WELLINGTON — Anthony DiFranco had a special reason to be ready to play Wednesday’s Class F County Hot Stove Championship at Wellington Community Park.
“I’m doing everything for my uncle,” said Anthony, referring to Troy DiFranco, the longtime Midview High School teacher and coach who died last month of a heart attack. “It’s all for him and God.”
DiFranco had a pair of doubles, drove in three runs and made the defensive play of the game to lead Midview’s Maniacs to a 16-1 win over Buckeye Select Auto to claim the title in the 13-14-year-old age group.
The team honored Troy’s wife Michelle with one of its championship medals.
“Great group of kids, good athletes — better kids,” manager Joe DiSimone. “It was emotional. (Troy) was like a brother. I know he’s looking down on us. We wanted to win it for him.”
DiFranco’s defensive gem came in right field when he grabbed a sinking liner off the bat of Buckeye’s Nathan Potter leading off the third inning.
“I love this team,” DiFranco said. “We’ve been playing together forever. We’ll do anything for each other.
We’ll put our bodies out on the line. I know any of my teammates would make the same play if they had the opportunity.”
The Maniacs (18-1) scored six times in the bottom of the first to set the tone. They added a single run in the second and poured on four in the third and five more in the fourth to sew up the mercy-rule win.
“That was key,” DiSimone said. “We had known that they had lost in the state tournament, unfortunately. We knew we were getting a team that had nothing to lose. This was their last game and we told the boys, ‘We’ve got to be ready to go.’”
Midview starting pitcher Ryan Bors didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings, striking out four. Nick Morgan pitched the fourth inning and although Buckeye (16-5) managed to score its only run on a pair of hits, Morgan struck out the side. Morgan also had a pair of hits and drove in two runs.
“Ryan Bors has been on top of his game all year long,” DiSimone said. “He’s our ace. We put Nick Morgan in to finish it up. We’ve got 1-A and 1-B out there.
“We’re probably three deep at every position when we need to be. The philosophy was to get every kid ready for high school ball. They’re all Midview kids and let them all play together. You’re playing first, you’re playing third, you’re playing short, you’re playing second. Maybe not so much in (championship) games like this but they’re ready to go.”
DiSimone’s son Nolan supplied a big hit with a two-run triple to deep right field that fueled the five-run fourth inning that finished off Buckeye.
“I took it like every other swing,” said the young DiSimone, who had two hits. “I just felt like something special was going to happen and the ball carried.
“I love this team. Some of us have been playing together for four years. We’re really good friends and we all go to the same school pretty much.”
Midview Maniacs 11, Grafton Thomas 7
Midview held off a late surge from Grafton Thomas to win the 9-year-old county title.
The Maniacs (19-1) scored four times in the first inning and added seven in the third for an 11-1 lead but Grafton (16-5) rallied to close the final margin.
Sawyer McMillan doubled and Joey Bernard singled in the first inning. Layden Taylor and Jake Berringer singled and Issac Starrow tripled in the third inning.
Devin Hyster had three hits and Landon Bean one for the Maniacs. Berringer handled the pitching through the first few innings.
“We get fired up,” manager Jeremy McMillon said. “We just feed off energy and get on a roll. It’s mainly about our pitching and our defense.”
Midview won the Class I (age 7-8) championship a year ago.
For Grafton, Jake Ellis tripled and singled. Trey Feierabend and Jack Schade each had two hits and Brenden Cleary and Brody Thomas one each.
“We showed up a little too late,” Grafton manager Matt Thomas said. “We gave them the ultimatum. It was either come back or go home early. To their credit, they came back.”
Buckeye’s Tonio’s Pizza 16, North Ridgeville FTC 3
It wasn’t a good night for North Ridgeville FTC (17-2) in the 11-year-old final. Buckeye’s Tonio’s Pizza (18-2) scored four first-inning runs and eight more in the second.