A year ago, the Jim Thorpe Bruins won a total of three Carbon County Babe Ruth League games during the entire regular season.
Last night, a stellar of a 6-2 come-from-behind victory over the Franklin Township Patriots (14-3 overall) provided the finishing touches on one fine turn-around for Bruins' manager Sean Sterling and his team to capture its first league title in four years.
"Last year, we know we didn't have a very good season at all," Sterling said. "We had a whole bunch of brand new players since a lot of them had just came up. And, are still here as members of this year's team. This year though, we turned it all around.
"Everybody stepped up to the ball at the plate, so we could get our bats on the ball this year. The gloves worked even harder on the field. The pitching all came together.
"Everything just fell perfectly into place."
Over the first four innings though, things just rolled in favor of the Patriots.
In the second inning, Jacen McEvoy led off the inning with a single. McEvoy moved to second on a throwing error. Then, when he attempted to steal third base, he trotted home another Patriots' throwing error.
Two innings later, McEvoy capitalized on another free pass. A fielder's choice later, and a Jake Hoats' RBI-single, McEvoy gave the Patriots a 2-0 lead after four innings of play.
It was short-lived however as the Bruins (15-3) found some life in their own bats in the fifth inning.
It took them five innings to do so, but the Bruins finally got to the Patriots' starting pitcher Anthony Rossino.
Pinch-hitter Shane Snisky led off with a single and then moved to second when Christian Gavornik walked. Snisky scored on a throwing error, which allowed Dane Ciavarella to reach base.
Patriots' manager Ed Kunkle soon pulled Rossino and allowed AJ Wenrich to inherit those runners. Wenrich struck out Nick Montenero for the second out, but walked Ian Sterling to load the bases.
With two outs, Josh Thompson did the talking with a two-run single right up the middle off the field to score Gavornik and Ciavarella, which gave the National Division champions a 3-2 lead.
"We were coming in down by two runs and we just never put our heads down," Thompson said. "We just worked together. It was amazing. I never felt anything like that before."
After allowing Wenrich to collect his second hit of the day for the Patriots, relief pitcher Ciavarella retired the last six batters he faced.
Ciavarella then watched his teammates give him an even more comfortable lead in the bottom of the sixth with three more runs. The inning was keyed by a Gavornick RBI-triple. Ciavarella added a double for his second hit of the game while Nick Montenero notched a single.
"They played hard today as it was 2-0 for awhile," said Ciavarella, who earned the pitching victory. "We just kept our heads up and started hitting the ball, which was very much a key to the victory today. We hit the ball. We hit the ball as a team. That's how we got the win, with our bats today."
While his team took advantage of some early Bruin mistakes, Kunkle was forced to watch a complete turn-around in the late innings of an important game.
"They showed why they were the No. 1 seed today, that they did," Kunkle said. "They were seeded No. 1 and there was a reason why they were that. But, I thought the game was well played by both teams. It's probably one of the better championship games in recent years."
FT Patriots 010 100 0 - 2 3 3
JT Bruins 000 033 0 - 6 8 3
Russino, Weinrich (5), McEvoy (6) and Wenrich, Farano (5); Sterling, Ciavarella (5) and Divineaud. W - Ciavarella. L - Rossino.