South holds on to claim District 9 title

At the Junior League level, throws by catchers to second base on first and third situations are rarely attempted.

Stealing second is usually conceded by the defensive team, which often is willing to give up a free pass knowing that it's a risky 127-foot throw by a 13 or 14-year-old with a runner at third.

So when Buckingham's Mike Curley took off for second base in the sixth inning Saturday, Carlos Sosa let him go. The South Fort Myers catcher reeled in a bigger prize at third, firing the ball to Wes Fiorillo, who tagged out Ryan Connelly. The potential tying run was caught wandering too far down the line.

"That was pretty big," said South manager Bill Fiorillo. "We practice that a little bit. I guess the guy got a little too aggressive and they were able to pull it off. That was a big out for us."

Indeed, the out halted a three-run Buckingham rally as South held on for a 5-4 win to capture the District 9 Junior League championship at Sam Fleischman Complex in Fort Myers.

"I was a little nervous in the dugout," admitted South starting catcher Emory Mandala, "but I knew Carlos had that guy at third once he whipped it down there."

Thanks to Connelly's two-run single, Buckingham had closed to within one-run. But after Connelly got picked off, Victor Cossio lined out to right to end the inning.

Starter Nick LeVally needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order in the seventh, sealing the championship for South, a victory scented with a hint of redemption.

"We missed out on it in our 12-year-old year," said Mandala. "A lot of us are still together. Winning this was really exciting. I can't wait to get onto Venice. I think we'll do pretty good. We have a really strong team."

South is scheduled to begin Section 6 pool play Friday at 6 p.m. in Venice. Other games will be Saturday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. All Junior games will be at Well Field.

In last Saturday's win, Jake Kostel ignited South's offense on two occasions. Batting clean-up, Kostel enjoyed a perfect day at the plate with a walk, double, infield hit, two runs scored, one RBI and two steals.

South Fort Myers' Junior All-Stars take a victory lap with the District 9 banner following their 5-4 win against Buckingham on Saturday.

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON, Banner

South Fort Myers' Junior All-Stars take a victory lap with the District 9 banner following their 5-4 win against Buckingham on Saturday.

First, Kostel led off the second with a walk, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored the game's first run on an errant pickoff attempt.

After an RBI sacrifice fly by Connelly tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth, Kostel again got things started when he led off the bottom of the inning by ripping a first pitch double down the left field line. Kostel went to third on a groundout and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Shannon.

South padded their lead with three runs in the fifth, two coming via a wild pitch and ensuing error. An infield single by Kostel drove in Wes Fiorillo to make it 5-1.

South's top two batters in the order — Brendan Collins and Fiorillo — notched one single and one walk apiece.

LeVally, who threw a five inning no-hitter in his previous outing, allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two in another strong complete game performance.

"Nick's got great control," said manager Fiorillo. "He's our No. 1 pitcher. I made three visits to the mound. I was going to pull him in the sixth. It wasn't really his fault. We had a dropped ball. I decided to stay with him and let him close it out and he responded pretty well."

Buckingham's Jordan Turner put up nearly identical numbers as LeVally. Turner gave up four hits, fanned four and walked three.

Buckingham, which would have had to beat South twice in order to claim the title, was led by Connelly with three RBI and a single.

"I thought we were the better team today," said Buckingham manager Charles Bailey, "but unfortunately we didn't play the game we usually play. We had hits and we pitched well, but we made a few errors that cost us the game. South Fort Myers is a good team. Good luck to them."

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