The 2012 New York State 12-year-old Little League tournament opened Tuesday with Long Island’s only representative, the North Bellmore-North Merrick Rebels, winning their first game.
The Rebels defeated Colonie Little League from Albany County, 7-5, advancing a step closer to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The Rebels will play 2 p.m. Wednesday at North Shore Little League’s Rocky Point complex against Section 4’s representative, Stony Point from Rockland County.
“The game was very well played, very well coached,” said Gary Catalanotto, North Shore Little League’s president. “They were hard, tough kids. It was a pretty even match up but North Bellmore-North Merrick got a couple of key hits that pulled them to victory.”
The Rebels won Long Island’s Section 6 championship game on Saturday against Commack South to earn a spot in the 12-year-old division of the state tournament.
This year’s state tournament gives the best six teams in New York the chance to play each other throughout the week. The tournament is double elimination, so a team is dropped after losing twice.
Games will continue over the week until four of the six teams have lost twice, eliminating them from contention. The finals are scheduled for Sunday at noon.
The winner of the state championship then heads to Bristol, Conn. to compete in the regional tournament for the chance to be the Mid-Atlantic Representative at this year’s Little League World Series.
“I’m thrilled our Section 6 team North Bellmore-North Merrick came away with a win Tuesday and I hope they continue their strong play,” said Gina Bitsimis, assistant Section 6 coordinator.
Colonie Little League struck first Tuesday afternoon, putting up one run in the first inning. The North Bellmore-North Merrick Rebels scored one run in the second, before Colonie made the score 2-1 in their favor by the end of the third inning.
In the top of the fourth, the Rebels’ bats erupted for four runs to push the score to 5-2. A triple by Kevin McCleneghan with three runners on cleared the bases, scoring Eric Solomon, Nick Valeriano and Matthew Nilsen. Jack Delaney followed with a ground ball to the short-stop to bring McCleneghan home.
“It was a seeing-eye triple,” said Catalanotto. “Not the hardest hit ball, but it cleared the bases.”
Colonie scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, as a home run off the bat of Devan Kruzinski pulled the score back within one run to 5-4.
North Bellmore-North Merrick followed up with one run each in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, Colonie scored one run before a grounder to second base off the bat of Brendan Mulson ended the game.
“Both teams played great,” said Paul Guido, District 36 administrator. “It came down to two outs, two strikes, bases loaded in the sixth inning; the last play of the game.”