Harford gets 1st win as tourney host

Cal Ripken World Series


Shortstop Joe Petrucci said he wanted the ball hit to him with two men on and two outs in the last inning and his team leading 5-2.

Wish granted.

Petrucci's team, the host and Harford County representative, had never won a game in the four years the Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series has been played in Aberdeen. Until yesterday.

Fielding the final out flawlessly to give the local team its first win, Petrucci and his mates huddled for a celebration near home plate before making a beeline for the right-field foul fence to slap hands with their fans and parents.

There had been 13 consecutive losses in four years, including Sunday night's 11-0 loss to unbeaten Southeastern Lexington, Ky., before the host team prevailed yesterday.

"I wanted the ball hit to me, and when I saw it coming, it was like it was in slow motion," said Petrucci, who had three of his four assists in the last two innings, two in the fifth.

"I thought, `Oh, my God, here it comes.' I didn't take my eye off of it and looked it into my glove and made the throw. It felt amazing when Matt caught it."

Matt is first baseman Matt Kline, who pitched the first three innings to get the win before Randy Callahan held Mineral Area, Mo., scoreless over the final three innings.

"We felt really confident going into the game that we could become the first Harford team to win a game in this," said Kline, whose team took advantage of shoddy defense to score its runs.

"I'm speechless," said Dennis Kline, Matt's father and the team manager. "It's the first time, and this is for all of Harford County. I couldn't be more proud of these kids and for all the people who have worked so hard these last few years. This is great."

Joe Stetka, a fixture as announcer and statistics man for the IronBirds minor league team at Ripken Stadium and a Ripken World Series volunteer, is president of the Hickory Fountain Green program, whose team is representing Harford County.

"It feels really good, and I'm happy for everybody up here," said Stetka, who was an assistant to Tony Blackburn on the C. Milton Wright Class 4A baseball state finalist.

Stetka got to Aberdeen in time to see the last three outs after taking his son, Jamie, who was the second baseman at C. Milton Wright, to college.

Other highlights yesterday included defending champion Hilo, Hawaii, beating Newtown, Conn., 10-3, for its second win; Southeastern Lexington also going to 2-0 by routing Bronx, N.Y., 11-5; and Kennewick, Wash., evening its record at 1-1 by routing St. Mary's County, 14-4, as Matt Mendenhall hit his 50th homer of the summer and 27th in six postseason tournaments. (Scores, 4E)


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