Hundreds of fans gathered at the Grove Street Complex Monday evening to help the Honesdale Little Baseball Association celebrate Opening Day of the 2013 campaign.
Longtime HLBA President Charlie Rollison once again played Master of Ceremonies as the venerable youth diamond circuit began its 59th season.
"I'm thrilled that Opening Day is finally here," Charlie said with a smile. "Mother Nature hasn't really cooperated much up until the last couple days, so we're all extremely happy to see the sun."
According to Rollison, most teams managed to utilize only between 30 and 40 percent of their allotted pre-season practice time due to unseasonable weather.
However, this lack of preparation didn't seem to faze players, coaches and fans who turned out in force to welcome back our National Pastime.
"I'm really looking forward to the season," Charlie said. "We've got close to 350 kids in the league this year and the teams are well-balanced, so it should be a fun season."
The HLBA is open to boys and girls between the ages of four and 12. All told, there are 20 teams in four distinct divisions: T-Ball, Rookie, Junior and Senior.
The 2013 season will see each team play 15 games before playoffs commence.
The schedule will wrap up following year-end All Stars and Wayne County Commissioners tournaments.
Honesdale's own Paul Meagher threw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday.
A longtime supporter of youth sports in Wayne County, Paul volunteered as a coach for many years with the then-Rotary Yankees.
He also served as HLBA president, succeeding Leroy Spoor in that capacity.
"I'm very honored that they asked me to throw out the first pitch," he said. "This brings back so many wonderful memories."
Page 2 of 4 - Paul has been a fixture on the local real estate scene for decades and he doesn't hesitate to show off the Maple City's state-of-the art facility.
"When I have a young couple looking to move into our community, one of the first places I take them is right up here to the Little League field," he said.
"I'm proud to show them this great complex because it's a tribute to the kids and all the volunteers who put in so much time here."
To the elder Meagher, the best part of Monday's ceremony was throwing the first pitch to his grandson, whose name is also Paul, a catcher for the Braves.
"It's an emotional experience, that's for sure," Paul said. "To have Paulie back there catching me is really something special."
Opening Day featured games on all three Grove Street diamonds.
The marquee match-up pitted Coach Rollison's Philles against the Dodgers, skippered by Wayne County Sports Hall of Famer Scott Kinzinger.
This Senior Division contest took place at Fred Reisch Memorial Field and went right down to the wire.
When the final out was recorded, HNB had hung an 8-6 loss on Wayne Bank.
Anthony Dell'Aquila earned the pitching decision in this one, working four brilliant innings of relief and piling up 11 strikeouts.
Jack Dennis was the Phillies starter and went two before handing tha ball off to Dell'Aquila.
Jack Cavanaugh delivered the biggest basehit of the night for HNB. The young slugger roped a 2-run single in the top of the sixth.
Also coming through with clutch hits for the Phillies were Caleb Martin (2-for-3) and Zack Doherty (2-for-3). Dell'Aquila helped his own cause with two knocks.
Page 3 of 4 - Steve Soden took the hill for Wayne Bank and absorbed the hard-luck loss. He pitched five innings and fanned nine before yielding to the bullpen.
Jimmy Rodda worked the final two frames and struck out two.
Clayton Martin enjoyed a perfect 3-for-3 day at the dish, while Colby Gregory and Soden added two hits apiece.
Connor Eisele blasted a triple in the bottom of the second.
Meanwhile, down at Ed Rickard Memorial Field, the Tigers and Giants were engaging in an epic battle.
This one went into extra innings before Dr. Hubbard's finally eked out a 6-4 victory.
Cole Bannan played the hero's role for the Tigers. Bannan pitched six innings, clubbed a 2-run homer and ignited the game-winning rally.
Will Howell earned the starting nod for Elegante and showed a great deal of resolve in the teeth of a hard-hitting Tigers line-up.
Bannan solved Howell in the top of the fourth with a towering homer to straightaway center. Will shrugged it off, though, and remained in the game through all six innings of regulation.
In the meantime, Elegante rallied to tie the score and force extra innings.
There, Bannan struck again with an RBI and run scored that sealed the deal on a wild 6-4 win.
Howell paced the Giants with two singles, a double and two runs scored. Max Alessi banged out two hits of his own, while Ben Williams and Luke Flederbach chipped in with safeties.
Nick Bochnovich, Tim Jackson and Alex Ashley also contrbuted key hits.
Noah Pender came on in relief of Bannan for Dr. Hubbard's. The fireballing righty walked the bases loaded, but then struck out the side to earn the mound decision.
Page 4 of 4 - Grand Finale
The final game of Opening Day took place at Joe Cobb Memorial Field and saw the Pirates roll to an 8-1 victory over the Braves.
David Curreri pitched four innings of one-hit ball. He piled up nine strikeouts en route ro the decision.
Nate Frigoletto and Cade Labracio worked an inning apiece in relief to preserve the win.
Offensively, Max Land led the assault by reaching base safely three times. He ripped a single, walked twice scored one run and drove in another.
Frigoletto helped the cause with an RBI double and a run scored.