Harrisburg claims Senior RBI World Series title
Uses sixth-inning rally to slip by Tampa at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- When asked how it felt to finally win the RBI World Series, Harrisburg head coach Chuck Fackler turned to his team and shouted, "Hey, guys, how does it feel to win this game?"
Amid awesomes and greats, one voice rang out above the others: "It's about freaking time!"
For the first time in program history, Harrisburg, Pa., claimed the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Senior Baseball Division title with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Tampa on Thursday night at Target Field.
"It's just incredible," Fackler said. "Just to have this experience, what RBI and MLB does here with these kids, to put them on a stage like this. It's incredible. I don't know what else to say."
Established in 1989, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities provides young players in urban areas an opportunity to learn and develop their skills.
Trailing 3-2, Harrisburg used four straight hits in the bottom of the sixth to take a 4-3 lead. With one out, Ricky Bettinger, Dakota Pentz, Trustin Riley and Reid Demyan, cranked out hit after hit to keep the bases loaded and bring in the go-ahead run.
With two on, Kyle McClintock loaded the bases on a bunt that Tampa was unable to properly field in time. Up next, Demyan just needed to put the ball in play somehow, and came up with a hit to bring in Bettinger for the tying run. Sadiq Burkholder followed with an out at first that drove in Pentz for the go-ahead run.
"All we tried to do -- and what we kept talking about with these kids all week long -- is just win one inning at a time," Fackler said. "… [Tampa] kept us off balance, but we went back to what we've been doing and that's just putting the ball in play."
While Harrisburg rode a little momentum, it also jumped on Tampa relief pitcher Ricky Green. The sixth marked Green's fourth inning on the mound, but after surrendering the tying run and putting the go-ahead run on, he gave way to Tanner Koch to finish the inning. Green left the night after 3 1/3 innings, with two runs on five hits and two strikeouts.
"The pitcher wanted to pitch," Tampa head coach Fabian Selochan said of keeping Green in. "He had his emotion going, his adrenaline going. He told me, 'Coach, I can do it.' So I wanted to give him a chance."
Harrisburg trailed earlier in the game after giving up a run in the first. Luis Alcaraz hit an RBI double and Demyan, the center fielder, lost the ball in the sun, allowing Alejandro Martinez to score for a 1-0 lead.
Harrisburg quickly jumped on Tampa's Alcaraz to take a 2-1 lead in the second. Demyan made up for his first-inning mistake, driving in Deon Stafford, who led off the inning with a walk, with a sharp grounder up the middle to tie the game at 1 and load the bases. Alacaraz struck out the next batter, only to hit Kyle Fackler with a pitch, walking in a run.
Shortstop Jose Cuellar led off the fifth with a single to center field. After moving to third on a fielder's choice two batters later, Cuellar scored the go-ahead run on an infield dribbler from Gabriel Selochan to take a 3-2 lead.
Tampa initially tied the game on a two-out rally in the fourth. With runners on the corners, Isaiah Arroyo placed an RBI single in right-center to score Solachan from third.
The Florida club entered the championship game with a perfect 2-0 day in the playoffs Wednesday after going 0-2-1 in round robin play Monday and Tuesday.
"Whatever the outcome is, I'm proud of them," Selochan said. "They did well. We made it far. We weren't supposed to be here.
"The luck that we had just ran out, but I want to congratulate that team. They're a great team and played very well ... but it could have gone either way, it was one run."
After playing in the tournament three years in a row, with a runner-up title two years ago, Harrisburg finally fielded the team that got the job done.
"This team is unreal," Burkeholder said. "We just jelled in the three days before the mid-Atlantic Tournament. Ever since then, we've just played together hard and we just have a do-or-die attitude."
"These kids have the head for it," Fackler said. "They compete."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.