The Bethlehem Babe Ruth 15-year-old division all-stars did what they set out to do.
Despite being eliminated in the Mid-Atlantic Regional quarterfinals with a 7-3 loss to Waretown, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 5, Bethlehem manager Scott Kniffin said his team accomplished what the players and coaches mapped out in June.
“We had set our goal from Day 1 to get to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals. Our goal was to advance out of pool play, and whatever happened (after that) happened,” said Kniffin.
Bethlehem picked up wins over Bear, Del., and Frederick, Md., on the final day of pool play at the regionals Monday, Aug. 4, in Niskayuna to advance into the quarterfinals. The win over Frederick came at a cost, though. It took Bethlehem 11 innings to beat Frederick 6-5, which left the Eastern New York State champions thin on pitching when they played Waretown the next morning.
“I was very proud of our guys winning that 11-inning game, but it took a toll on our pitching,” said Kniffin.
Pitching was Bethlehem’s hallmark throughout its run from hosting the district championships to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals. The starting rotation of Jack Rooney, Trevor Kniffin, Jake Smith and Cooper Martell guided Bethlehem through some of the top teams from around the Northeast. Along the way, Kniffin picked up a no-hitter in the state finals against Niskayuna and combined with Rooney to no-hit Metro New York champion Great Kills through six of the seven innings of a 5-4 victory in Bethlehem’s first pool play game at regionals Saturday, Aug. 2.
“They were a very good group (of pitchers), and if they stay together – and they’re all in the same class (at Bethlehem Central High School) – they should have great success over the next couple of years,” said coach Kniffin.
Smith was the only one of the four main pitchers who couldn’t start at regionals. Kniffin said Smith suffered a shoulder injury prior to the start of pool play, which limited the amount he could pitch.
“He only pitched four innings at regionals for us, so that wound up hurting us,” said Kniffin.
Bethlehem’s hitters were also sharp throughout the playoffs. Martell, Rooney, Kniffin, Jon Hogg and Ned Englebride were among those who had key hits during the team’s playoff run.
“We hit better than .300 through districts, states and regionals,” said coach Kniffin. “We didn’t hit as well at regionals, but at districts and states you had to worry about our one through four hitters as much as our bottom four hitters.”
Kniffin said many of Bethlehem Babe Ruth’s 15-year-old division all-stars will likely appear in Bethlehem Central High School varsity uniforms next spring, which he thinks will help turn around that program’s fortunes following a losing season in 2014.
“The majority of them have been playing together since they were 8 years old,” said Kniffin. “I expect them to continue to have success at the high school level, at the Mickey Mantle level and at the Junior (American) Legion level.”
Kniffin added he sees great potential in several of his players.
“There’s three or four kids who have the possibility of playing at a high level in college, if they want to,” said Kniffin. “Some of them may not choose to do so because they play other sports, and they use (baseball) as something to do between seasons.”
Associate editor/sports editor