New York's 'Cardiac Kids' skip beat against Georgia

Updated: August 19, 2006, 9:23 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The boys from Staten Island have a flair for the dramatic, even in defeat.

The Mid-Island squad from New York used walk-off home runs in its two previous games to qualify for the Little League World Series. The late heroics provided a bit of a diversion from the first-place Mets and Yankees in the baseball-crazed Big Apple. Staten Island has even been given a fitting nickname by fans which have been emblazoned on the back of T-shirts: "Cardiac Kids."

Staten Island lost its World Series debut on Saturday, falling 3-2 in seven innings to Columbus, Ga. Even that one was a tight, well-played contest.

"They're let down, but that was a great ball game," Staten Island manager Nick Doscher said. "They left everything on the field. Sometimes, it doesn't work, and today was one of those days."

Columbus won with one out in the bottom of the seventh after Josh Lester singled home Ryan Lang from second, drawing raucous cheers from its fans.

The game was delayed in third inning for over two hours because of rain. Both teams still pitched well and played good defense coming out of the stoppage.

Georgia manager Randy Morris said he thought his team was tired after the rain delay and the long game. Catcher Cody Walker disagreed. He smiled widely and nodded affirmatively when asked if he could play again.

Staten Island had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh after Adam Skjeie doubled to the left-field warning track and advanced to third with two outs on a fielder's choice. But reliever Kyle Carter escaped the jam by striking out Chris Goetz on a fastball, drawing a loud sigh of relief from the light blue-clad Georgia crowd.

Doscher said his team is having fun, even with the added attention.

"They're excited, they're just enjoying themselves," he said.

Before the game, Dom Casella couldn't wait to take the field.

"It's so hard, all that energy has to be saved up," the 12-year-old first baseman said during a trip to the batting cage a couple days before Saturday's game. "It's waiting to explode."

Staten Island's road to the series hasn't been as easy.

The New Yorkers won the semifinals of the Mid-Atlantic region on a winning homer from Matt Davis in the seventh inning on Aug. 11. Three days later, Frank Smith hit a game-ending homer during a nationally televised, prime-time game.

The team took a bus the next day from the Mid-Atlantic tournament site in Bristol, Conn., to South Williamsport. The youngsters arrived bleary-eyed at the Little League complex.

Doscher said he had to turn off his cell phone for a time after getting called nonstop from reporters, friends and family.

Parents don't have much time with the kids while they're playing tournament ball. Dawn Calabrese has followed her son, 13-year-old shortstop Joe Calabrese, all the way to Pennsylvania.

"I'm very impressed with how they are handling it," said Calabrese, who wore a knit white rose on her T-shirt that served as a good-luck charm. "They've been away for so long."

While it's been exciting for the boys, all the hotel bills and dinners out have taken a little toll on the wallets of parents.

"It's getting expensive," she said Saturday. "But it's once in a lifetime."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press