By ADAM SHINDER
Last week, Amsterdam's 14-and-under travel baseball team conquered the world -- or, at least, the Cooperstown Baseball World.
Playing a grueling schedule against a far-flung field from across the country -- and, with a team from Kuwait in the mix, from across the world -- in the Cooperstown Baseball World 14U Tournament, Amsterdam dropped its first game of the week and was untouchable the rest of the way, winning seven straight games to capture the championship.
"Even in the first game, we played pretty well. We had one bad inning, and that's the game we lost," coach Rob Spagnola said. "After that, the kids played unbelievable. Really, really stellar baseball."
After the early loss to a team from New York City, Amsterdam rebounded with four straight wins to close out pool play and move on to the elimination round. In the quarterfinals, Robbie Spagnola shut down a Martha's Vineyard Islanders team that Amsterdam had needed a late rally to beat during pool play, setting up a semfinal matchup with the one team Amsterdam hadn't seen during the early portion of the tournament, Kuwait.
"It made it very interesting, to play teams from all over the country," Rob Spagnola said. "Especially when you add in Kuwait -- that made it even a little more special."
Against Kuwait, Amsterdam gave the ball to one of its youngest players, Trey Ausfeld -- who hasn't pitched much this summer while playing with older kids -- and he spun a gem to move Amsterdam to the final.
"He was dominant on the mound against Kuwait," Rob Spagnola said of Ausfeld's performance.
In the championship game, Amsterdam was matched up against another New York squad -- a team from Fulton -- something the officials at Cooperstown Baseball World told Spagnola was a first in the organization's history of running weeklong tournaments.
"They said it's never happened before where two teams from New York were in the championship," he said. "They said it's very rare that a team from New York ever even makes the championship."
Amsterdam fell behind 5-2 in the championship game as starting pitcher Max Spagnola tired after a long week of work, but a six-run rally in the sixth inning turned things in Amsterdam's favor, and the ball went back to Ausfeld for the final innings -- just a day after his brilliant outing against Kuwait -- who closed out the victory.
Ausfeld, Max Spagnola, Robbie Spagnola and Dale Stanavich all turned in stellar performances on the mound during the week, with Robbie Spagnola earning two wins and a save while Stanavich picked up two impressive wins during pool play.
"Our pitching was unbelievable," Rob Spagnola said. "Guys did everything that we asked them to on the mound."
At the plate, Dale Stanavich stole the show with an unbelievable eight-game stretch that saw him go 17-for-25, an incredible .680 clip, for the tournament.
"He was just automatic. He was stellar, to say the least," Rob Spagnola said. "I told him, probably about the third or fourth game in, 'You're putting the team on your back. You're proving what kind of player you are here to step up and do that.'"
However, in the team's final tournament of the summer, Rob Spagnola -- who coached along with Art Ausfeld said that every member of the team -- Stanavich, Robbie Spagnola, Max Spagnola, Trey Ausfeld, Nate Healy, Tyler Nelli, Antonio Ortiz, Louis Fedullo, Ryan Gannon and Tim DiCaprio -- performed above and beyond expectations.
"I can't say enough about all the kids," he said. "Every kid did exactly what they needed to do. Defensively, sacrifice bunts, sacrifice flies, being in the right place at the right time, backing up throws. It was a complete team effort, there's no question about that."
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