Tim Rogers wanted the ball.
With his up by two runs and a division title on the line in extra innings, he wanted the pressure.
And the senior right-hander delivered. He struck out seven, including Central’s final two batters, and drove in the winning run as the Hawks clinched the Shore Conference Class B South title with a 5-3, eight-inning victory under the lights at Berkeley Little League’s Leiter Field on Monday night.
Manchester, which share the Class B South title with Brick last year, won its first outright title since 2007. It is the Hawks’ first back-to-back championships since 1996 and 1997. Manchester shared the title with Brick Memorial in 1996 before winning it outright in 1997.
“These young men have had to fight for this every game,” said John Musolf, who has been Manchester’s head coach since 1997. “The beautiful part is they never gave up.”
That was certainly true Monday night against Central, when the Hawks had to rally from a three-run deficit.
Rogers set the tempo for his team, however. The senior gained confidence and intensity as the game went along, firing in strikes and seemingly throwing harder as the game reached the latter innings.
“He’s a competitor,” Musolf said. “He wanted the ball in the eighth inning.”
“This was a game we wanted,” Rogers said. “They beat us the first time (a 6-5 win by Central on April 18) and we wanted this one.”
Rogers’ bat was just as important. He reached base in the seventh inning, driving a 2-1 pitch from James Canning to short that would have gone into left field if not for a nice bare-handed grab off a bad hop by Central shortstop Connor Stacey. He then scored on Matt Zingaro’s two-run double. In the eighth inning , Rogers came through, drilling a single to right field off Central reliever Wes Krempel that drove in Shaun Wernock for the winning run. Ryan Kenny then hit a shot to third that handcuffed the third baseman, allowing Devin Tomei to come home and giving Manchester an insurance run.
“Their pitcher had just walked Tomei, so I knew he didn’t want to fall behind again,” Rogers said. “It was a first-pitch fastball and I knew it was coming, and it found the gap (between first and second).”
“It felt good to drive in that run, because you’re helping yourself,” he said. “When you help yourself, it gives you more confidence on the mound.”
Central took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Kenny Beyrouty reached on a ball that got past the Manchester third baseman, advanced to second on Connor Stacy’s perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. Mike Puglisi’s fly ball to left center fell in for a single that allowed Beyrouty to score, then junior Tom Clark smacked a triple to center field score Puglisi. Troy Enderson-Sigrist’s single to right plated Clark. Rogers stopped Central from scoring further by striking out the next batter and inducing a pop-up.
Manchester replied with a run in the top of the fourth. With one out, Pat Manturi walked, then and reached second on a fielder’s choice when Jeremy Carney hit a chopper back to Canning, who threw to first for the putout. Dan Tuma then hit a grounder that Canning fielded cleanly, but his throw got away at first base, allowing Tuma to reach and scoring Manturi. When Canning walked the next two batters, it appeared Manchester was going to tie the game, but Central got out of the inning when Enderson-Sigrist made a diving stop on a ball hit by Rogers, then threw to Canning, who just beat Rogers to first for the third out.
Manchester had another opportunity in the top of the fifth, when Zingaro reached first on a fielder’s choice, but a great diving catch by Clark in center field ended the threat.
Central threatened in the bottom of the fifth, when Puglisi singled and Enderson-Sigrist and Julian Cimino walked to load the bases with one out. But Rogers ended the threat by striking out the next batter and inducing a grounder to third for an easy putout by Ed White.
In the top of the seventh, Manchester capitalized at last. Rogers reached on a bobbled ball, and White walked. Zingaro then doubled deep to center to drive in both Rogers and White and tie the game. Canning ended the threat by inducing a fly ball and getting a strikeout, but the damage had been done.
“I knew it was now or never,” Zingaro said. “Their pitcher was tough to figure out, but the ball was in my wheelhouse.”
“We fought hard,” said Central coach John Scran. “The offense is not going to win every game. These were two quality pitchers tonight.”
Local boy honored
Jason Nasr, a 9-year-old from Berkeley, threw out the game’s first pitch at Leiter Field, home of the Berkeley Little League. Nasr is a member of the Berkeley Little League but has been unable to play this spring as he battles a form of muscle cancer.
The league dedicated the night – its annual hosting of high school baseball under the lights – to Nasr, and held a 50-50 to help defray some of the family’s medical expenses.
Both teams posed with Nasr after the ceremonial pitch, and the Central players also signed a baseball for Nasr as a keepsake of the game.