BROOKHAVEN — Ridley captured its first Mid-County Junior League championship with a 4-3 victory over Brookhaven on Thursday.
The idea of playing a decisive Game 3 never crossed the minds of the players.
Head coach Scott Heywood has been with most of his players, entering their junior and senior years at Ridley High, since the good old days of Cal Ripken and Ridley Area Little League. His son Brian walked and scored a point Thursday in the game at Durkin Field.
“Me and (assistant) Rob (Geddes) have been coaching them since they were 8 years old,” Heywood said. “It’s good to win this.”
The players let their game do the talking on the pitch this year. Nobody could compete with this team of Ridley, simply too talented for the competition. The top-ranked team were undefeated before falling to Brandywine Youth Club in the second game of the semi-final. Ask anyone about Ridley and they’ll tell you they let that one slip away. Ridley bounced back the following night to win, 2-0, in a third game win or come home.
In the first game of the final, Ridley took a 7-0 win. Brookhaven showed some combat in Game 2 and cut their three-run deficit to one in the sixth inning, but Sammy Brooks closed the door in relief to recover the save.
“I knew we were going to win tonight,” said starting pitcher Dom Dispensa. “Yeah. We knew that.
Ridley’s last record in the Mid-County Junior League was 14-1. Not bad for a team making their league debut. Since EDCO changed its name to Mid-County in 2020, Ridley had never fielded a team in the junior age group (16-19) until this spring.
While Dispensa and Brooks threw the ball well all season, Ridley’s ace was Chris Kimmel, the younger brother of Villanova linebacker and Archbishop Carroll Football All-Delco Richie. In eight starts, Chris Kimmel was 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA in 39.2 innings.
It was up to Brooks to seal the victory on Thursday. He entered the fifth after Dispensa took out Matt Jackson with one out. After knocking out Jim Durkin, Brooks issued free passes to Nate DiProjetto and Andrew Baldini to load Brandon Short’s bases.
“I knew whenever we got in trouble, I walked in,” Brooks said. “We were pretty confident. I knew we had it.
Yeah, but it got a little hairy in the sixth.
Short hit a slow roll in front of the mound, Brooks lined the ball up and shot to first base. Short would have beat the pitch anyway, but the ball went past first baseman Larry Rose, allowing two runs (one unearned) to go home.
Brooks got the next batter to appear and pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. Crisis averted.
Dispensa pitched 5.1 innings for the win. He allowed two runs on three hits and hit four. After getting out of trouble in the first, Dispensa went through the next four innings on 33 pitches.
“They were playing the first pitch and were really anxious,” he said. “The slider, I kept going and they kept swinging on it.”
He allowed his defense to make plays. Jake Naumann, who started college in 2022, was fluid at shortstop.
Ridley took the lead with a run in the top of the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Naumann was hit by a pitch out of frame, moved to second base on a ground ball and sprinted to third after Brookhaven catcher lazily returned a ball to pitcher Paulie Miazza. Brooks’ grounder at second back knocked Naumann off third.
Brooks broke a 1-1 deadlock with a hit to right field. It would have been two RBIs for Brooks, but the plate umpire mistakenly called the home runner. It was obvious.
Luckily for Ridley, the false flat call didn’t come back to haunt them.
Ridley made it 4-1 in the sixth set. Kimmel worked a walk and Rose and Aidan Vanhoutan each did a single. Kimmel scored Ridley’s last run on another catcher’s throwing error.