NEW HARTFORD, NY — When you sign on with the North Central Class C All-Stars, you had better make sure your car is well-maintained.
The North Central team, which includes players from Lowville, Beaver River and South Lewis, have to travel twenty minutes every day just to practice. For Tuesday night’s State regional game in New Hartford, they had to drive over an hour. Nevertheless, there was a full contingent of family and fans cheering them on.
“All 12 kids love baseball,” North Central head coach Chris Villiere said. “Even when we practice, we’re spread out. We may come from an hour away, but we’ve had some great fan support.”
“I like when my parents, my grandparents, my family come [to my games],” North Central catcher (and Coach Villiere’s son) Brycen said. “It’s really fun.”
On Tuesday, they were facing a team that has its own overwhelming fan support in the New Hartford Class C All-Stars. The future Spartans had their own rough road to get here, needing an extra game to beat Whitestown in the District 10 title series. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s game was where the road ended for New Hartford, as Villiere had a 3-RBI game in North Central’s 7-3 victory. With the win, North Central will move on to the New York State Little League Championship.
“We didn’t really have a good game today…we made a lot of mistakes,” New Hartford starter JP Lazzaro said. “That’s okay, we’re human, we all make mistakes.”
The New Hartford batters got off to a good start in the very first inning, however, helped along by their very own pitcher. Lazzaro smacked a bloop single into left field to start off the game with a double just six pitches into the game. He would eventually come home on another hit to left field, this time by first baseman Benny Fiorentino to give New Hartford a quick 1-0 lead. On the mound, Lazzaro was hot as the sun that was beating down on the field, stranding two North Central baserunners in the first.
Unfortunately, that was where the wheels began to fall off the proverbial wagon for New Hartford. Lazzaro would begin the second inning by walking the first two batters in the second inning (one of which would eventually score) and allowing Cade Getman, Villiere and Karter Kloster to pick up RBIs on three straight hits. That turned what was a 1-0 lead into a 4-1 deficit for the Spartans. Despite that, neither Lazzaro nor New Hartford head coach John Randall was going to let them go quietly.
“Coach told us to keep our heads up, we’re still in this game,” Lazzaro said. “I told them we can hit, we’re a good hitting team.”
“We were a little sloppy,” Randall said. “There were some nerves, but when you’re ten, that happens. We didn’t play well, but that’s olay. The Whitestown games took a lot out of us, but I told them that District 10 title doesn’t go away.”
While New Hartford was able to get some timely hits off of starter Cade Getman, Kloster came off the bench and pitched just as admirably, keeping runners off of the basepaths and keeping only one run on the scoreboard. On the other side, mistakes continued to haunt New Hartford, as while they were able to keep zeroes on the scoreboard for North Central, timely hitting up and down the order kept them from mounting much of a comeback.
“We gave up that run [in the first] and we bounced back,” the elder Villiere said. “We hit the ball down the order and we shut down their momentum. We told them to make them make three plays rather than just one with the pop fly, [and] we were selective.”
That selectivity helped the North Central team pick up another three runs in the top of the fourth inning. It started with a hard-hit single by Caleb Forney (who would also eventually score), and despite a valiant effort from reliever Byron Thornley, back-to-back singles brought another two runs home in the inning before Thornley forced Isaac Roes to strike out to end the fourth.
New Hartford came back strong in the top of the fifth, albeit with a little bit of controversy. After a late call of interference was made by the third-base umpire, Luke LaFountain was able to come home after stopping and starting a run home. Thornley would try to help his own cause as well, as Luke’s brother Patrick brought him home on back-to back hits. However, Kloster would stand strong on the mound, forcing two quick outs to end the threat.
While Thornley finished the game valiantly with three strikeouts and two stranded baserunners in the bottom of the inning, they could not touch Kloster, who grabbed two strikeouts of his own, including the game clincher that sent North Central to the state tournament.
“We hit well, we fielded well, we played well,” Kloster said. “It turned out to be a really good game for us.”
“They battled,” Randall said simply of his team, who finishes the All-Star Little League season at 4-2. “There was no quit for them. [Lazzaro] threw strikes, but bad timing for us, good timing for them got us behind. They’re ten years old… I told them Water Safari is still open for them. Now they’ll get to have some fun.”
The season is not quite over for Lazzaro and some of his teammates, however. They will move on to another league playing for the New Hartford Spartan Express, hoping to keep their great season rolling.
“We’ve got a little more baseball to play,” Lazzaro said. “Then, in the offseason, we have some practicing to do.”
Mid-York Sports Report would like to congratulate the New Hartford All-Stars on a great season!
North Central All-Stars 7, New Hartford All-Stars 3
New York State Tournament
NH 1 0 0 2 0 0 3 8 2
NC 0 4 0 3 0 X 7 9 2
WP- Cade Getman
LP – JP Lazzaro
SV – Karter Kloster
NH — Byron Thornley.
2B: Lazzaro (NH), Patrick LaFountain (NH), Kloster (NC).
Records: North Central 6-0, New Hartford 4-2.