By Benito Vila
Soon-to-be Pierson eighth grader Aaron Schiavoni has been playing baseball at a whole new level this summer, competing in tournaments with the Dix Hills and Farmingdale-based Long Island Spartans. Eschewing the local Little League all-stars and a Brookhaven-based travel team for the Spartans, Schiavoni recently traveled to Disney’s “Salute To Baseball” tournament in Orlando at the Wide World of Sports complex.
The Spartans, competing in a 12-and-under bracket, brought home the tournament title. In doing so, the Spartans played three teams from Illinois, three from Florida, one from Ohio, one from Venezuela and one from the Dominican Republic.
A 3-2 sixth-inning walk-off loss to the Dominican Republic’s Liga Enrique Cruz pushed the Spartans into the number two seed after the first round of pool play. In the championship round, the Spartans went 3-0, avenging the first-round loss with an 8-5 win in the title game.
Aaron’s father, Rich reported, “They said it was the first time in three or four years that an American team had won the 12-and-under title. It was an unbelievable experience. After the game both teams exchanged hats and jerseys. It was a great display of sportsmanship.”
Aaron primarily played catcher in the tournament, although he also played some third base and pitched a few innings. In the championship game, he was two-for-three with three RBIs and two runs scored.
The Spartans are due to play another tournament in Cooperstown next month. In the meantime, the team is playing in a 12-and-under league at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank and 13-and-under National Junior Baseball mid-island.
The Schiavonis are finding themselves traveling west a good deal this summer, Rich saying “The team practices and trains at least twice a week in Farmingdale or Dix Hills depending on the weather and the game schedule. Between the two leagues, the team is playing 46 games this summer, not including the tournaments.”
Closer to home
The Fire Department-sponsored 13-to-15 year old Senior League team has not traveled quite so far but has been in Mashashimuet Park four days a week since the end of school. The team of 20 has been adjusting to vacation schedules and summer jobs each time it takes the field.
Going into yesterday’s game with Southampton, the senior leaguers were 4-3-1. A 2-1 win over East Hampton last Wednesday and a 4-1 win over Southampton Monday have given the boys the inside track to the number two seed and home field advantage in next week’s playoffs.
What has amazed many has been the length of the last two games, the first lasting just an hour and fifteen minutes and the second an hour and thirty minutes. Those times are somewhat unusual for the age group, which, at the middle school level, plays with two-hour time limits, many games not going much past the fifth inning.
Pitching and defense have been the keys to both wins, Jake Weingartner and Colman Vila efficiently tossing complete games with only one error in the field behind them in 14 innings of play. Weingartner allowed East Hampton just six hits, striking out nine and walking none, while Vila surrendered just five hits to Southampton, striking out five and walking one.
Michael Heller has proved to be catalyst on offense, a double each game and smart baserunning sparking the attack. Gavin Kudlak and Forrest Loesch delivered RBI singles in back-to-back at bats Monday to give Sag Harbor a 2-0 lead. Heads-up baserunning by Paul Dorego, Hunter Leyser and Emet Evjen after a walk and a pair of infield rollers made the score 4-0.
The senior leaguers are home Monday against East Hampton and hope to be home again next Wednesday to open the playoffs. Their games start at 5:30 p.m.