Naples, Sigonella will play for small-schools baseball title
Stars and Stripes May 19, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Naples freshman David Manus got to live out not only one but two baseball fantasies Friday.
And as a result, the Wildcats will play for the DODEA-Europe Division II/III baseball title Saturday against Sigonella.
“I’ve been playing baseball my whole life,” Manus said after making a game-saving catch, then driving in the winning run as the Wildcats defeated Aviano 3-2 in six innings. “That was probably the greatest game I’ve ever played in.”
The unbeaten Wildcats were – and still are – heavy favorites to win the title after downing most of its competition this year by double digits.
But Aviano freshman Sergio Melendez made them seem human, striking out nine batters and holding onto a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of fifth inning. But the Wildcats tied it by scoring on a wild pitch.
As regulation time had run out, the teams entered extra-inning protocols. Each had a runner placed on second to start the inning. With runners on second and third, Joshua Barthold drove the ball deep to center field. But Mannus tracked it down, going sprawling to the grass in the process.
In the bottom of the inning, Jonathan Vousboukis doubled to right, but pinch-runner Marcus Wilson stayed on third. That set up an at bat for Manus, who delivered a solid hit to left center.
Naples coach Jim Davis, whose team swept a pair of close games with Division I Vilseck during the season, said the game had a little more at stake. “This one was a win or go home,” he said.
Aviano coach Martin Vasquez gave the Wildcats credit.
“That’s an elite team,” he said. “I wish we could get there. But we’re getting closer.”
Naples will play Sigonella in Saturday’s title game after CJ Wilson and Drake Dawson combined on a 14-0 no-hitter of Vicenza.
Wilson struck out seven of the first eight batters he faced, with only a hit batter reaching on him after two flyouts ended the third. Dawson walked one batter, but then retired the side.
The Jaguars scored six times in the opening inning and the game ended with two runners on base – with one run short of a mercy-rule margin due to time expiring.
Wilson said watching the Saints almost knock off the Wildcats “gave us a lot of hope. We’re going to go out and leave it all on the field. It’s all we can do.”
The semifinals will be played Saturday morning at Ramstein Air Base, followed by the finals back at Kaiserslautern. Teams finished pool play competition to set up Saturday’s first two games.
Top-seeded Naples takes on Sigonella and Vicenza – which won two times in pool play after not having a single victory during the regular season – plays Aviano.
Sigonella earned its spot with a 12-3 victory over Rota on Friday. Vicenza won one pool on a head-to-head victory during the tournament with the Jaguars, while Naples routed Aviano 15-0 to win the other pool.