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NYBC all-tourney team captures All-Star Game victory

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- This one had everything, including the jubilant postgame celebration.

The National Youth Baseball Championships staged a highly compelling All-Star Game on Monday, and the all-tourney team managed to outlast the U.S. All-Stars in a 10-9 thriller.

The winning team, coached by former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski, fell behind by a handy margin in the fifth inning but scored the game's final six runs. And though these kids may just be 12 years old, they showed a flair for the dramatic by dumping the water cooler over Nitkowski's back.

"I've never had that before and it really scared me," said Nitkowski in the moments after his team's win on a sun-scorched day at Gameday Fields. "Then I realized what it was and I thought, 'That felt really good.' But I'm sure the truck guys weren't happy, because I still had my microphone on."

Jake Holland -- star of Miami-based Team MVP and the NYBC All-Stars -- was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game, but in truth, it could've gone to a half-dozen players. Angel Tiburcio, Holland's Team MVP teammate, drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

The NYBC All-Stars came together after an eventful week that had seen each of their teams eliminated from the tournament one-by-one. They weathered the highs and lows of triumph and adversity throughout the week and took the field for one last bit of action before departing for home.

"These kids are a great group of kids," said Nitkowski. "You watch them and you see a really competitive bunch. They really get after it. But then you get with them closer and you realize that they're regular 12-year-old boys. They're good at what they do, but they're just regular kids, and that's the part I love. I love coaching kids that are good and want to get better. You have to have that."

The All-Star Game -- the first of its kind in the six-year history of the tournament -- was televised on CBS Sports Network, and it involved a select group of All-Stars from all over the country. The All-Stars came from states as far apart as Nevada and New Jersey, and they practiced together on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning before taking the field against the tourney stars.

And for four innings, you couldn't separate the two teams. The All-Stars broke a 4-4 tie with a five-run rally in the top of the fifth inning, but the tourney stars answered for four runs in the bottom half.

Mark McLemore, coach of the All-Stars, was thrilled with his team's effort.

"This was a tough situation for them," McLemore said. "They hadn't played together before and didn't know each other. They came out and they gave a tremendous effort. These kids were so excited."

McLemore, who played in the big leagues from 1986-2004, had a fellow Major Leaguer on his staff. Former catcher Benji Gil, whose son Mateo made the All-Stars, coached first base on Monday afternoon, and he said this was a great experience for all of the players.

"I guarantee that unless they get amnesia, they'll remember this day," said Gil. "This is something that they'll cherish for the rest of their lives, and for those that don't go on to a higher level after high school, that's even more true. They'll remember the guys they played with.

"It was an exciting game, 10-9 game. You saw great pitching and great hitting. We saw some very nice defensive plays. It can't be easy for them to have played without really having met each other."

The key play of the game -- on defense at least -- came at the end of the top of the fifth inning. Michael Machin, playing center field, charged a short fly ball and unleashed a perfect throw to the plate. The catcher made a tag on the runner's helmet, and the NYBC All-Stars began their comeback.

The All-Star Game was the first act for the NYBC on Monday, which also staged the championship game of the tournament on the same field later in the day. Nitkowski, who does a bit of youth coaching in his post-playing career, marveled at the drive he saw from the players in this tourney.

"This is not for every 12-year-old kid," Nitkowski said. "To get to this level early in your life, you have to have a really off-the-charts passion. And they have it. That makes it fun for coaches, because it's hard to find a group like that. Sometimes when you're coaching, you're going to get four or five kids that are die-hards, a couple that like it and a couple that are looking over the outfield wall. That can be frustrating. But all of these kids are unbelievably competitive and unbelievably into it. These are the kids who are always asking you, 'I want to play catch. I want to go hit.' And you think, 'Man, I'm exhausted.' "

And what of his prediction? Nitkowski had predicted a victory before Monday's game, but he had also admitted that he really didn't know what to expect. Nitkowski will take the victory and the resulting bragging rights over McLemore, but he'll also take several lasting memories from the event.

"I love to have that stuff, but Mac doesn't come to the office as much as I'd like," said Nitkowski. "I'll just have to remind him once in a while. But I'm really just happy for these kids. It was kind of funny. It was great for those 24 kids to fly in here, but in a way, my team earned being here. It's their turf. These kids came here to get to the finals, but at least they'll have this and they'll leave winners."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for