On Saturday afternoon, in a title game broadcast on ESPN2 from Bangor, Maine, Clear Ridge beat Australia 7-2, marking the first time a team from Illinois has won the Senior League World Series in its 55-year history.
Clear Ridge took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI triple from starting pitcher Zach Verta, knocking in Mike Skoraczewski.
After keeping Australia off the bases in the top of the second, Clear Ridge's Noah Miller knocked in a run in the bottom of the inning. Clear Ridge then loaded the bags. Paolo Zavala scored on a wild pitch and Noah Miller stole home, making it 4-0.
Australia got on the board in the top of the third making it 4-1, but Clear Ridge created some distance in the bottom of the fourth inning. Zavala scored on a wild pitch. Then Skoraczewski and Tim Molloy got on, and Gage Oszlak hit an RBI triple, making it 7-1.
After a fifth inning rain delay that left two Australia runners on the bags, Verta struck out two and forced an easy infield pop-up.
Verta maxed out his pitch count in the top of the sixth, and manager Mark Robinson pulled him. In 5-2/3 innings, Verta struck out 8, giving up three hits.
Australia scored a run in the top of seventh and loaded the bags with two outs, but Verta forced a pop-up to win the game 7-2.
In World Series fashion, the boys from the South Side made a pile in the infield to celebrate.
"I have no words to describe the feeling," said Dawn Gerloski, mother of left fielder Jake Gerloski. "It's all surreal. There is no other team that's more deserving than this one."
Representing the U.S. Central region, Clear Ridge entered Saturday's championship 4-0 in the double-elimination tournament with wins over Australia, Spain, Puerto Rico and Virginia.
Clear Ridge Baseball’s World Series journey began more than a decade ago. Most of the players have been teammates since they were four years old and playing tee ball at Valley Forge Park.
The 16 players on Clear Ridge's roster all live in Garfield Ridge and attend Catholic high schools all over the South Side, including St. Laurence, St. Rita, De La Salle, Marist and Nazareth.
Managed by Mark Robinson, the team finished the regular season 16-0.
In 2013, Clear Ridge went 0-4 in the Senior League World Series, but tough tournament play prepared Robinson for his next trip three years later.
"I knew what to expect this time," Robinson told DNAinfo Chicago after the team's semifinal win against Virginia. "This is my second time here."
In the Garfield Ridge neighborhood near Midway International Airport, Clear Ridge Baseball is known as a team that does not easily give up.
On Monday afternoon, the team was down 7-5 going into the fifth inning against Australia. In the fifth, Clear Ridge scored six runs to take a lead the team would never give up, finishing 13-5. In a semifinal game against Virginia Thursday night, Clear Ridge combined a sharp defensive game with strong hitting to take the game 7-0.
At Lindy' Chili, a neighborhood staple for Clear Ridge coaches and parents, fans watched their team get the job done in Maine.
Mike McPhillips watched the Clear Ridge kids grow up. On Saturday, he carried a picture in his pocket of the boys when they were 10. He son, Brendan, played with them then.
"It's every man's fantasy," McPhillips said. "How many kids get to do this?"
The team will return home Sunday afternoon.
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