WARWICK, N.Y. – Kyle Saul was cheering on his Sherman Park teammate Anthony Scaglione, who was stepping into the batter’s box Wednesday in the top of the sixth inning, when manager John Pugni called time out for a substitution.
Pugni sent Saul in to bat for Scaglione, with T.J. Palma on third and Richie Petrillo on second, two outs and the score all even. On the sixth pitch of his at-bat, Saul delivered the most important hit of his Little League career.
Saul singled to left field, scoring Palma with what would be the winning run in a 3-2 triumph over South Shore National (Staten Island) to win the New York State Little League Baseball Minors Championship at Memorial Field.
Sherman Park advances to the East Regional, Saturday through Aug. 6 in Cranston, R.I.
“I was surprised because I saw Anthony up at the plate and then coach called my name,” said Saul, 10, a fifth-grader-to-be at Pleasantville Middle School.
Palma led off the inning with a single to center, and one out later Petrillo singled to center. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before reliever Andrew Dada retired Salvatore Pugni, setting the stage for Saul, who did not want the same result as in his first at-bat, when he struck out.
“I remembered the first time I was up and I didn‘t want to do that again,” said Saul, as his teammates were chanting his name. “I had to protect. I was looking for a pitch inside and it was right there.”
The count was even at 2-2 when Saul fouled off two tough pitches before lining a single between shortstop and third base. As a result of his game-winning hit, Saul was presented with the game ball.
“It feels amazing,” said Saul, as a smile engulfed his face.
Stephen Donato, who started and allowed two runs in four-plus innings, and his Sherman Park teammates were very happy for Saul.
“It was great to see Kyle get that hit and be so happy,” Donato said.
Sherman Park trailed 1-0 through five before scoring twice in the fifth on a Donato two-out, two-run double to right field. Saul, who was pinch running, and Domenick Fensore scored.
Sherman Park 000 021 -- 3 7 1
South Shore 100 010 -- 2 7 1
RBI -- SP: Stephen Donato 2, Kyle Saul; SS: Thomas Criscuolo, Anthony O'Donnell. 2B -- SP: Stephen Donato; SS: Thomas Criscuolo. WP -- Domenick Fensore. LP -- Andrew Dada.