LINWOOD — In a dramatic, come-from-behind victory, the Mainland Baseball U10 Little League team won the District 16 title over a tough Hammonton team 10-7 on July 8.
The thrilling, back-and-forth championship game was played before a packed house, and had a little bit of everything from lead changes to multiple plays at the plate to a fantastic finish.
As it has done all tournament, Mainland rallied with a total team effort when its backs were against the wall. Mainland trailed in the decisive game 6-3 but scored 7 runs in the next two innings, led by Dante Franchini, Jack Gregory, Rocco Bonavita, Carson Thomas, Ben Conner and Matteo Lucca. Mainland then made a series of game-saving plays in the last three innings, including shut-down pitching by Bonavita, a bases-loaded, inning-ending play by Franchini, a laser throw-out at home from centerfielder Dom DeLuca to Thomas, and a game-ending play at the plate from Gregory to Thomas.
Playing from behind is nothing new for Mainland — the boys trailed in each of their last four games but rallied to win them all. During their winning streak, Mainland relied on the pitching of Neo Kirev, Franchini, Bonavita and Johnny D’Agostino, the solid defense of Danny Foreman, DeLuca, Thomas and Gregory, and the timely base-running and hitting of Conner, Chase Wilson, Will Tracey, Lucca, Trey Hemphill and Matthew Perez.
Mainland’s epic run began after they lost their first game in pool play, which spurred an improbable five-game winning streak that saw them emerge as champions.
“This team never gives up, and really bought into the concept of playing as a team,” assistant coach John Franchini said. “The boys bonded, and the communities of Somers Point and Linwood really came together to rally around the team. It’s a great testament to what the towns can accomplish when we work together and it was a great win for our community.”
Fittingly, the entire team carried the District 16 championship banner around the field as the fans cheered.
Mainland is coached by manager John D’Agostino, Mike DeLuca and Franchini.
With the win, Mainland advanced to the section tournament, where they lost to Swedesboro/Woolwich and were scheduled to play Haddonfield on Tuesday after the Sentinel’s deadline.