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2011 25+ Central

Long Island Sun Devils 7, Venezuela 2

The Long Island Sun Devils claimed 25 Central gold at the 2011 Fall Classic in Port St. Lucie Fla.

By Frank Schaeffer, MSBL On-Line

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. Nov. 19, 2011– Most coaches will tell you that MSBL-MABL tournaments are a more of a marathon, rather than a sprint. And if that’s the truth, than Long Island Sun Devils’ starting pitcher Kevin Willi is truly a marathon man.

Willi tossed 21 consecutive innings in this year’s semifinal and championship games to lead the Sun Devils to the championship of the 25+ Central Division with a 7-2 win over Nacionales de Venezuela at Digital Domain Field, spring training home of the New York Mets.

Willi’s battery mate, catcher Dom McNulty, caught every inning of those two games and added a grand-slam in a game-changing five-run seventh inning that broke open a 1-1 tie to give the Sun Devils the championship trophy.

It wasn’t the first time Willi, 31, logged long hours on the mound at a MSBL-MABL event. But this year’s Fall Classic was unique in that Willi threw nine innings in the semifinal against Athens (Ga.) select, which was suspended due to darkness with the teams tied at 8.

The game was resumed on Saturday, just prior to the start of the championship game, requiring Willi to throw three innings in a 9-8 contest that was decided in 12 innings.

“I’ve never done that before, but (Willi) is super human and he’s done this before in a tournament,” Long Island coach Todd Lefkowitz said.

The Stonybook University product Willi returned to the mound for the championship tilt against Nacionales de Venezuela and scattered seven hits over nine innings in earning the win.

“Actually, I do it often, a lot more than you would think,” Willi said of his marathon performance. “I just throw strikes and keep throwing a good mix of pitches. The cutter is one of my better pitches. It’s more of a mental thing. I just pop the glove and I’m in the zone. I trust my catcher (McNulty) completely. I think I shook him once today. Plus I trust him to block the ball. I’m just out there trying to get outs.”

It was a 1-1 game going into the seventh, when Long Island struck for five runs – four of which came on a grand-slam over the left field wall by McNulty.

“(McNulty) caught just about every inning in this tournament,” Lefkowitz said. “He hit the grand-slam today to break open a close game, and he hit a bases-loaded triple that brought us back from a six-run deficit earlier in the tournament.”

Willi worked out of trouble throughout as Venezuela stranded nine runners in the contest. Long Island Sun Devils center fielder E.J. McVetty, who had a triple, stolen base and a run scored in the championship game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player – an award that just as easily could have went to Willi or McNulty, who finished 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI in the final.

“I’ve won those (tournament Most Valuable Player awards) before,” Willi said. “E.J. had a great tournament. He deserved it.”