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Hat’s Off

Celebrating 25 years since county all-stars made history

The 1995 Chautauqua County 16-year-old all-star baseball team had plenty to celebrate after it became the first area host team to win a game in a Babe Ruth World Series in Jamestown. P-J file photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: Twenty-five years ago next month, a collection of 16-year-old baseball players from Chautauqua County became the first host team to win a Babe Ruth World Series game at College Stadium (now Diethrick Park). As the milestone anniversary nears, it was deemed appropriate to run the story, which first saw the light of day on Aug. 20, 1995, again. For good measure, the local kids won their next game, too, before finally being eliminated from the tournament.

By Scott Kindberg

skindberg@post-journal.com

When Jamestown played host to its first Babe Ruth World Series in 1980, Adam Beckerink was 1 years old.

But don’t think he doesn’t know about the history of the tournament.

In this 1995 file photo, Chautauqua County All-Stars manager Frank Corsoro watches the action from the dugout at College Stadium. P-J file photo

“Kids in my school said we weren’t going to win ever and that we were already 0 and 15,” he said. “I saw it in the paper.

“I was just trying to get the monkey off our back and win one.”

Mission accomplished.

The Chautauqua County All-Stars, a collection of 16-year-olds, brought together for the first time only six weeks ago, did something Sunday night that few thought possible: win a World Series game.

Thanks to the heroic pitching of Tom Lewis and the grit and determination of Beckerink, the host team posted its first World Series win ever at College Stadium, edging Southwest Iowa, 1-0, in a losers’ bracket game.

Beckerink, who collected two of Chautauqua County’s three hits, raced home with the deciding run in the bottom of the sixth inning after a wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Lewis, who surrendered just four hits, kept his composure in the top of the seventh to pull off the improbable, and dramatic, victory before 1,377 fans.

The win vaults Chautauqua County into a 5:30 p.m. game today against Stamford, Connecticut, a team that lost to West Torrance, California, 10-9, on Saturday.

“We felt good about this team for a long time,” Manager Frank Corsoro said. “We needed to get the monkey off our backs and the monkey’s gone. Everybody can be a little bit relieved.”

Relieved may be an understatement.

Since 1980, Jamestown has been the site for eight World Series, which includes 15 games involving the host team. Several of those contests have been close, but just when the local team could smell a victory, something negative would happen. Saturday night’s 5-0 loss to Iron Area, New Jersey was a perfect example. Four errors in the fourth inning led to all five runs and that was the difference.

But all of a sudden, Corsoro and his kids aren’t as mentally and emotionally fatigued. They stood eye to eye with the Midwest Plains regional champions and didn’t blink.

Especially Lewis.

“That was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen pitched,” Corsoro said.

Lewis, a 6-foot-2, 165-pounder, worked himself out of several sticky situations, including a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning. Southwest Iowa’s Matt Schleier led off with a single and moved to third on an error by second baseman Tom Phillips, which allowed Tom Diewold to take second.

That’s when assistant coach Marc Tramuta paid a visit to the mound.

“I said, ‘Look, what we need is a strikeout,'” Tramuta said.

Lewis got two.

He fanned Bobby Gonshorowski and Steve Genck and, after hitting Beau Hampton with a pitch, got Justin Gibson to pop to Phillips to end the threat.

“I talked to my mom before the game and she just said ignore everyone and you and the catcher just play catch” Lewis said.

Sound advice.

Lewis walked four and struck out five, and relied on the nifty play of Jarard Capozzi, the catcher, who threw out two runners trying to steal.

“He’s probably one of the best young catchers I’ve seen in the last 10 years in this area,” Tramuta said. “He’s the smartest kid we have on the team. It’s so easy to work with him.”

Chautauqua County also missed opportunities to score earlier in the game, leaving a runner at second in the first inning and a runner at third in the third inning. In the fourth, two straight walks by losing pitcher Nick Vandegriff put runners at first and second with no outs, but Mark Ewing grounded into a double play and Mike Volker struck out to end the rally.

But the local kids had one rally left.

Beckerink led off the bottom of the sixth by beating out a groundball to shortstop

“I was feeling I had the wheels and that if I put it down on the ground that I could make it there,” he said.

Capozzi and pinch-hitter Buddy Pray both grounded to Hampton at second base, but that moved Beckerink to third, setting the stage for the long-anticipated moment — a Chautauqua County lead late in a World Series game.

Facing cleanup hitter Garrett Reincke, Vandegriff uncorked a wild pitch and, after taking a step back toward third base, Beckerink raced home with the tie-breaking run

“I didn’t see it go past (the catcher) at first,” Beckerink explained, “so I jumped backwards and then I saw it went to the wall, so I just broke for home plate. I was going 110 percent.”

That left Lewis the job of retiring Southwest Iowa in the top of the seventh.

It proved to be no problem.

Gonshorowski led off with an infield single, but was retired on a fielder’s choice when Reincke dropped a pop fly in center field only to recover quickly enough for a forceout of Gonshorowski at second. Lewis then fanned Hampton and got Justin Gibon to bounce back to the mound for the final out.

As Lewis snagged the groundball, and just before he tossed it to Steve Ciminesi at first base, the gutsy pitcher pumped his right hand in the air.

The long wait was over.

“We got them together when we were done and said, ‘You just accomplished some history,” Corsoro said. “Let’s keep the history going.”

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