The Westchester Nationals 16-and-under team entered the 2011 AAU World Series in Florida looking for a title and to prove a point.
We were pumped up. Coming from New York we play seven months of the year and we were playing against teams that play year-round so we wanted to show them what New York baseball was all about, said 16-year-old Tim Keiling, who is entering his junior year at Yorktown High School.
The Nationals showed that there is high-caliber talent in New York, especially Westchester County. As a result, they won the title, punctuating it with a 10-6 triumph over the South Florida Stingers.
Brian Vidal threw a shutout over the ASA Tigers of New Jersey in a quarterfinal and persevered in an 11-9 slugfest over the KR Express. The Nationals surrendered a seven-run lead after teammate Dylan Ginsberg sustained a serious ankle injury, but regrouped to get the win.
Along with Keiling, the team is comprised of Kyle Crimmins and John Recupero (Eastchester), Dylan Ginsberg (Hawthorne), Robbie Lynch, Hermes Paez, Randy Torres and Vidal (Bronx), James McLoughlin (Irvington), John Meagle (Putnam Valley), Michael Milo (Scarsdale), Joseph Muccio (Patterson), Anthony Pinto (Bronxville), Victor Torres (Pelham) and Jacob Vazquez (Cortlandt Manor).
Following a couple of wins, people were well aware of the Nationals talent.
We heard people saying, Wow, that team from New York must be very good, Keiling said. We fed off that and said to ourselves we cant let down. We have to keep going strong.
Vidals performance gave the Nationals added confidence going into the semifinals. Keiling, the first baseman, knew the opposition was in for trouble against his teammate.
Brian was pumping the strike zone with a fastball in the high 80s, Keiling said.
The Nationals were cruising against the New Jersey team when Ginsberg suffered his injury.
When Dylan got hurt, for a good inning or two, we just looked at the game differently, Keiling said. Then, we drew closer together as a team. We hung up his jersey in the dugout and said we were going to win the game of him.
The score was even at 9-9 going into the seventh inning. With two outs, Paez and Lynch had consecutive singles. Crimmins and Keiling kept the hit parade going with RBI singles, scoring Paez and Lynch. The Nationals caged the Stingers for the title.
It was one of the greatest feelings Ive ever had in baseball, said Keiling, who began playing Little League when he was four.
Manager Victor Torres watched his team celebrate its title with pride.
After working with all of these boys and watching them become a family, I was very proud of how far they came, Torres said. These boys have been with me for three years and they put their heart and soul into every game they play.
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