Par-Troy East Gears Up For 4PM Elimination Game
The boys from Par-Troy East take the field today for an elimination game in the Little League World Series, and will do so with a heavy heart.
Manager Mike Ruggiero's father-in-law suffered a massive stroke on Friday before the team's first game, which they lost 5 to 2 against the team from San Antonio.
After a thrashing of Oregon 10-4 in a must-win game on Saturday, Ruggiero was set to head home with his son, Daniel, on Sunday to check in on his father-in-law and the family.
About an hour into that drive, Joseph Kayal, passed away because of complications from the stroke.
"It's one of those things that you try to keep a stiff upper lip and happy face, and you try to get them to enjoy themselves, knowing that there's sad news behind us," said Par-Troy League President John Bucciarelli.
It's added a new wrinkle to a summer that has been both unforgettable and mentally taxing for the coaching staff, little league officials, and players.
"It's mixed emotions. You got the ultimate highs and ultimate lows," Bucciarelli said.
The journey to the Little League World Series is a summer-long odyssey that continues today with the elimination game against the West team from Petaluma, California.
Saturday's win showed the resolve and composure of this storybook team that has captured hearts around New Jersey. It is a team that has been through a whole lot together, having played on all-star teams for 4 years. But they had their backs against the wall before Saturday night's offensive explosion.
"In the years they've played together, they've never lost two games in a row," Bucciarelli explained, "And they don't really get too high or cocky on wins, and they really don't get too low on defeats."
That win-or-go-home pressure will be with the team once again this afternoon. Added in is the emotions of the Ruggiero family's loss, as Manager Mike and teammate Daniel returned this morning to Williamsport for today's game.
Bucciarelli also credits the community for rallying around and traveling in droves to Pennsylvania to support the youngsters.
"We're trying as hard as we can as a community and a league to transfer that energy to the kids so that they play well on the field, and they can feel how much support they got," he said.