Spectators at the District 18 Top Team Classic championship game, May 15, watched an 11-year-old boy grow up in the span of six innings and lead his team to victory.
When North Naples Yankees' Drake Nobles struck out in the first inning, he slammed his bat down in the dugout in disgust.
North Naples coach John Monzone talked with Nobles before removing him from the game. Because Little League rules permit players to re-enter a game, Nobles found himself at the plate in the bottom of the fifth with two outs, a runner on second and the game knotted at three against the Greater Naples White Sox.
The Yankees' rightfielder stroked a single to center to knock in the go-ahead run. North Naples' pitcher Gary Trapani retired the White Sox in the top of the sixth to seal the win.
"Drake is a very emotional kid with a lot of talent," Monzone said. "We settled him down after the first inning. If you can corral that emotion and funnel it, he does great things." Trapani pitched a four-hit, complete game while Pat Rhea went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs for North Naples.
"Gary has pitched well for us all year," said Monzone, whose team improved to 27-2 on the season. "He hits his spots and stays collected." The Classic, which was held at Three Oakes Park, began with 43 teams. District 18 is comprised of teams from Lee and Collier counties.
The White Sox had played three one-run games, including a 10-inning game, May 10, to make it to the championship.
"These were two good teams going at it," said Greater Naples coach Darvin Jackson. "It's too bad there had to be a loser. Our team plays real hard baseball, they never die. Unfortunately, this is a game of errors and we came up short." The White Sox opened up the scoring with Chris Birr's RBI single in the first inning, which was matched by North Naples in the bottom half of the inning. Greater Naples added two more runs in the top of the second on a Yankees' throwing error.
Rhea's two-RBI double tied the score in the Yankees half of the inning. From there, both defenses settled down until Drake's hit in the fifth.
The Yankees and the White Sox will be in action next week at the Cheryl Cope Memorial Tournament in Naples.