CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake Cyclones were unfazed after the Puerto Rico Piratas tied the score in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday.
The Cyclones had been swinging their bats well enough throughout the McHenry County Youth Sports Association Summer International Championships that they figured regaining the lead was no problem.
“We all kind of had confidence that we’d get enough guys on base, and be able to play for one run and we’d get it,” Cyclones left fielder Fred Birr said. “We loaded the bases right away and things took off from there.”
Joe Kalina and Ryan Douros led off with hits, and later Josh Turner, Birr and Ricky Monbrod all added RBIs as the Cyclones defeated the Piratas, 9-6, in their 15U Silver Bracket game at Lippold Park. The victory puts the Cyclones into the winners’ bracket final at 2 p.m. Thursday against the Indiana Breakers. If the Cyclones win, they will play in the consolation championship game.
The Breakers defeated Crystal Lake Babe Ruth, 3-2, in another winners’ bracket game.
Kalina, a junior catcher from Cary-Grove who hits No. 8 in the lineup, wound up leading off an inning three times. The last two times he singled and scored runs. Douros got twisted up, but made a falling-down catch in right field to prevent possibly two more Puerto Rico runs from scoring in the top of the sixth.
“I was thinking I needed to get a hit and get the team started,” Kalina said. “Once I got that, the team started hitting because hitting’s basically contagious and I knew we were good. I knew at that point we were going to get some runs.”
Douros blooped a single in, Kyle Vesely bunted to sacrifice, but Kalina beat the throw to third base, so the bases were loaded. Turner singled and Birr and Monbrod both had ground-ball RBIs for a 9-6 lead.
“This tournament, the boys have had a lot of timely hitting,” Cyclones coach Doug Knoeppel said. “We haven’t done that for the whole summer, but we started in Game 1 here doing it. It we get walks or a team makes an error, we’ve been able to capitalize on mistakes.”
The Piratas rallied for three runs with two outs in the first and led, 4-1, after two innings. But Gus Arellano, promoted from the Cyclones’ 14-year-old team for the tournament, settled in and allowed one run through the next 2 1/3 innings, then Jake Stelmachowski allowed one run over the final 2 2/3 innings.
“It was nice to see us come back,” said Birr, a junior at Crystal Lake Central who had two hits and two RBIs. “Usually it’s hard to overcome three runs in the first inning, but our team strung some timely hits together and guys were picking each other up. It was great.”
Kalina, Douros and Monbrod also had two hits each. Turner, Monbrod and Tyler Rambuski-Salzman joined Birr with two RBIs.
Knoeppel felt the Cyclones played well while going 2-3 in pool play. Now, they have a shot to win the consolation title.
“We’ve only had three bad innings in the whole tournament,” Knoeppel said. “We have tons of pitching left, we’ve been fortunate with that. We’re spaced out pretty well.”