Champs!: Resilient Warren Americans blast way to Little League District 10 Boys Minors title

Warren Boys Minors Americans manager Jason Rafalski may want to think twice when he makes a promise.

Rafalski promised his team that he and the coaching staff would do the popular “Gangnam Style” dance on the field if the team could secure the District 10 championship.

Dance, coaches, dance.

One night after dropping a heartbreaking 8-7 decision to Brookville and facing elimination for the first time this season, Warren captured the D-10 title with a convincing 21-0 victory over that same Brookville team, Friday, at Betts-Jackson Field.

With the win, the Americans advance to next week’s Section 1 Tournament in Union City. Competing in the tournament with Warren will be Clarion, General McLane and the winner of a Friday night district final between Harborcreek and Millcreek. Warren will open with Clarion at 6 p.m., Monday.

After defeating Brookville by a 5-1 score on Saturday, Warren was defeated on Thursday, giving each team one loss and setting up a one-game showdown to determine the district’s best team. Warren left no doubt on just who that team was.

The Americans jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and sent 22 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, scoring 17 runs and all but sewing up the section tournament berth.

While Warren gave plenty of run support to starting pitcher Ryan Rafalski, the youngster would have been alright with just one on this night. Rafalski was brilliant from the start, tossing four shutout innings and allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts. He needed just 50 pitches to complete all four innings and didn’t allow a hit until the final at-bat of the game.

After Brookville starting pitcher Chase Palmer sat Warren down in order in the top of the first, Rafalski responded by retiring Brookville 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, striking out one and getting a pair of groundouts that ended up in the glove of first baseman Alex Borger before Brookville runners could reach the bag.

In the second inning, Warren’s offense went to work.

Ben Salapek and Jake DeSimone led off with singles and Max Conklin reached on a bunt fielder’s choice to load the bases. Hunter Loomis followed with an RBI fielder’s choice that plated Salapek and DeSimone was able to race home on an overthrow.

Four batters later, Warren got a big two-out hit when Rafalski smacked a two-run double to the gap, pushing the lead to 4-0.

The 4-0 advantage held through three innings and Warren went to work in the fourth, looking to extend the lead.

Did they ever.

A total of 22 batters – including three separate at-bats from Ethan Wilson, Tyler Gustafson and Rafalski – were sent to the plate and Warren turned a strong 4-0 lead into an insurmountable 21-0 gap.

The inning included an RBI walk from Rafalski, an RBI single and two-run single from both Micah Passmore and Gustafson, an RBI single from DeSimone, an RBI fielder’s choice from James Swanson, an RBI single and two-run double from Salapek, an RBI single from Ethan Wilson and a three-run double from Loomis. One other run scored on a throw to second. Dylan Maeder reached base twice in the inning for the winners.

After the 17-run fourth-inning outburst, Rafalski took back to the mound, needing just three outs in order to close out the game. He quickly struck out Bryce Rafferty and Jack Krug, bringing Elliott Park to the plate looking to break up the no-hitter.

Park did so with a single to right-center, but he took too wide of a turn around first and was caught in a rundown. Park broke for second where Warren shortstop Salapek applied the tag, ending the game and clinching the title for the locals.

Warren collected 16 hits in the win, including a 4-for-4 night from Salapek and two hits each from Gustafson, Passmore, DeSimone and Wilson. Rafalski, Swanson, Loomis and Ben Berdine had one hit apiece. Loomis had a team-best four RBI followed by Rafalski, Passmore, Salapek and Gustafson with three each.

Warren 040 (17) – 21 16 0

Brookville 000 0 – 0 1 4

2b-Ryan Rafalski (W), Ben Salapek (W), Hunter Loomis (W). WP-Rafalski. LP-Chase Palmer.