South’s Sinibaldi lives dream with a walk-off

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette South Williamsport’s Pete Sinibaldi is mobbed by teammates after delivering the game-winning hit against Sayre on Wednesday.

It was not exactly the dream he first envisioned as a 10-year-old, but Pete Sinibaldi is not complaining. What he did Wednesday is close enough.

Sinibaldi lived a high schooler’s fantasy, belting a walk-off single that vaulted South Williamsport to a second straight District 4 Class AA championship as it defeated Sayre, 2-1, at Bowman Field. Eight years ago, Sinibaldi was watching a Yankees game when he saw his favorite team win on a walkoff home run.

He has been chasing that dream ever since and walkoff hits, especially playoff ones, do not come with style points. Sinibaldi’s game-winning single was as meaningful as any home run ever could be and it helped South become the first team in program history to capture two straight district championships.

Consider that one dream achieved that can be checked off the bucket list.

“I’ve always wanted a walkoff,” Sinibaldi said. “It wasn’t a home run like I thought back then but this is great, too.”

No South player, coach or fan will disagree. Sinibaldi delivered the hit South desperately needed as both Sayre stood in the team’s championship path.

South had runners on first and second with one out when Cole Brewer batted and drew a four-pitch walk. Sinibaldi would have been just fine had Brewer produced the game-winning hit. But he also was not upset when Brewer showed a keen eye and walked. Suddenly, opportunity presented itself.

A hard worker who helped the South basketball team win its first playoff game since 2011 last winter, Sinibaldi showed what happens when preparation meets opportunity. After falling behind 0-1, Sinibaldi accurately predicated what was coming, saw what he liked and drove it into left field. Tyler Trojan easily scored and the celebration was on.

“As much as I wanted Cole to get a hit there at the end, I kind of wanted him just to walk so I could get a swing at it,” Sinibaldi said. “He threw a nice changeup the first pitch, but I was still geared for a fastball and luckily he threw me one the next pitch right in my zone. I was looking for a fastball and just smashed it.”

“I knew Peter could get it done,” first baseman Logan Burkett said. “His last at-bat he pretty much had an identical hit into left field. I was confident he could do it again.”

Sinibaldi has been delivering timely hits and plays throughout the last three seasons, helping the Mounties (16-4) play in three straight finals and win two championships. He has provided production, leadership and a calm hand and has been a vital part of a team that also won its first league title since 2012.

That is why so many teammates trusted Sinibaldi would come through in the seventh inning. They have seen him do it before and knew he could again.

“You can’t ask for a more exciting play than a walkoff in a championship game. That’s it, right there. I knew Peter was going to do it,” winning pitcher Tripp Breen said after igniting the game-winning rally with a leadoff single.I was just waiting for when he was going to do it and I was so ready. He’s been doing this all year. He’s been hitting great and coming up in big times for us.”

Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows. Baseball can be a grind emotionally as much as physically. Sinibaldi went through a late-season stretch in which he slumped and forces seemed like they were lining against them.

But he persevered. He kept his head up, kept grinding understanding that no matter what happened in the past, the next at-bat was the most key.

Sinibaldi broke out some at the Backyard Brawl, collecting three hits against Williamsport and Loyalsock. He added another in South’s second-to-last game against Muncy and really turned it on in practice. The Mounties had a 12-day layoff before playing yesterday and like a scientist in the lab, Sinibaldi kept working and coming closer to putting that winning formula together.

That started happening in the sixth inning when Sinibaldi hit a leadoff single. He was stranded at second, but it may have provided just the right spark. Given another chance an inning later, Sinibaldi experienced some sweet profits after paying the price the last 12 days.

“Peter has been swinging that way for three weeks into practices and the last few games he has been starting to put it together,” South coach Smokey Stover said. “He’s doing it in the games, so that’s pretty awesome for him. He’s really coming along good.”

Sinibaldi not only helped South beat Sayre, but he also beat the weather. A thunderstorm unleashed a few minutes later and the game likely would not have resumed until today or Friday. For either team that could have a nightmare scenario.

Instead, Sinibaldi lived the dream.