Little League Team Advances All the Way to Final Four

Rye’s All-Star 9- and 10-year-old baseball team did it the hard way. After being walloped 11-1 by Harrison in their first game of the District 20 playoffs, manager Matt Anderson’s charges came roaring back to beat both Thornwood’s Sherman Park and Kensico in dramatic one-run contests, each a last-inning, walk-off affair.

Front row, left to right: Henry Cetina, Aidan Anderson, Finn Westerink, Henry Friedrich, and Troy Egan; middle row: Jason Ciardiello, Jamie Abt, Grant Meyerson, Will Tonkel, Rick Burke, and Andrew Barbara; back row: Gary Ciardiello, Matt Anderson,and Steve Barbara. Not pictured: Yoshihide Sato.

The team, ironically designated as the visitors at Disbrow Field by the tournament schedule, took on Ardsley July 1. Lacking the services of starter Yoshihide Sato, they still came out swinging. After falling behind by a run in the first, Will Tonkel doubled to the fence in right-center, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a towering fly to left by Grant Meyerson.

Hurler Jason Ciardiello got a couple of comebackers to the mound and a strikeout to close out the second, and two more strikeouts in the bottom of the third, finishing with seven in all.

Rye edged ahead in the fourth, when Henry Cetina’s high fly beyond first base fell in for a double. He was safe on a bang-bang play at third after Tonkel’s hard grounder to short. Andrew Barbara came in to run for Cetina and immediately scored on another wild pitch. Rick Burke’s Texas Leaguer fell in later to make it 3-1.

Rye put the game away with a lot more of their patented “last-inning lightning”: Tonkel and Troy Egan smacked sharp singles to left and, with two down, a couple of walks forced in Rye’s fourth run. Barbara’s Baltimore chop plated another. Finally, Ciardiello helped himself by belting a double between right and center, clearing the bases. He took third on the throw, but was called out at home on one more Ardsley wild pitch, when he beat the throw but never reached the plate with his slide.

Still, it was 8-1, which is how it ended when a hard liner to right was gloved to take the game for Rye.

The following Tuesday, Rye fell to White Plains 3-2 when the Plainsmen managed to load the bases in the sixth and beat a throw home on the final play of the season. The loss left Harrison, White Plains, and Eastchester to battle it out for the title.

Kudos to coaches Anderson, Gary Ciardiello, and Steve Barbara for melding young but talented individuals into a “true team”, as Matt Anderson put it, in just two and a half weeks.

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