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With victories over West Melbourne and Northside Fort Pierce, the Boca Raton Little League Senior All-Stars made history as they punched their ticket to their first state championship game in any division in the 40-year history of the program.
Boca Raton rallied from an 8-2 deficit to plate nine runs in the final two innings to defeat West Melbourne 11-8 in the first game of the Sectional tournament at Sportsman Park in Port St. Lucie.
Jason Wilson drew a walk to force in a run and break an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning as Boca Raton went ahead for good.
The Senior Division squad scored five runs in the fifth on hits by Brian Whitener, Wilson, Anthony Martin-Delcampo and Nick Chiaverini, and then four in the decisive sixth for the win. Vinnie Blair and Whitener each had two hits in the win. Chiaverini earned the victory on the mound.
“It was a major effort by the coaches and the kids to do something that had never been done before,” said Boca Raton manager Charlie Chiaverini, the longest-tenured volunteer in the Boca Raton program. He is also a past president. “We are truly a recreational baseball league and we don’t have teams that are put together with all travel baseball players.
“When we got there, and I have been doing this a long time,” Chiaverini said, “we found ourselves winning the first game on a great comeback and put us in position to win the tournament.”
In its second game of the sectional tournament, Martin-Delcampo hit a one-out, 2-run single to snap a 2-2 tie in the top of the fifth inning to give Boca Raton the lead for good. Boca Raton padded its lead with three runs in the top of the sixth with RBI hits by Blair and Wilson as the team rolled to an 8-3 win over Northside Fort Pierce.
Whitener picked up the victory as he scattered seven hits in six innings and walked one batter. He gave up three runs and struck out five batters. Blair came on in relief in the bottom of the sixth to close out the win and clinch the sectional crown. Emiro Rotundo, Martin-Delcampo and Wilson all finished with two hits in the contest.
For the first time in program history, the Boca Raton Little League All-Stars will be represented at the state tournament.
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The Boca Raton Little League Senior Division All-Star team had won five straight District 10 titles but never advanced past the sectional game until now. There was no tournament last year due to COVID-19.
“These are 13 rec kids that were put together about six weeks ago to play in these tournaments that is what classical little league is meant to be,” Chiaverini said. “We didn’t think we would make it to state. The Senior League team had gone to the sectional tournament five years in a row and the teams that have beaten us are truly more junior varsity high school baseball driven.
“The kids were absolutely elated and excited,” he said. “I was well aware of the league history and after a long awards ceremony, I said to the kids, ‘You are the first team ever from the Boca Raton Little League to advance to the state championship.’ I think the parents were in shock. We never put that out there. Our expectation was to go out and have a good time in the tournament.”
Chiaverini said he believes they can win the state championship when they take the field on July 9 against perennial state power North Springs from Coral Springs. The North Springs program won the United States Senior League championship in 2018 and lost in the World Championship game.
“I am very confident,” said Chiaverini, who will need to win his bracket, which includes North Springs to have a shot at the state title. Nine of the 14 players on the roster are age 14. Seven are going to high school next year.
“No disrespect to the other teams, but we are playing the best team in the tournament in the first game,” Chiaverini said. “We are truly coming out of the blocks playing the best team in the bracket first. We have good pitching and between Whitner, Blair and (his son) Chiaverini, those three kids carried us in the sectionals and they will be our workhorses at the state tournament, along with a couple of other kids.”