Rockaway Little League 10U Team Finishes 2nd
The Rockaway Little League (RLL) 10U team advanced further than any previous Rockaway team had ever done but fell just short of their goal of making it to the state tournament. Mid-Island Little League (MILL) from Staten Island defeated them in the Section 5 championship round. Section 5 encompasses all Little Leagues in New York City and western Long Island.
RLL had roared through the District 27 (Southern Queens) tournament sweeping four straight games and then opened the Section 5 tournament by defeating Rockville Center 7-6 and Kingsbridge (Bronx) 10-3. That set up a meeting between RLL and MILL on Tuesday, July 16 at Bronxchester LL. The two undefeated teams played a truly classic game that went to extra innings with Mid-Island finally prevailing 5-1. That dropped Rockaway into the loser’s bracket where they defeated Forest Hills 10-9 the next day in Rockville Centre in a thrilling game that saw both teams mount last inning comebacks. That set the stage for Rockaway meeting Mid-Island once again in the championship round the very next day, Thursday, July 19 at Inwood LL in upper Manhattan.
The much anticipated game between undefeated Rockaway and Mid-Island on Tuesday, July 16 lived up to its billing, turning out to be a hard fought, tightly contested, defensive highlight reel. Mid-Island struck first, scoring a run in the top of the first inning. Bedford, the MILL leadoff hitter, stroked a line drive double to left center off RLL starting pitcher James Resker. A ground out to Mike McManus at second moved Bedford to 3B. MILL #3 hitter Scamardella then launched a deep off the fence for a double as Bedford scored. Resker escaped further damage by getting the next two batters on ground ball outs.
As they have done throughout the post-season, RLL struck right back. Daniel Green led off for RLL against MILL starting pitcher Klayman with a line drive single to right. Byrne followed with a high fly over the right fielder’s head. RLL showed they were bringing their aggressive base running style to this game as Green rounded 3B full speed. It would take a perfect play to nail him and that’s just what MILL did as Green was called out on the close play. Byrne alertly took third on the throw. James Resker grounded back to the pitcher and Byrne continued RLL’s daring base running as he bolted for home on the throw to first, beating the return throw to the catcher. That tied the score at 1-1. Based on the 1st inning offense from both teams, it looked like it was going to be a high scoring affair. But it turned into a defensive gem with both teams thwarting rallies time and again. The 1-1 tie stood throughout regulation.
MILL struck quickly in extra innings, plating four runs in the 7th. The big blow was a two out, bases loaded line drive by Martello that just eluded center fielder Jason Sebastiano’s leaping try. Three runners scored. Martello was thrown out going for 3B for the third out but the damage was done. RLL could not mount one last rally in the bottom of the inning as Bedford recorded a pop up and two strikeouts.
The boys from Rockaway had to rebound from that heartbreaking loss and travel to Rockville Centre the very next day to face Forest Hills in a must-win elimination game. Things started poorly for RLL as Forest Hills pounded RLL starting pitcher Sebastiano for three runs in the top of the 1st, driving the ball all over the field. It could have been worse but center fielder Daniel Green made a spectacular running, lunging catch of a line drive in the left center gap for one out and second baseman Philly Benoit turned a nifty 4-4-3 double play. Green also threw out a runner at 3B in the 2nd inning to kill another Forest Hills rally. Sebastiano grew sharper each inning however and stymied the Forest Hills offense with help from his defense, including a spectacular back handed grab and throw on a smash down the line by third baseman Joe Tammaro, a terrific 6-6-3 double play by shortstop Ian Byrne and a clutch catch in right field by Aidan Harkins with two outs and bases loaded.
RLL collected only a single hit against Forest Hills their first time through the lineup but things were different in the bottom of the third as they got their second chances. Green led off with a walk and Byrne followed with a base hit. James Resker drove in Green with a single and Tom Resker singled home Byrne to make it 3-2. James Agoglia walked to load the bases. Tom Resker continued RLL’s daring base running by taking a big walking lead and stealing home on the catcher’s return throw to the pitcher. Agoglia scored the go-ahead on an error. Harkins walked with two outs to load the bases. Green, up for the second time in the inning, laced a line drive over the first base bag which rolled to the wall. Green raced around the bases for a grand slam and an 8- 3 RLL lead.
With Sebastiano cruising, things looked good for Rockaway in the top of the 6th. Forest Hills scratched within 8-6 when cleanup batter Patin, who had homered over the fence in each of Forest Hills’ two previous games, stepped to the plate with two out and two on. Sure enough, Patin launched another over the fence for a 9-8 Forest Hills lead.
Rockaway came up in the bottom of the 6th for their last chance to salvage the game and the tournament. With two outs James Resker squibbed a ball down the first base line and just beat the throw to first. Brother Tom then smoked a grass skimming line drive to right that eluded the right fielder. James raced home with the tying run and Tom followed to score the winning run. That emotional win meant RLL would get another game with Mid-Island in the championship round the next day at Inwood LL.
Despite the anticipation and confidence on their part, the strain of playing five games in six days proved too much for Rockaway. MILL pounded the ball, blasting three over-the-fence home runs en route to a 15- 2 victory. There was no denying that Mid- Island was the better team in the championship game.
Rockaway manager Kamin Green said “I’m so proud of these boys. Each and every one contributed to the team’s success in the tournament. They accomplished something no other Rockaway team has ever done. After their experience last year, they set a goal of winning the district and succeeding in the sectional and that’s just what they did. They hung in there and battled and never gave up the entire tournament. I’m sure, with that kind of determination, they’ll be even more successful next year.”
The Rockaway Little League 10U team is Billy Reyes, James Agoglia, James Tuohey, Jason Sebastiano, Philly Benoit, Tom Resker, Mike McManus, Daniel Green, Aidan Harkins, James Resker, Ian Byrne and Joe Tammaro.