1999-07-29 / Sports

Rockaway Rules Little League!

All Stars Capture Queens Flag
By Jim Roberts

Basketball season will have to wait. For now, baseball is King on the Peninsula, with the 9 and 10 year old All-Stars from Rockaway Little League capturing the first District 27 Pennant in more than a decade. Rockaway will now represent District 27, which serves Southern Queens, in New York State Sectional play, with the ultimate goal being a trip to Cooperstown for the State Championship.

The Minor Division All-Stars are: Frank Iudica, Chris Reilly, Matt Ryan, Keith Carlson, Kevin Donlin, Terence Crosson, Kevin Roberts, Nick Cholakis, Dominick Hayes, Kevin Kelleher, Thomas Kentouris, Anthony George, Brian Boyle and Danny Principe. Ably coached by Frank Iudica and Tom Boggianno, they nabbed first place in the annual double elimination tourney, besting 9 of their counterparts to claim the flag. Posting a near perfect tourney record of 5-1, Rockaway saved its best for last, winning three games last week over perennial powerhouses Ozone Howard and RGMV.

The parents and friends who were in attendance were treated to some of the most remarkable baseball ever displayed by boys at this level. Parents walked away from a ballfield shaking their heads, steadying their nerves, and proudly patting the heads of their little heroes as they conquered opponent after opponent. We have now tasted just a small sampling of what Toms River must have felt last year.

The tournament opened with a forfeit win, an unfortunate and almost costly situation, which left them unaware of the magnitude of the challenge they were about to face. In game 2, Rockaway squared off against last year’s champions Ozone Howard L.L. In what many long time observers, including the author, consider the best little league game they had ever seen, Rockaway roared back from an early 3 run deficit to take a 5-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning. Rockaway sent 11 hitters to the plate, with hits by Kentouris, Roberts, Hayes, Donlin, Kelleher and Principe. The big blow was a bases loaded triple by slugging first baseman Kevin Kelleher, which opened the floodgates. Ozone countered with 3 in the bottom half of the sixth, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and putting the backs of the Rockaway stars to the wall.

Advancing through the losers bracket they posted 2 reasonably easy victories (14-2 over Richhaven and 13-5 over Rosedale), marked by stellar defense and solid offense. A rematch with Ozone Howard loomed on the horizon. Destiny’s team began its final drive on Wednesday July 21, 1999 when they squared off against Ozone at their Howard Beach complex.

Ozone opened with one run in the top of the first, but stranded two runners in what could have been a big inning. Rockaway countered with three runs on rbi singles by Dom Hayes, Kevin Roberts and Terence Crosson, while Iudica, Kelleher and Hayes all scored. Ozone chased the starter with 9 more runs on 8 hits to take a commanding 10-3 lead going into the bottom of the third. Fortunately nobody has ever taught these All-Stars the word quit. In the bottom of the third inning Rockaway roared back, sending 14 batters to the plate and scoring 9 times, to take a 12-10 lead. In that inning hits by Kentouris Kelleher, Roberts, Principe and a two run double by Anthony George did the damage as all 9 Rockaway players crossed the dish. Dom Hayes relieved in the fourth and shut down Ozone over the next two innings to seal the 12-11 victory, setting the stage for a showdown against RGMV.

Friday July 23 found Rockaway heavy underdogs as they traveled to face unbeaten RGMV at their home complex in Glendale. Unfortunately, the oddsmakers were left befuddled when Rockaway came out swinging, racing away to a rule shortened 10-0 victory. Lead by Frank Iudica who went 2-3 (2 runs,2 rbis) in a contest which was scoreless for the first two innings. Virtually every spot in the line-up accounted for a run, and when Anthony George stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth and the game winning run on first, the stage was set. George laced a 2-2 pitch, a 3 rbi double, into the left field gap chasing home Hayes and Boyle while Roberts raced from first with the winning run. Chris Reilly and Kevin Donlin also scored in the decisive fourth inning. Tom Kentouris was stellar in pitching a shut out over 4 innings, aided by the sparkling defense of Brian Boyle at shortstop, Anthony George at catcher and Dom Hayes in centerfield. The stage was set for the Championship showdown.

Saturday July 24, 1999 brought another scorching day as the Rockaway All-Stars returned to RGMV field to complete their quest. Highlighted by Kevin Kelleher, who went 3-4 with 5 rbis, Rockaway would not be denied. Tom Kentouris was 3-3 with 3 runs scored and Terence Crosson scored twice. Speedster Matt Ryan tore up the base paths, while Brian Boyle, Kelleher and Chris Reilly flashed the leather. Hayes and Roberts held RGMV down before Frank Iudica came in to slam the door in the sixth, cinching a 9-5 victory.

League President Marty Andresen, whose feet have yet to hit the ground, treated the boys to slushies and proudly beamed over his pupils’ success.

The boys enjoyed a victory pool party hosted by King Kong Kelleher at which each boy received a diamond championship ring, right out of the cracker jacks box! Congratulations to the Champs and all their parents and supporters.

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