Rifles to be honored at Fenway Park

Pictured are members of the ABCS Rifes (bottom row, left to right) Nick DeMaio, Graham Topor, Koby Ray, Anthony Pisciotta, Andrew Lebel and Aidan Ciquera; (middle row, left to right) Andrew Corley, Tommy Mason, Joe Lombardi, Jack Gotta, Jake Robidoux, and Joel Wyzik; (third row, left to right) Coaches Jerry DeMaio, Kevin Topor, Jay Ray, Dan Gotta and Tommy Mason.

Reminder Publications submitted photo

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — The ABCS Rifles, a local youth baseball team made up of 9- and 10-year-old players who play in the John L Sullivan A-Division, will be honored at Fenway Park prior to the Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 15 for their accomplishments in 2011, and there were many.

This team, made up of players from Chicopee, Hampden, Monson, Palmer, Putnam, Conn., South Hadley, Ware and West Springfield, ended the year with a record of 32-9, best in team history.

The season started for these players with a runner-up finish in the Al Markman preseason tournament as they went 2-2 and losing in the finals. After the tournament, they started league play and proceeded to go 16-3 in the regular season with their three losses coming by a combined four runs.

After making it to the finals of their league postseason tournament, they received a bid to compete in the AABC Willie Mays State Tournament, which was played at Forest Park in Springfield. In one of the most impressive weekends of the year, the Rifles won all five games they played via the mercy rule to win the state championship, beating Longmeadow, Western Mass Titans, West Side Wildcats and the Wilbraham Falcons twice.

With winning the state championship came a bid to participate in the regional tournament in Waldwick, N.J. The regional tournament drew teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

The Rifles lost both games but represented their state well in defeat.

In the first game, the Rifles lost to the eventual regional champion, New Jersey Rocz, 5-2. The game was tied 1-1 heading into the fourth when the Rocz exploded for four runs to take a 5-1 lead and held on for the victory. Up next in the losers bracket was a team from Manhattan-Lower East Side. In what many considered an instant classic, the boys from Manhattan won 6-5 in walk-off fashion in extra innings — arguably one of the best games of the tournament.

Immediately after coming back from New Jersey, the Rifles were entered to play in the 85th annual Republican Sandlot tournament. After losing their first game to the East Granby Dragons, the Rifles ran off six straight victories in an improbable fashion to claim the championship.

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