Express Baseball Comes Close In Jersey Tournament
The Rockaway Express spent their Memorial Day weekend in northern New Jersey participating in the 9U division of the Bergen County Charity Baseball Classic. The boys from Rockaway put on quite a show, finishing 3-0 in the round robin portion and entering the playoffs as the #1 seed before being eliminated in the semifinals by one run.
The Express started off fast by beating the Glen Rock (NJ) Panthers 18-1 in the opening game on Saturday morning in Paramus. They scored 11 runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back. Starting a pattern that would continue for all 4 games, lead-off batters Ian Byrne and Daniel Green got on base to start the game and came around to score. Joe Tammaro opened the scoring by lining a triple to left field to drive in Byrne and Green.
The offensive assault continued as the Express collected 6 more hits in the inning including 2-run singles by Mike McManus and Billy Reyes and a huge 2-run double to left center by Terence Marten. Marten later hit an even bigger 2-run triple to the centerfield fence in the second inning to establish himself as the hitting star of the game.
As impressive as the Express offense was, their defense was even better. Starting pitcher McManus set the tone by making a sprawling grab of a ground ball in the first inning. Third baseman Green grabbed a hot grounder and immediately threw home where catcher Jakey Mackoff made the grab and tagged out the Glen Rock runner. The next batter hit a hot shot to first baseman Reyes, who turned and threw to shortstop Byrne who returned the throw to Reyes at first for the 3-6-3 double play.
McManus threw 2 shutout innings and was followed by Matty McDonagh who struck out 2 in the third. Glen Rock scored once in the inning but further damage was prevented when second baseman Christian Agoglia fielded a hard grounder for the third out. Tammaro pitched the fourth inning striking out 3 to finish the opening game victory.
After a half-hour break, the Express went back on the field to play the Monroe
NY) Crusaders. The Express again jumped on top quickly with 7 runs in the top of the first. The big hits were a 2-run double by McDonagh and a 2-run single by James Tuohey. The defensive showcase continued in the second inning as first baseman Reyes turned a 1-3-2 double play by receiving starting pitcher Byrne’s throw for the first out and then firing home where catcher James Agoglia applied the tag on the runner attempting to score from third. Byrne threw 3 innings of 1- run ball for the win and Reyes pitched a scoreless fourth to preserve a 16-1 victory.
That set up a Sunday morning meeting in Paramus with the pre-tournament favorite and perennial state champ contender Paramus Spartans who were also 2- 0. At stake was a place in the semis and the #1 seed. As before, lead-off hitters Byrne and Green got on base and scored to give the Express an early 2-0 lead.
The Express scored 3 times in the top of the third as Tammaro drove in a run and then McManus lined a single to center for two more. Those runs proved valuable as Paramus finally broke through for 3 runs in the bottom of the inning. Things got tense in the bottom of the sixth as Paramus loaded the bases with 2 outs but Green struck out the next batter for his sixth K as the Express held on for a 5- 3 victory and a spot in the semis.
The Express then faced the 3-0 #2 seed Ridgewood (NJ) Raiders later that afternoon in Teaneck. Once again Byrne and Green got the scoring started in the top of the first and the Express broke out on top 2-0. Joe Featherston and Brendan Watters increased that to 4-0 in the second with alert baserunning as Featherston stroked a double to right driving in Reyes and then scored from second on an infield single legged out by Watters.
Ridgewood struck back for 4 runs in the bottom of the inning off starter Byrne, however.
Green relieved Byrne in the fourth and shut down Ridgewood so the game went into the fifth tied 4-4. Byrne walked with one out in the fifth, stole second and scored as Green punched a single into right. Then Agoglia came through with a big two out single to score Green for a 6-4 lead. Ridgewood would came back to score 3 in the bottom of the inning. Rockaway trailed by one going into the last inning but the Express magic finally ran out as they couldn’t rally one last time. Ridgewood went on to beat Rutherford 5-1 for the championship the next day.
Although they fell short of their goal, the Rockaway Express had coaches, parents and players throughout the tournament commenting on their baseball skill and the class with which they conducted themselves. The Rockaway boys played four terrific baseball games, had fun hanging out together at the hotel and pool and had a generally wonderful time the entire weekend. Next up for the Express is the final doubleheader of the NCYAA spring season on June 3 followed by the NCYAA playoffs on June 10.