Local lads advance to tournament finals in the league's first year of existence

A big. enthusiastic crowd of local baseball fans traveled to the Robert J. Mellow Sports Complex in Scranton Monday to witness a little bit of diamond history.

They made the trek to Kennedy-Vola Memorial Field to cheer on the Wayne Highlands Little League All-Stars in their first-ever appearance at the District 32 tournament.

And the local lads did not disappoint. Led by Manager Brandon Flynn, the 8-10s piled up one win after another until they found themselves in the finals.

“I'm so proud of these kids,” Coach Flynn said.

“They've only been playing together for about two weeks now, but they really came together. It's been a lot of fun seeing them become a team.”

Unfortunately, Wayne Highlands ran out of gas in the championship game. The score was tied 5-5 in the fifth, but then Green Ridge pulled away for a convincing 13-6 win.

“The heart these kids showed game after game was pretty amazing,” said Coach Flynn. “We kept getting down early, but then we kept battling back. I just can't say enough good things about this team.”

On Their Way

Wayne Highlands opened its gold medal quest with a razor-thin 7-6 win over Carbondale.

The local lads followed that up with a 6-5 victory over Dickson City before suffering back-to-back losses. The first was a 6-3 decision at the hands of Lakeland and then a 10-5 setback to Green Ridge.

To their undying credit, Coach Flynn’s boys bounced right back. They defeated Archbald by a score of 6-5 and then got a bit of revenge in knocking out Lakeland, 9-8.

This win catapulted Wayne Highlands into the title tilt. However, in order to capture the district crown, the local lads would have to down undefeated Green Ridge twice.

Game One was scheduled for Monday with a second contest set for Wednesday night if necessary.

Joel Flynn drew the starting mound assignment and turned in a gutsy effort. The 10-year-old righty battled his way into the fifth inning before finally yielding to the bullpen.

Flynn threw a total of 78 pitches. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking three.

He left due to pitch count rules with one out in the top of the fifth. Duke Martin came on in relief, followed by Nate Schuman.

Blow By Blow

Offensively, Green Ridge struck first with one run in the opening frame. They increased that advantage to 3-0 with two in the top of the second.

Wayne Highlands got on the board in the bottom of the frame. Martin and Brayden Maciejewski each worked a walk, then moved up on a passed ball.

This set the stage for Flynn, who stepped up and roped an RBI single to right. Martin raced home, cutting the deficit to 3-1.

Green Ridge tacked on two more runs in the third, but Wayne Highlands refused to fold, scoring four runs in their next two at-bats to tie things at 5-5.

Connor Tirney reached on an infield error to open the bottom of the third. Martin and Maciejeski then worked back-to-back walks which loaded the bases.

Abraham Bryant forced in the first run with a walk of his own, cutting the lead to 5-2. Reese Dennis made it 5-3 with yet another free pass.

Flynn then strode to the dish and helped his own cause again. Joel lashed a line single to left, plating Maciejewski. However, Green Ridge executed a perfect relay and Bryant was out at the plate.

Wayne Highlands tied the score in the bottom of the fourth. Tirney smoked a one-out double that bounced off the fence in left center. Ethan Corso worked a walk and both runners moved up on a wild pitch.

Silas Myers then came through in the clutch with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Tirney and tied the game.

Headed Home

Sadly for the hometown faithful, Green Ridge dominated the final two frames, scoring eight runs and pulling away for an eventual 13-6 victory.

Nevertheless, Wayne Highlands made a big impression on all those in attendance, advancing to the finals in just its first year of existence as a league.

“I thought getting to the championship game in our first try was probably a long shot,” Coach Flynn said. “But, you have to hand it to the kids. They're a really great group. They just never give up no matter what the situation.”

When asked about the biggest strength of this team, Coach Flynn didn't hesitate for a second.

“Defense!” he exclaimed. “This is the best defensive team of kids this age that I've ever seen. They make plays all over the field. We wouldn't be here in the championship game without that defense. It's been fun to watch.”

Shortstop Connor Tirney and first baseman Reese Dennis each turned in a stellar play in the finals.

Tirney saved a run with a diving backhand snag of a sizzling line drive deep in the hole. Dennis made a sprawling play on a hard-hit grounder. He then scrambled to his feet and beat the Green Ridge runner to the bag by just half a step.

“The future definitely looks bright,” said Coach Flynn. “These kids are just getting started. They're going to be together for a few more years and if they keep playing like this, there's no telling what they can accomplish.”