Niagara Gazette — NIAGARA FALLS — The Cayuga Youth Athletic Association's Jocoy Collision Dodgers have earned bragging rights as the city's baseball champions.
They won the Mayor's Cup thanks to a pitching performance that would be hailed as a gem at any level of the game.
Justin Stickney surrendered just one hit, which finally came with only out out remaining in the final inning, as his Dodgers blanked the Hyde Park Tops Markets Tigers, 4-0, in the City Championship title game Friday at the Niagara Falls High School Varsity Softball Field.
"Justin Stickney has done it for us all year and the way he pitched tonight was must amazing," said Dodgers coach Richard Wright. "The kid's done it all year long. I'm just really proud of him, and proud of every one of these boys."
Those other boys provided the offense needed to win, including two runs scored in the first inning on a two-run homer by Peter Lysiak, who had a total three RBIs. He also had two of only three hits the Dodgers could muster, as Tigers pitchers John Blevins and Micai Marble were also delivering impressive performances on the mound.
The only other RBI came from Dodger center fielder Joey Lozina.
Even more impressive than the near no-hitter was that heading into the fifth inning, Stickney was actually throwing a perfect game. The first 13 batters he faced all struck out, nine of them caught looking on the third strike pitch. After forcing a hitter to ground out to second, Stickney then finally surrendered a base on balls, his only walk of the game.
When dealing with youth players, coaches must consider not overworking their still-developing arms. So as Stickney kept his perfect game intact heading into the late stages of the game, his coach had to decide whether to be careful of his arm and put in a new pitcher, or let his young hurler keep a good thing going.
"We talked about it in the fifth inning," said Wright. "He said 'coach, I'm feeling stronger than I did the last inning,' so I said all right. I've never pitched a kid more than four innings in a game. I said let's roll with it."
They kept rolling until the top of the sixth and final inning, when Stickney again struck out two batters to bring Marble to the plate. After breaking up the no-hit bid on a base hit to right field, Stickney was replaced by Noah Kindzia, who preserved the shutout as Marble was caught stealing second to end the game.
Marble threw four strikeouts and held the Dodgers hitless in his two innings relieving Tigers starter Blevins, who made several outstanding plays with his glove. Twice he snared ground balls to set up an easy out at first. Two other times, he caught fly balls sailing high above the infield. His best play, though, may have been saved for last when, after moving to first base, he snared a hot line drive to end the fifth inning and prevent the Dodgers from building their lead.
For the Tigers, there was obvious disappointment but they hold on to the knowledge they remain the best in the majors division of Hyde Park's Babe Ruth Baseball program.
"The kids came through," said Tigers coach Sandra Blevins. "No worries. They'll be back next year, and they'll be bigger and better."
To complete the competition, and formally end the city's youth baseball season, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster presented the Dodgers with the Mayor's Cup. When asked for his thoughts about the tournament, Dyster looked with optimism at what bringing the city's four youth baseball leagues (Cayuga, Hyde Park, Whirlpool and Midtown) together can do for continuing the growth of the game in Niagara Falls.
"It's a tremendous neighborhood builder, each of these leagues," said Mayor Dyster. "When you bring all four of them together I think it really starts to build some relationships. Some of these kids are going to be playing together, maybe for Niagara Falls High School in the future. These may be friendships that are established that