Three years ago, a team of HLBA 9-year-old all stars made its first trip to the Cal Ripken state tournament. There, the local lads suffered three quick losses and were eliminated.
Last summer, this same group of players returned to states as 10-year-olds. Under the guidance of Manager Joe Curreri, they served notice that Honesdale was on the rise...winning two games and nearly qualifying for the medal round.
This week, the local lads have taken the final step. On Tuesday evening in Warrington, the HLBA's 11-year-old all star team will battle Chichester for the 2012 Cal Ripken PA state championship.
"Wow...these kids have come a long way since they were 9-year-olds," Coach Curreri told TWI Sports in a phone interview Monday night. "It's been really exciting so far and tomorrow is definitely a winnable game. I don't want anyone to think I'm overconfident, but if we play the way we're capable of playing...well, we should win."
The HLBA all stars will face off with Chichester at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be played at Barness Field, 2750 Bristol Road, Warrington.
On Their Way
The competition thus far, as one might expect, has been intense.
Honesdale faced Ridley in the opening round and barely escaped with a 6-5 win. David Curreri drew the starting mound assignment and went the distance in earning the victory.
Game Two saw the HLBA all stars suffer their lone loss of the tournament, dropping a gut-wrenching 3-2 decision to Hilltop.
The local lads wasted no time in bouncing back, however. Honesdale's offense was firing on all cylinders against New Oxford en route to a 9-4 win. Cade LaBracio earned the pitching decision in this one.
Game Four was another wild one. Coach Curreri's boys had to fight tooth & nail against Unionville before finally emerging with a 5-4 victory. Anthony DeGori went to the hill and fired yet another complete game.
In Monday's semifinal showdown, Honesdale took on perennial Cal Ripken powerhouse Llanarch Hills. The two teams battled to a stalemate through four frames before Max Alessi delivered the biggest blow of his young diamond career.
Alessi, the team's catcher, came to bat in the sixth inning with the score tied 4-4 and the bases loaded. Max made the most of his chance, blasting a titanic homerun deep over the wall in left center. This grand slam gave Honesdale an 8-4 lead.
"I knew it was out as soon as he hit it," Coach Curreri said. "Max just just crushed it. That ball was a good 20-25 feel over the fence. It was a no-doubter."
Llanarch Hills rallied for two runs in its last at-bat, but Curreri dug down deep to record the final out for his second straight complete game triumph.
Page 2 of 2 - Anthony Dell'Aquila has also been providing serious pop in the middle of the HLBA batting order. Honesdale's third baseman/outfielder already has two homers to his credit.
"We're playing great," Coach Curreri said. "Everybody's contributing. It's a total team effort."
The 2012 Honesdale Little Baseball Association 11-year-old All Star roster includes: Will Howell, David Curreri, Anthony DeGori, Anthony Dell'Aquila, Nate Frigoletto, Beau Freiermuth, Max Alessi, Cade LaBracio, Jack Dennis, Andy Carroll, Ethan Dunn, Max Land.
Assistant coaches are Mike Frigoletto and Rick LaBracio.
Stay tuned to TWI Sports for full coverage of the HLBA 11s and their quest for Cal Ripken state gold in tomorrow's edition!