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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

JOHN WILHELM OF Roche’s Garage slides safely home on a wild pitch as Grand Slam pitcher Tim Martin is too late with teh tag in Sunday’s championship game of the Edward M. Collins Memorial Tournament. Bill Tolli of Roche’s watches the seventh inning-play. Tolli would drive in what turned out to be the winning run.

'We Lost to a Good Team'

By Rob Potter
MONGAUP VALLEY — August 14, 2001 – Roche’s Garage put together a two-out rally in the seventh inning to win Sunday’s championship game of the 20th Annual Edward M. Collins Memorial Softball Tournament.
Down 4-3 entering the seventh, Roche’s scored those three runs with two outs and then held off Grand Slam Auto in the bottom of the frame for a dramatic 6-5 win.
Grand Slam, based in Marlboro, earned its spot in the title game by defeating Lakewood Estates of Port Jervis by a 9-4 margin in the third-place game.
With the win, Roche’s garnered its fourth consecutive Collins tourney title and seventh overall. Roche’s also took first place in the tournament in 1988, 1989 and 1996.
The Roche’s rally began when Jim Brush led off the frame by drawing a walk from Grand Slam hurler Tim Martin. With one out and Craig Smith at the plate, Brush scampered to second base on a passed ball.
Smith then sent a Martin offering to deep center, where Steve Luciana caught the ball for the second out of the frame. As one would expect, Brush tagged up, but he did not stop at third base.
Instead, he rounded third and headed for the plate and slid under the tag of Grand Slam catcher Mike Scott to tie the game at 4-4.
Back-to-back singles by John Wilhelm and Mike Finn then put runners on the corners for Roche’s. A wild pitch allowed Wilhelm to score and Bill Tolli hit a bloop single to center to plate Finn for what turned out to be the winning run.
With a 6-4 lead, Roche’s pitcher Merle Connors set down the first two Grand Slam batters in the bottom of the seventh. The next batter, Mike Walsh, hit a towering shot over the fence in left center to cut the Roche’s lead to only one run.
But Connors then got Dave Laney to ground out to end the contest.
“We have a good ball club,” Roche’s manager Tony Mancuso said. “The guys know how to play the game and take advantage of any mistakes the other team makes.”
Mancuso noted that his squad seemed a bit flat early in the game as Roche’s earned its spot in the title game with a victory early Sunday morning and then had to wait as Grand Slam emerged from the losers’ bracket. That was part of the reasoning behind giving Brush the green light at third base in the seventh.
“We needed something to get us going, so we took a shot,” Mancuso said. “We had another game (if we needed) and that was a great slide by Jim Brush.”
Mancuso added that Roche’s “always has good, intense games with Grand Slam.”
“These are two very good ball clubs,” Mancuso said.
Grand Slam player/manager Pete Corcoran agreed.
“We lost to a good team,” Corcoran said. “Lately we’ve been having bad luck and losing games in the seventh inning. But they were the better team today.”
Corcoran also praised the work done on the mound by Connors.
“Merle pitched a great game,” Corcoran commented. “We didn’t hit this afternoon.”
Though disappointed, Corcoran noted that he and his teammates would probably face Roche’s again this weekend at the Neal B. Turfler Tournament in Middletown. Grand Slam is the defending champion of the Turfler, considered the tri-county area’s best modified-pitch softball tournament. Grand Slam is also the defending National ASA “A” champion.
For his offensive production over the weekend, including three home runs, Roche’s third baseman Paul Exner was named the tournament MVP.
As he presented the team trophies, tournament director Dennis Dietrich thanked everyone who made the event a success once again. That included the teams, umpires and members of the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department who worked the concession stand and kept the field in relatively good condition despite the rain that fell over the weekend.
“It’s 20 years now that Eddie’s been gone,” said Dietrich, referring to the man in whose honor the tournament has been held each August at the field that also bears his name. “We’ve had 20 successful tournaments here. And this park will be here long after us.”

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