12-year-old has big day at plate and on mound in win
By David Yarger
As a kid, nothing feels better than hoisting a championship title. On Monday, the Cayuga Little League Cubs experienced that feeling, defeating the Whirlpool Little League Blue Jays in the 2018 Niagara Falls Mayor's Cup, 13-0.
The Mayor's Cup - brought back into the fold in 2009 - is a four-team tournament between the best teams from each little league in Niagara Falls - Cayuga, Whirlpool, Hyde Park and Midtown.
The game was all Cubs from the get go, as 12-year-old Connor Morris started the scoring for the team. His two-run homerun to centerfield scored Evan Fotus and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Morris was also effective on the mound, throwing three shutout innings with four strikeouts. Morris, in his start, only gave up three hits.
The closest the Jays came to scoring came in the first inning. Anthony Littere led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and advanced to second on a fielding error. A single by Carson Robins got Littere over to third base, and with two outs, Morris threw a wild pitch. Littere came hustling down the line, but Morris covered the plate and the runner was deemed out on a close play.
Fast forward to the fourth inning, the Cubs still held a 2-0 lead. Cayuga stretched the lead to three on a Dom Capatosto walk. After a force out at home plate, Morris was back up to bat. With the bases loaded, Morris unleashed another moonshot for a grand slam, extending the Cubs lead to 7-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Johnny Esposito led off with a double and Anthony Savino walked. The next batter, Giovani Abusalah, doubled to drive the pair in and make it 9-0. Luke Esposito and Capatosto added RBIs on bases loaded walks, then Fotus singled in two more runs to conclude the Cubs' scoring.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Savino sealed the deal on the mound after relieving Morris and the game ended due to mercy rule.
For the Cubs, Morris and Johnny Esposito took home player of the game honors, as Morris finished the game offensively 2-3 with two home runs, two runs scored and 6 RBIs, while Johnny finished 2-3 with two doubles and a run scored.
Coach Tony Caligiuri was overcome with joy for his team following the title win.
"It's absolutely amazing," he said. "These kids they worked so hard all year and the great thing about it is they enjoyed being around each other. They backed each other up, they cheered each other on. It didn't matter, nobody ever got on anybody's case. Most importantly, they had a lot of fun this year and that's what this is all about."
Caligiuri said the team's ability to get along with each other was a huge factor in the season and he gave credit to coach Sal Mangione who was with the team all season, but was on vacation for this game.
On his big game, Morris couldn't take the smile off his face and said he had the time of his life.
"I started off (this season), I didn't do so well. Then, when I hit those two home runs - I hit one previously in the year - it just felt really good, especially on this day, like one of the biggest days here - the championship game - it just felt really good. ... I couldn't believe I did it. You'll remember that for the rest of your life," he said.
Connor Morris toes the rubber for the Cayuga Cubs.
Morris agreed, to start on the mound, he was a little nervous, but he found his groove.
"When you begin, it's like you feel pressure, but after a while - because I pitched a lot - you just get used to it and, yeah, you're pitching, but you just gotta be ready to throw strikes and feel how good you're throwing and just rely on the teammates," he said.
The biggest feat for Morris: going home as a champion.
"It felt really, really good. There's no other words to explain it. It's just amazingly great," he said.
For Whirlpool, Littere and Jonathan Touma took home player of the game honors. Littere, Henry Chambers and Carson Robins all contributed hits in the loss.
For the victorious Cayuga Cubs, along with big games from Morris and Esposito, Fotus went 1-3 with two runs and 2 RBIs; Savino threw two innings of no-hit ball with four strikeouts; Abusalah finished 1-2 with one run and 2 RBIs; Johnathan Battice scored two runs; Nick Caligiuri scored once; Luke Esposito walked twice, had 1 RBI, scored twice and made several plays in the outfield; and Capatosto walked twice, had 2 RBIs and scored once, along with some stellar defense of his own.
Anthony Littere pitches for the Whirlpool Blue Jays.
Niagara Falls Councilman Andy Touma throws out the ceremonial first pitch.