NAUGATUCK — The road to a championship is often a perilous journey filled with holes, bumps and detours. The Giants of the Peter J. Foley Little League were 4-4 at the midway point of the season and the Cardinals were upstaging every opponent.
Then, the Giants got hot and ripped off seven straight wins to finish the regular season at 11-4. The 14-2 Cardinals prepared for a championship series against the winner of the Indians-Giants semifinal match up.
The Giants continued their hot streak knocking off the Indians two straight in the best of three series. The Peter J. Foley Championship came down to the resurgent Giants against the Cardinals, the team with the best regular season record.
The best of three series proved to be one of the most exciting championship series in recent memory. All three games were decided in the final inning as the Giants defeated the Cardinals 2-1 to win the 2011 P.J. Foley championship.
“All three games were just incredible,” said Giant manager Joe Magnamo, who along with assistant coaches Chris Marinaro and Chris Flynn guided the team to the title.
“We knew going into the season that the Indians and Cardinals had a number one 12-year-old dominating pitcher,” Magnamo added. “But we felt one through 12 we had a very competitive team and we would be in the running. We had a slow start. But the team came together towards the end of the season, and we put together a nice run.”
If there was any doubt that this series wouldn’t be very competitive that was laid to rest in game one. The Cardinals battled back to tie the game in their final at bat sending the game to extra innings.
The Giants scored two runs in the top of the eighth to take the lead. The Cardinals came right back and scored a run and had the tying run on base before the Giants recorded the last out to sneak away with a 5-4 victory.
“We won game one but it didn’t look good for us,” Magnamo said. “We had used our number one and number two pitchers, Chris Flynn and Steve Marinaro, and they couldn’t pitch again for the rest of the series.”
The Giants held a 3-1 lead on RBI hits from Mike Macary and Marinaro as the Cardinals batted in the bottom of the sixth. An error and a walk set the table and Logan Glass pounded a two-run hit down the right field line that John McGovern almost came up with.
Ben Healy made a great catch in the outfield for the Giants as the 3-3 tie entered the eighth inning. Chris Flynn slammed a two-run triple to put the Giants ahead 5-3. Corey Plasky and Mike Plasky singled for the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth to make it a 5-4 game before the Giants recorded the final out to take game one.
Game two came down to the final at bat. The Cardinals evened the series at one game each with a 6-3 win. Zack Mason got the start for the Giants and Mike Macary went a gutsy five innings to finish it up on the hill.
Joe Kwaak the Cardinals number one pitcher who went undefeated during the regular season took the mound. Devan Aviles launched a two-run homer to put the Cards on top 2-0 in the fourth.
Mason belted a two run double to tie the game at 2-2 and Justin Carrasone gave the Giants the lead at 3-2 with a double in the fifth.
The Cards came to the plate in their final at bat trailing by one run with the bottom of order due up. Spencer Hensley and Anthony Bruno delivered key base hits to keep the hopes alive.
With the Cardinals down to their final swing of the bat for the season Mike Plasky came through with a two-out, two-strike, two-run double. Kwaak followed with a bomb belting a two-run homer over the centerfield fence as the Cards took a 6-3 lead.
Kwaak took the hill and after a couple of runners got on base struck out the side to even the series at one game each.
Mason and Corey Plasky locked up in a pitchers duel for game three. The Cards held a 1-0 lead on a second-inning triple from Jovanni Celli.
Tyler McGovern doubled off Plasky but it wasn’t until the top of the sixth inning the Giants scored three runs on RBI hits from Macary and Mason to take a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth Logan Lowe took the hill for the Giants. Dylan Lauderi walked and scored on a hit by Mike Plasky making it a 3-2 game. Kwaak was intentionally walked to load the bases. Lowe induced a pop-up to end the game and earn the 3-2 win for the Giants.
The series wasn’t all about the offense though, as several players flashed their skills with the glove.
Elias DeJesus, Jeremy Glass and Tristan Crelan came up big for the Cardinals in the field. While, Cameron Cooney, Charlie Ciarcia and Dave Kerns made big defensive plays in the series for the Giants.