Fortunato Brothers just missed the playoffs in the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League, but still went on to postseason.
Last weekend, the Harford County-based team represented the semipro league at the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Stan Musial Tournament in Hackensack, N.J. For the last six years, a team from the local league has represented Maryland at the AABC regional.
Fortunato Brothers, however, did not make the trip to New Jersey fully loaded.
"I have 23 guys on my roster, but we went up there with a skeleton crew," said manager Tom Walter. "We did go with most of our starters, but our pitching was very scarce."
Walter had to pick up two extra guys, second baseman J.R. Gil de Leon and outfielder Dan Vest from Bel Air Athletic Club, just to boost his roster to 12 players. Only Anthony Dublino was a true pitcher, although Gil de Leon had some experience on the mound.
Fortunato Brothers' pitching woes began during the final week of the semipro season, when the team had to make up eight rained-out games in five days. The squad was in the battle for a playoff berth in the Northern Division but didn't have the pitching for so many games in a short stretch.
Fortunato Brothers ended its second season in the semipro league with a 26-23 record, finishing fifth in the Northern Division. The top four teams advanced to the playoffs.
At the Musial Tournament, an explosive first inning sparked Fortunato Brothers to a 7-6 win in its opening game. But the pitching couldn't hold up through the next two games. Losses of TC 11-0 and 10-6 dropped the squad out of the double-elimination tournament, which ended Sunday.
The tournament winner, Ridgewood, N.J., plays today for a berth at the AABC World Series in Battle Creek, Miss.
Fortunato Brothers reached the semifinals of the tournament with a 7-6 victory Aug. 8 over Longbranch, N.J.
Walter started the squad's ace, Dublino, who pitched five
innings and got the win. Gil de Leon came on for the save.
Fortunato Brothers had a four-run lead after the first inning, as Lance Thompson and Jim Ross opened with back-to-back doubles, Gil de Leon singled and Sean Pollack followed with a three-run homer.
Ross and Gil de Leon each drove in a run, and Mike Cannaliato added another with his seventh homer of the season.
"Even that game was closer than it should have been," said Walter. "We had one of our premier pitchers from the season starting, but the teams we faced were real good teams."
Outfielder Lawrence Bennett pitched the second game, an 11-0 loss to Lancaster, Pa. Ross, Cannaliato and Don Hopps all went 2-for-3 at bat.
In their final game last Sunday, Fortunato Brothers took a 5-3 lead into the fourth inning, but couldn't make it stand.
"Our pitching just collapsed. We didn't have anybody to bring in," Walter said.
Eventual tournament champ Ridgewood scored five runs in the fifth and never trailed again en route to a 10-6 final. Gil de Leon took the loss.
Ross was the team's tournament MVP after going 6-for-10 with two doubles and a triple and driving in two runs.