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Golden Lions Fall Short at Sports Day Tourney

Schneider Children’s Hospital (SCH) is one of the unheralded gems on Long Island. On Saturday, May 31 this world world-renowned pediatric hospital’s 25th anniversary was celebrated at the Annual Sports Day. Corporate sponsored softball and volleyball teams and their families gathered at Cantiague Park in Hicksville to enjoy the oceanic blue sky and the comfortable 68-degree morning temperatures.

Orchestrated by the Friends of Schneider Children’s Hospital, the Annual Sports Day is a family fun-filled event that provides corporate sponsored softball and volleyball team tournaments, inflatable rides for the children, sand art, live music, radio station give-a-ways, NY Islander’s Sparky and GEICO’s Gecko, breakfast sponsored by Merritt Bakery and a barbeque lunch.

“I am touched by the dedication of the Friends of Schneider Children’s Hospital and we are extremely grateful that you have chosen Schneider’s Children’s Hospital as the direct beneficiary of your recent Sports Day fundraising event,” said Chantal Weinhold, executive director of SCH.

Participating in the softball component was the Farmingdale-based Columbus Lodge Golden Lions. Their revamped lineup included five first-time starters and the uncertainty that comes from blending seasoned veterans with unknown prospects. That question was quickly answered in the opening round against the Jericho-base team from Deloitte after an impressive 6-1 come-from-behind victory.

Trailing 1-0, the Lions squeeze a run across the plate in the second and took the lead on a Dave Saviano’s inside-the-park homerun in the third. The teams remained embattled in a 2-1 game until the sixth when the Lions scored four unanswered runs. Notable run-saving catches were made in the fifth by Lions leftfielder Brian Anastasi and shortstop Bill Schachtel, who followed with a magnificent over-the-head, grab in shallow left field.

The Golden Lions advanced through the Gold Division Qualifying rounds following their subsequent victory over State Bank of Long Island and then broke for lunch, which was sponsored by Applebees and Kozy Shack. Without the familiar explosive bats of Campos, Percella and Tranchina, the Lions knew that they had a tough semi-final battle ahead of them and would have to rely on grit, timely hitting, and defense to win games.

The Gold Division semi-final match-ups pitted Melville-based KPMG against Ajax Sewage and Cleaning Services, while the Golden Lions faced Uniondale-based Farrell Fritz. Farrell Fritz, whose impressive wins over Global Industries and TD Ameritrade, was a formidable opponent for the Lions; however, North Massapequa’s Pete Gisonda, 77, wasn’t worried, “They’re (Columbus Lodge) a good team.”

The Golden Lions scored a pair of first inning runs on an RBI double by Jon Bonnet, scoring Mooky Castillo and Jeff Steinberg. Another grind out game developed when Farrell Fritz scored a run in the second and fifth inning to tie the score. In their half of the frame, Ed Bochynski’s RBI single scored Anthony Curran with the first of two Columbus Lodge runs. In the sixth, the Lions scored again on three consecutive RBI doubles by Steinberg, Bonnet and Daron Tripoli for the 7-2 win.

In the other semi-final game, Ajax, a young group of collage athletes from the surrounding area, squared off against the defending tournament champs from Melville-based KPMG. Ajax scored the only run it needed in the second inning enrooted to a 6-0 victory over KPMG. A disappointed KPMG coach Tom Galgano had no answer for Ajax’s defense and athleticism, “What can I say, we couldn’t score.”

The finals would prove to be entertaining as Ajax and the Columbus Lodge embattled in a see-saw contest. Ajax struck first with an opening inning run. With both teams exchanging runs in the second, the Golden Lions pushed across three runs in the third, only to see Ajax tie the game at 5-5 in their half of the frame. Two innings later, Ajax broke the tie with back-to-back of homeruns runs as the game headed to the sixth inning.

Showing their grit, the Golden Lions’ Jeff Steinberg connected on a two-run homerun, his 100th tournament hit with the Lions, and Daron Tripoli followed with a monster shot to dead centerfield. Holding on to a slim 8-7 lead the Lions got the first two outs from Ajax and were only four outs away form a title when a walk and a blast gave Ajax a 9-8 lead and the eventual championship.

Although the Columbus Lodge team lost in the finals the main benefactor was Schneider Children’s Hospital. The Sports Day event raised an estimated $39,000. Balls of Fury won the co-ed volleyball tournament for the second straight year and Deloitte won the Silver Division softball tournament after an 8-7 victory over the team from GEICO. The Lions were led by Steinberg and Tripoli’s five RBIs. Dave Saviano (.700) and Mooky Castillo (.667) led the team in hitting.  

Proceeds from this event will go toward SCH Child Care Program. The Columbus Lodge Golden Lions is a softball team dedicated to community service through softball fund-raising events. The Columbus Lodge, a not-for-profit fraternal organization and member of the Order Sons of Italy in America, offers its members various social and recreational activities, as well as community and charity involvement. To become a member one may contact Gary Caparco at 799-2613