By Sean Reilly
Anthony Batkay showed up at Diamond Nation this weekend with a partial black eye and bandage on his forehead, the result of a bicycle mishap the day before the start of the 12U Summer Finale tournament.
At first, there was uncertainty if he’d be able to play. But it was going to take a lot more than a bike spill to keep him sidelined for the Taconic Rangers’ final event of a highly-successful summer, and last on a small diamond with teammates who’ve also been friends for years.
“I woke up yesterday morning not knowing if I’d be able to play,” he said. “I really wanted to. This was our last tournament, and we wanted to end it with a bang.”
The hard-throwing Batkay escaped a bases-loaded situation in the top of the first inning, and played a critical role in a mammoth offensive explosion in the bottom of the inning, when the Fishkill, N.Y., team scored all of its runs in a 17-0 triumph over the Staten Island Orioles on its way to the 12U Summer Final championship on Sunday in Flemington.
The Rangers ended the weekend 4-0 with a 70-5 run differential. The first inning included 14 hits, six of which were home runs, two of them being grand slams.
Batkay, the No. 3 batter in the lineup, hit two of the home runs – a solo shot over the trees in left center, and a two-run blast later in the inning. He boosted his incredible home run total since the start of the spring to 49. He also delivered over 140 RBI during the season.
“I take a lot of pride in my hitting,” he said. “The season was a lot of fun.”
The championship was also huge for the team, considering it was its first at Diamond Nation after several prior visits over the years, including two earlier this spring. The Taconic Rangers program, as a whole, has been extremely successful at Diamond Nation.
Last week, these 12U Rangers lost in the quarterfinals at a tournament in Cooperstown, and afterward one of the coaches told the team to chin up, because they were going to finally win the elusive championship this week at “The Nation.”
“We’ve been here three times this season,” Batkay said. “The first time was the first tournament of the year and we didn’t do too great. The second time was about three months ago and we lost to the Diamond Jacks in the championship.”
The Orioles, who ended the weekend with a 4-1 record, were running low on pitching depth and ultimately ran out of gas in the final.
Staten Island took advantage of some early control trouble from Batkay to load the bases via three walks with one out in the top of the first. But after an infield fly to second base, a runner tried to score on a wild pitch. Catcher Mike Prince retrieved the ball and tagged the runner himself for the third out.
“That was very big,” Batkay said. “It was a big confidence booster.”
In the bottom of the inning, leadoff man Benny Cappillino had a one-ball count before hitting the next pitch over the fence in right center.
The next batter popped out to second before Batkay began a string of eight straight batters reaching base – and also scoring – by launching his first long home run of the inning. The next batter was Alex DiLorenzo, who homered over the fence in center field.
The lead would be padded by a grand slam to left field by Nick Delfico for an 8-0 score, a two-run homer from Batkay to make it 13-0 and a grand slam to left field by Prince for a 17-0 spread.
The Staten Island contingent maintained their good spirits throughout the inning. Their relief pitcher drew extra applause from the team supporters after getting the third out on a called strike, and walked back toward the dugout by acknowledging them with a big smile.
The game only lasted three innings due to the 15-run mercy rule, Sal Conti got the lone hit for the Orioles with a single in the third.
“We’ve had a few innings like that this year,” Batkay said. “We’re an aggressive team, and we really wanted to win this week.”
And now when the group plays in the future, it will be on larger fields that match their advancing development.
“I’ve been coaching some of these guys since they were eight years old,” Rangers coach Roy Underwood said. “This was the last hurrah.”