They didn’t go too far, but they went far enough to shake things up.
The Red Hook/Rhinebeck Junior All-Stars team burned through some stiff competition in Little League playoffs before some questionable calls put them deep down in the hole.
After dropping the first game of regional playoffs to LaGrange, 4-3, on July 13, the Red Hook/Rhinebeck team got its collective head back in the game, beating LaGrange 5-2 the next day to win the District 17 championship and advance to regional competition in Harrison.
Against LaGrange, Austin Cole pitched through most of the seventh until being relieved by Joe Kihlmire, and Jim Mulvey collected three hits on the game. Chris Turgeon had two runs batted in.
They next faced district champion and de facto home team Croton July 18 . Red Hook/Rhinebeck feasted on Croton, burning them for an 11-1 mercy rule victory. Both Turgeon and Cole managed triples on the game, Matt Hunziker laid down a three-hit performance, and Kihlmire hurled a complete game – albeit a hyphenated one, considering that Croton was mercy-ruled in the fifth inning.
The win over Croton put Red Hook/Rhinebeck in the winner’s bracket for tournament play.
Then Red’s smooth trip through the postseason came to a shocking halt.
In their next game against Rockland County’s Haverstraw on July 20. Red Hook/Rhinebeck trailed against favored Haverstraw until the top of the seventh, when Red went on a tear to grab a 7-6 lead. A questionable call killed the top of the seventh: while Red had runners in scoring position and was working with momentum, a runner sliding home was called out on a tag by the Haverstraw catcher, who dropped the ball before the tag.
The umpires convened and reversed the call, awarding Red Hook/Rhinebeck the run. But after a plea from Haverstraw’s manager, the call was once again overturned.
In the bottom of the inning, Cole retired two runners but was then sent to the bench by umpires who claimed that he was at 95 pitches, the Little League Juniors’ maximum pitch count.
According to head coach Russ Frehling, the umpires’ pitch count differed from the pitch count taken by Red Hook/Rhinebeck staff. Working with a rotation of three pitchers and having to save one for the next game, Frehling and the coaching staff were forced to use position players as pitchers to close the game.
The team then gave up a run to send the game into extra innings and couldn’t reel it in against Haverstraw, falling in a final score of 14-7.
“We were deflated.” Frehling told the Observer. “We just ran out of gas.”
Frehling’s squad couldn’t find a rhythm in their next game, against White Plains. They lost 15-2 and were bounced from the tournament.
Frehling said that while it was a rough way to go out, he’s still impressed with what his team was able to do.
“We don’t have as big a talent pool as other teams,” Frehling said. “What they did is remarkable. What’s remarkable about this team is that it seemed like a different kid would come through every time.”