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THIELLS, N.Y. — Michael Rastelli tried not to think about the seventh inning as he came to bat with a chance to win the game in the eighth. He knew he made a few mistakes in the field. And he had a perfect opportunity to atone for it all at the plate.
The North Rockland third baseman erased a couple of seventh-inning defensive miscues with RBI single in the eighth, delivering a thrilling 4-3 victory over visiting Fordham Prep in the opening round of the Northeast Elite Baseball Tournament on Friday afternoon.
Rastelli was mobbed at first base after his line drive over first base landed and Brandon Respress scored from third base, giving North Rockland its sixth straight victory and Fordham its first loss of the year.
“I can’t even speak right now,” said Rastelli, who was on the bottom of a 29-player dog pile at first base. “I’m good now. It hurt. But it was a good hurt.”
Rastelli’s walkoff capped an exiting game in the wood bat tournament, which resumes today. North Rockland will face Fox Lane in the semifinals at North Rockland at 1:15 p.m. Don Bosco will meet the winner of Clarkstown South-Guilderland in the other semifinal.
North Rockland was one strike away from winning — and losing — the game in the seventh inning on Friday.
Red Raiders junior Joe Anselmi, who pitched all eight innings for the win, had the first two runners reach with a 2-1 lead in the seventh. The first was a single after a foul pop-fly to third fell in because Rastelli called off catcher Tanner Morales but never got under the ball to catch it.
The next was a slow roller up in the third base-line on a sac-bunt attempt. Rastelli mishandled the bare-hand attempt.
Anselmi battled to get two outs with runners on second and third. But Steven Fondu laced a two-run single to right to put the Rams ahead 3-2.
Elbin Martinez kept North Rockland’s hopes alive in the bottom of the seventh with a double off the fence in left-center. He went to third on a groundout before Anselmi worked a full count with the game on the line.
Anselmi delivered, hitting a single between short and third to tie the game.
“Joe refocused after those two errors and did a great job,” North Rockland coach Tom Lynch said. “They got the two out hit. We got a two out hit. It was just a great baseball game.”
Anselmi (3-1) allowed one earned run on six hits, striking out three and walking one. He was 2 for 3 at the plate with a walk.
“He kept going after them,” Lynch said. “He didn’t let anything get to him. He’s been our most consistent guy; not overpowering. He spots the ball, hits his locations and doesn’t walk mant.
“Truthfull, he does this every time out there,” Rastelli said. “He just does his job. Nobody does it better than he does.”
Anselmi went out for the eighth, which he ended by picking off a runner at second base. In the bottom of the inning, the last two hitters in the Red Raiders lineup got the rally going. Respress drew a one-out walk and, after stealing second, went to third on a Xavier Reyes single.
That led to Rastelli’s redemption and a impressive North Rockland win.
“This shows what we really could be,” Rastelli said. “We have so much potential. This game shows us how good can really are.”
Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org