By TOM WILLIAMS
Not that much was expected of the Ocean City Youth Athletic Association’s all star team when the Little League Baseball District 16 Tournament began a little over two weeks ago. After all, only two teams of Ocean City boys played in the regular season league, together with three from Upper Township.
Many expected Ocean City would combine with Upper Township, much like they did in 2014 when the combined team won the district championship. But when the time came to sign up for the international competition, the OCYAA decided to field its own team, thereby giving more boys a chance to play.
Well, Ocean City won four of its first five games, finishing first in pool play, and reached the championship round of the tournament.
Tonight, the OCYAA lost to Northfield, the defending District 16 champion, 3-2, to end its remarkable run. Northfield will now move into the Section 4 Tournament in Absecon starting Saturday against Cherry Hill American, the District 13 champions.
The Section 4 Tournament is a double elimination competition featuring champions from six districts. In addition to Northfield and Cherry Hill American, the other teams are Waterford Township, Pennsville and the winners in District 14 and 15, which have not concluded their tournaments.
Northfield’s Brady Arena scored the winning run in walk-off style without a hit. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth he was walked, advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches and scored on an error.
Ocean City had scored runs in the first and third innings on an RBI single by Evan Taylor and an RBI double by Vander Reeves.
Northfield, which also won the district in 2010 and 2002, is the first team to win back-to-back District 16 title since Upper Township did it three years ago. Only two teams have won three straight district titles – Linwood (2007-09) and Hammonton (1990-92). The last District 16 team to win the Section 4 Tournament was Upper Township in 2016. The last District 16 team to win the state title was Margate in 1980. The only District 16 team to win the Little League World Series was Hammonton in 1949.
Ocean City won the district title in 2013 and combined with Upper Township to win in 2014.
In addition to Taylor and Reeves, the OCYAA team included Anthony Derose, Clifford Dirkes, Luke Finnegan, A.J. Foster, Cole Laursen, Carter Linden, Jack Reilly, Frank Rubba, Cole Schafer, Colin Thompson and Eddie Wisham. The head coach was Frank Rubba and Jesse Thompson and Tom Finnegan were his assistants.
“Our OCYAA Tournament Team lost a heart-breaker this evening to Northfield,” said Greg Donahue, the OCYAA director. “Our team had a nice post-season run in District 16. We wish Northfield well as they continue in the state tournament. We are very proud of what the OCYAA team accomplished. A big thank you to our coaching staff, who worked very hard with this group of young athletes.
“Many of these players have a bright future in baseball. They will make an impact on Ocean City sports in the years to come. However, we hope this OCYAA experience is always special in their hearts. Ocean City is extremely proud of them.”