VALHALLA, N.Y. – Briarcliff Little League pitcher Kevin Manganello had just given up a three-run home run in the top of the sixth and final inning to see what had been a seemingly safe 8-0 lead shrink to 8-5. But Manganello shut the door on the final two Monroe-Woodbury batters and Briarcliff advanced to the next round of the Section 4 Williamsport Tournament at Pat Henry Field in Valhalla.
With the win, Briarcliff advanced deeper into the tournament than it has ever been. Briarcliff lost its first sectional game last season, but this year’s team will move on to play at 10 a.m. Sunday at Brentwood Park in Rye.
Briarcliff coach Chris Ryan and Manganello’s teammates went to the mound at one point in the sixth to have a few words with the pitcher.
“(Coach Ryan said) 'It’s not your fault. Just get these kids. I know you can do it. Keep throwing. Keep doing what you’re doing,’” Manganello said.
Manganello settled down shortly thereafter, retired the final two batters and Briarcliff escaped with the win.
“No one on base. I knew I could do it,” Manganello said. “I just had it in me and threw my best.”
Jack Ryan, who started the game for Briarcliff, said the defense Saturday “was probably the best defense” his team had played all season and that eight runs is a huge score for a sectional game. Despite all that, he was nervous in the final moments of the game.
“It was nerve-wracking after the kid hit a home run,” Ryan said. “But Kevin, he’s good mentally. So I had faith that he would come through in the end.”