Honesdale National Bank Philies capture league crown
To say that the 2019 Honesdale Little Baseball Association season was fraught with unexpected challenges would be an understatement
Thanks to another extended spate of wet weather and the emergence of a rival youth circuit, the HLBA was forced to make several major changes on the fly this spring.
Under the direction of longtime President Charlie Rollison, the league re-vamped its format, adjusted its schedule and made the best of a tough situation.
“I really think the most important thing I can say about the season is that all the players and the coaches had a great time,” Charlie said. “I loved watching every team improve as the season went along.
“Every player was eager to learn and they all did their very best.”
On the Diamond
This year's edition of the HLBA featured 12 teams and nearly 150 players, ranging in age from four to 11. The t-ball division featured eight squads, while the upper division had four.
Playoffs came early this season, but every game was exciting. When the dust settled, the Phillies and Dodgers battled it out for the 2019 championship.
Honesdale National Bank powered its way to a first place finish in the regular season standings this year.
Under the watchful eye of Coach Rollison, a scrappy HNB squad posted an overall record of 10-2-2.
Dirlam Brothers finished in second place with a total of eight wins, while Wayne Bank wound up third and Elegante was fourth.
The Phillies overpowered the Giants in the first semi-final. This set the stage for a championship game battle with the Dodgers, who eliminated the Braves in the other half of the bracket.
The title tilt was played on Thursday, June 13 and it quickly evolved into a wild slugfest that had a big crowd at Freddie Reisch Field clamoring for more.
Wayne Bank surged out to an early lead and held onto that advantage into the bottom of the fourth when HNB staged what proved to be the game-winning rally.
Cornelius Kline paced the Phillies offensive assault. The slugging first baseman crushed a homerun to punctuate the uprising.
Kline was one of the HLBA's most feared power hitters all spring and closed out the campaign as the league's homerun champ.
Charlie Rollison played a stellar game at shortstop, contributing big plays on offense and defense. He was aided and abetted by infielders Brayden Fritsch, Ethan DeRoss and Caleb Kresge.
Dylan Fuller, Jackson Kline and Jake D'Albora also chipped in with key contributions.
The final score was an eye-popping 19-15.
“In all my years of in this league, this is the first time we've ever played against the Dodgers in the finals,” Charlie said. “It's kind of ironic when you stop and think about it...”
The reason for that irony is the tragic and unexpected death of longtime Wayne Bank head coach Scott Kinzinger.
A member of the Wayne Area Sports Hall of Fame, Kinzinger skippered the Dodgers for more than three decades. He passed away just before the 2019 season was set to begin.
Making it all the way to the championship game was quite a coup considering what the Dodgers had to go through this year.
The unenviable task of succeeding a local baseball legend fell to Matt Abbott, who's been an assistant under Kinzinger.
“I coached with Scott for the past five years, so I knew right away that I'd have to step in,” Matt said.
“I had a great group of parents, so that made things a whole lot easier.”
Coach Abbott went on to explain that his players worked hard and really came together as the season progressed.
“From where the kids started that first practice to finishing the season coming in second place was night and day,” he said. “Every kid was hitting the ball, every kid was fielding the ball and I believe every kid had fun. So, all in all I think it was a good year.”
Nate Aquino, Abel Brand, Maddox Johnson, Joey Carlson and Maddison Miller paced the Wayne Bank attack this spring.
Aquino is an eight-year-old who demonstrated remarkable versatility. Nate played all over the field, even taking a turn on the mound and recording a couple of strikeouts.
Brand is also a budding diamond star who excelled at the plate and in the field. He flashed some serious Gold Glove leather during the season and delivered several clutch doubles in key situations.
Johnson stepped up as a leader. A 10-year-old that many of the younger players looked up to, Maddox set an excellent example by working hard on his fielding and hitting.
Carlson is just six and became known for his tenacity and fearlessness. According to his coach, Joey was good for “a couple of hits every game” and his fielding was “way above average, especially for a kid his age.”
Miller crushed the Dodgers' lone homerun of the season, an inside-the-park two-run shot during the championship game.