Those threatening dark clouds hovering around Hanover Township late Saturday morning started moving away, as if they were clearing out for something special to happen on the John F. Sepko Memorial Field.
The first day of a Little League All-Star tournament always seems special.
It brings an anxiety so thrilling that even star players like Dominick Vitale – such an impossible out that his Hanover-1 teammates call him “The Dominator” – find trouble falling asleep the night before the first pitch.
“A little nervous,” Vitale said.
Apparently, his Hanover-1 manager Jack Windt Sr. was a lot nervous.
“I haven’t slept in three days,” Windt said.
Nobody was about to be caught napping once Jenkins Township and Hanover-1 swung into action on opening day of the District 16 Little League Major Baseball Tournament opener for 11- and 12-year-olds.
Both teams have too much success in their past and talent in their present to provide anything other than the 8-7 nail-biter Hanover-1 pulled out Saturday afternoon in its final at-bat.
It was as easy to predict as Vitale’s 3-for-3 day.
Don’t forget, this is essentially the same Jenkins team that won the District 16 Minor League Tournament and advanced within one game of playing for the Pennsylvania state championship two years ago.
And its run in last season’s District 16 Little League Major tournament was ended by a Hanover-1 team filled with players who went on to win the District 16’s 11-year-old tourney.
So neither team was about to back down, or back off.
“I felt pretty confident we were going to come alive at the end,” Vitale said.
The day was lively from start to finish.
Jenkins left fielder Christian Palmasani ended the first inning by gunning a guy down at the plate.
Hanover-1 center fielder John Wickiser returned the favor by throwing out a runner at home to finish the third.
It went back and forth like that throughout, on a magical day nobody wanted to see end.
“Even the umpires said you don’t want to see anyone lose,” Windt said. “That’s one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time.”
It got better as it went along.
Vitale laced an opposite-field, two-run home run over the left-field fence in the third inning.
“It felt great,” he said.
Jake Vaxmonsky answered with a blast of his own for Jenkins in the fifth.
“My stomach was tingling the entire time,” Vaxmonsky said.
Hanover-1 rallied with a five-run third inning to take a 7-3 lead.
Jenkins fought back with four runs in the fifth to get even at 7-7.
“They stayed in there,” said Jenkins manager Bob Razvillas, whose son and the team’s slugging star, Josh, is out with a broken arm suffered in practice a couple of weeks ago. “The kids have heart.”
Strangely enough, nobody’s got broken.
Vitale laced one off the wall, and eventually scored when Mike Blazaskie ripped a walk-off, game-winning single in the bottom of the sixth to make Hanover-1 the winner.
But there were no losers on a day that just couldn’t be dreary. Because for the kids on the field, it was the perfect time to shine.