Mid-Monmouth Babe Ruth stars fall in Regional final

By tim morris
Staff Writer

By tim morris
Staff Writer

Pitching and defense carried the Mid-Monmouth Babe Ruth 16-year-old all-stars all the way to the finals of the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

But when those two elements went sour for just one inning, it was enough to knock them out of the tournament, played in Clinton, Md.

Leading the state champions from Pennsylvania, 3-1, headed into the last of the fifth inning, three errors and one hit led to five runs for Pennsylvania and a 6-3 lead. Pennsylvania would hold on to win 6-4 and advance to the Babe Ruth National Championships in Jamestown, N.Y.

"We matched up even with them," said Mid-Monmouth’s manager, J.P. Noval, whose team was making its debut at the regional tournament. "We just had one bad inning."

By winning three games and advancing to the Mid-Atlantic final, the Mid-Monmouth All-Stars, made up of the top players from Monmouth County, gave a valiant effort.

"When you get to that level, every team is very competitive," said Noval. "It was a great experience for the kids. Terrific.

"They played like they’d been there be­fore," he added. "They weren’t rattled. They never gave up. They played every game one inning at a time."

Mid-Monmouth’s stars made an unfor­gettable debut. Pitcher Steve Richter threw a no-hitter in the first game: a 6-0 win over the Maryland state champions. Joe Bartlinski picked up the win in the second game — 8-3 over Eastern New York.

A 7-4 loss to Pennsylvania sent Mid-Monmouth down to the loser’s bracket where it met Eastern New York again. John Leszewski was the unlikely hero in this one. The outfielder was called upon to pitch, something he hadn’t done during the playoffs, and he came through by holding the New York stars to a single run in a 7-1 win.

"We learned we had one tremendous player in John Leszewski," said Noval. "He was the surprise of the tournament for us."

That win over New York put Mid-Monmouth into the Regional final on July 29 where it would have to beat Pennsylvania twice in order to win the championship. It looked like Mid-Monmouth would force that second game until everything came undone in the fifth inning.

One positive for Mid-Monmouth was the way the offense came around. In win­ning the state championship in Jersey City in early July, the Monmouth County stand­outs struggled to score runs. That wasn’t the case at the regional tournament. Jordan Noval led the hit parade, going 9-for-15 and batting .600. He led the team with seven RBIs.

Tom Porricelli, Andy Lamboy, Steve Morreale and Chris Coulson all delivered clutch hits during the tournament.

The All-Stars were put together shortly before the state tournament. One of the re­markable achievements of the team was the way the players jelled and played like a veteran unit that had been together for an entire season.

"This was a unique group," said man­ager Noval. "They bonded and played well together. This is the best bunch of kids I have ever coached.

"Tom Porricelli and Chris Coulson were the team leaders," he added.

The Mid-Monmouth Babe Ruth 16-year-old All-Stars were: Jordan Noval, Manalapan; Bill Franks, Manalapan; Andy Lamboy, Manalapan; Steve Morreale, Freehold; Chris Coulson, Freehold; Joe DiCaro, Freehold; Steve Richter, Madison Park; Dave Rada, Madison Park; Rob Ruhl, Howell; Tom Porricelli, Howell; Mark Miglione, Hazlet; John Leszewski, Hazlet; Mike Plagianakos, Hazlet; Steve Bilowus, Hazlet; Joe Bartlinski, South Amboy and Dan Heimal, South Amboy.