East Xtra: St. Johns-Lefty's captures national title

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Terry Stokes was on the previous team from the Greater Pittsburgh Federation Baseball League to win the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series, the 1969 Lawrenceville Tigers.

It's something he brought up constantly to his son, Greg, and Greg's teammates on St. Johns-Lefty's, over the years.

"We've heard about it ever since, it seems," Saints manager Tom McCarthy said.

But now, Terry no longer has those bragging rights.

St. Johns beat the Fedells Mechanics, 10-1, Sunday afternoon in Battle Creek, Mich., to win the NABF World Series title. The Saints finished the tournament with a 6-0 record.

"Before we were done, we wanted to win one of these things," said McCarthy, the Saints manager for more than 30 years. "In our minds and in our hearts we knew we could. We just needed some things to fall into place."

St. Johns has been on the cusp of winning the championship for a while. The Saints have won eight consecutive league dual regular-season and tournament championships and Stokes, Rick Krist, Jim Jaskowski, Rich Satcho and Andy Blackwell have been on the team for all of them.

The Saints have also won three National Amateur Baseball Federation regionals (2007, 2012 and 2013) and they finished as the runner-up in two NABF World Series (2007 and 2012).

They entered the tournament with just one loss and one tie this season, but got tested in their first game last Thursday against the Chicago Clout in a rematch of last season's title game.

"We came in very focused against Chicago," said McCarthy, a Plum resident. "Once we got by them, we thought we had a real shot of running this thing."

St. Johns beat Chicago, 3-0, behind a dominant performance from pitcher Greg Frederick. Great pitching was a theme all tournament for the Saints.

"We gave up seven runs in six games," McCarthy said. "That's pretty good."

Frederick was the catalyst, giving up just one run in two starts, and that came in his complete-game win in the championship game.

But the Saints' pitching depth was what really stood out. The Saints used five other pitchers in addition to Fredrick -- Corry Ryan, Jim Pasquine, Brian Warheit, Andrew Rafalski and Rick Raraigh -- and all of them did their part.

St. Johns' bats weren't quiet, either. The Saints scored 50 runs in the tournament, with Jim Pasquine and his .500 average leading the way.

Pasquine and Frederick were named co-MVPs of the tournament.

St. Johns even had to overcome some adversity. Its starting right fielder, Tarran Senay, missed the tournament because of prior obligations. And the team's starting shortstop, Andrew Heck, left the Saints during the regional tournament after signing a contract with a Frontier League team.

Luckily, the Saints had the depth to replace the two players, as they didn't miss a beat with Derrik Zeroski filling in at shortstop and Blackwell playing right field.

"[Zeroski and Blackwell] are very good, and they don't usually get the credit the other guys get," said McCarthy. "Not that the other guys don't deserve that credit, because they do, but Derek and Andy really stepped up tremendously for us."

Zeroski got it started in the championship game Sunday, leading off with a single. Stokes and Pasquine followed with back-to-back singles to score Zeroski. Nate Thimons then doubled to score two more, and Thimons ended up scoring on the play as well on a throwing error to make it 4-0 early.

From there, Frederick dominated, scattering eight hits.

Eventually, St. Johns put in many of its reserves. The starters, some of whom are over the age of 35, began talking about how to celebrate.

"The older guys said we should do a dog pile at the mound, but then they didn't know if they would be able to get back up," said McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Terry Stokes sat in the stands with a bat that had the names of all the 1969 Lawrenceville Tigers etched into the wood.

So the Saints thought they would make it a Greater Pittsburgh Federation Baseball League tradition.

"It was funny, because Terry couldn't make our first game Thursday, but he came up on Friday with the bat with all the names etched into it," said McCarthy. "And then at the end of our game Sunday, all of our guys were taking bats and etching their names in."

Because now, the Saints are the last Pittsburgh team to claim an NABF title.

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