With a 1-2 record going in to the final day of Big League World Series pool play, the Eastern Regional Champions—an all-star team comprised of young men from District 28/Chester County—had a chance to a earn a berth in the United States Championship. All they had to do was win their game against the Southeast Champions from Clearwater and hold their opponent to fewer than seven runs.
Holding the Floridians to fewer than seven runs happened. Winning the game did not. A bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the 7th inning gave the Southeast Champions a 4-3 victory and prevented the Chester Country squad from moving on in the World Series.
The locals had their chances. In fact, through the four games, the squad had bases loaded eight times, and at least half of them were with zero or one outs.
“The games were all tight, but here at the World Series, one run and one base hit a game are the difference between 1-3 and 4-0. I think we can pitch with any of these teams [the District 28 pitchers gave up only three earned runs in 28 innings—all of them in the final game against Florida] and play defense with any of these teams,” said Manager Mike Robinson. “But when it came to our hitting, we struggled.”
In what turned out to be the Eastern champs final game, Florida took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. The Chesco squad came back in the bottom of the inning when Joe Zirolli reached base on an error, stole second, and reached third when the Southeastern catcher overthrew the second baseman trying to catch Zirolli stealing. He then scored on a base hit by Matt Foster.
In the top of the third, Brendan Overton smacked a two-run homer to put Florida up 3-1. “Alex [Pechin, the East’s starting pitcher] did what he always does: he brought all his good stuff with him to the mound today,” Robinson said. “He hung one pitch, and the Florida kid got it,” Robinson said.
Pechin led off the bottom of the fourth inning by leading off with a single to centerfield and giving way to Chris Tucker as a pinch runner. David Villane and Zirolli were hit by a pitch and walked respectively to load the bases. With one out, Tucker scored on a wild pitch. Villane was tagged out during a rundown between third and home. Zirolli scored the last Eastern run on another Florida error and tied the game at 3-3.
Florida relief pitcher Cameron Churchill shut down the Eastern champs’ offense from the fifth inning on. Hawks pitched to nine batters over three innings, giving up only a leadoff single to Sean Faux and striking out six. “Hawks showed our guys some really good stuff, especially a curveball in to the dirt. He was as good as his stats,” Robinson said.
The Southeast squad loaded the bases in the top of the 7th inning via a dropped third strike, a bunt down the third base line, and a walk. Having reached 100 pitches, Pechin left the game. Elliott Forde gave up the sacrifice fly that ultimately scored the winning run.
In their first three pool play games, the Eastern champs lost to the Western squad from California, 3-1, again facing a pitcher with “good stuff,” Robinson said. Wyatt Birg pitched all seven innings and held the East to five hits, striking out seven, walking two. In the second game, four errors by the Chester County squad hurt the team’s chances in a 3-1 loss to the Central Champion from Michigan.
Behind the strength of its own pitching, the Eastern champs defeated the Southwest champs from Texas as Ryan Barrett pitched a two-hit shutout. That win set up the must-win scenario for the Chesco All-Stars in their final pool play game.