dalton), Antonio (Sullivan), and we felt good turning to Beattie or DaSilva too.  But Luke was not to be denied tonight!  10 strikeouts, no hits! What a performance!”

In all, the Rockies pitchers combined for three shutouts, not allowing a run in the playoffs (IP: Griffin 7.1; Dalton 3; Indrisano 1; Sullivan .2), in fact, Rockies pitching only allowed 2 hits in the playoff run, as they outscored their playoff opponents 30-0.

While distributing the trophies Sullivan took the time to recognize each of his players “These kids are just an amazing group,” Sullivan announced, “They started the season at all different levels of experience and talent, and they all were coach-able and worked their tails off.  It’s been a pleasure to coach them, and I know I speak for the other coaches when I say that.  The parents of these kids should be awfully proud of the people that they’re becoming.”

“Jordan DaSilva, new to Winthrop Little League this year, rose to every occasion and came up big when we needed him with his glove and bat, and even closing out a few games; Speedy Will Beattie tore up the base paths and became a solid hitter; Owen Carver never played baseball before, but he showed up early to every practice and game, paid attention and tried hard everyday and became a feared presence in the order; Michael Gergarian was our quiet leader in the outfield and an extremely patient hitter; Antonio Sullivan worked awfully hard to improve as a hitter as well as a pitcher and catcher; Liam Gallagher was tough as nails, there’s no quit in this kid!  We saw his hustle backing up every throw and he locked down left field; Brady Aiello was persistent and overcame some jitters in the batter’s box after getting hit by pitches a few times early in the season; Luke Griffin has a ton of talent, but he’s coach-able-  he listens, and has tremendous focus, and is a great teammate; Evan DeMayo didn’t play last year, but with athleticism and hard work he became a trusted glove at 3b,1b and C as well as a beast at the plate; Francesca Indrisano was our vocal leader, always rallying the troops, she spoke loudly and carried a big stick, coming up with some huge hits all season. Being able to coach her for two years now, I am tremendously proud of the player she has become; and Joe Dalton, the purple people eater himself, just so clutch all year with his bat, glove and pitching, he’s a remarkable player and such a nice kid.” 

As the Rockies celebrated they sang “The Purple People Eater,” a 1958 novelty song written and performed by Sheb Wooley, and “Purple Rain” by Prince, which Indrisano explained were two songs the team adopted after a team BBQ at Sullivan’s house the prior week.  “We changed ‘rain’ to ‘reign,’” added Carver.

They swigged and splashed purple Powerade, which according to coach Joyce was a theme all season.  “Each coach recognized a different player for their hustle in each game all season, and we gave them Powerade.  It was usually a very difficult decision, it was hard to narrow down to only 4 players each game because it was about the hustle, and these guys hustled all season.” 

“But today everyone gets a hustle award” Sullivan added, “and a trophy, and Purple Reigns!”

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