Four softball teams from Rockland County claimed the top spot in their age groups at this year's New York State Little League Championship. After claiming four state titles for District 18, several of the teams went on to compete at the regional and world levels.
The teams, which hailed from South Orangetown (9-10-year-old division), Stony Point (10-11), New City (11-12), and Pearl River (13-14), were honored September 6 at a Legislative Meeting in New City. The team members were presented with certificates marking their accomplishments.
"To give you an idea of how remarkable this year was for Rockland Little League Softball, consider that there are 38 districts in New York state and all four champions for the 10s, 11s, 12s, and Juniors came from District 18 Rockland County," says Mike Carey, assistant district administrator of softball for Little League District 18. "As a whole, many of these teams faced their toughest competition right here in Rockland County."
The Little History Makers
South Orangetown's 9-10-year-old all-stars were the first New York team in their age group to make it to Little League Softball's East Coast regional tournament.
Four state champion teams in one year is a first for the county that was followed by several more. The 9-10 age group from South Orangetown, a dozen girls managed by Theresa O'Brien and coached by Lou Ragonesi and Michelle McKiernan, beat a Staten Island team 12-2 in just four innings (this age group usually plays six innings, but the game was shortened according to the league's mercy rule when the team was up by 10 runs) for the state championship in July. They went on to the semi-final round of the U.S. East Region tournament in Pennsylvania-the farthest any New York team in their age group has gone in our state's history.
"It was just a great experience for the girls, they had such a ball," says Christopher O'Brien, president of the South Orangetown Little League. The team was honored at an Orangetown town board meeting on September 16.
The Undefeated Elevens
Stony Point's 10-11-year-old all-stars topped an undefeated season with a state title.
The 10-11-year-old team of Stony Point, managed by Robert Alonso and coached by Paul Chiorazzi, Ed Geary, and Walter Carey, went undefeated in 2011 and captured the state title after a 10-0 romp (in just four innings) over South Shore Staten Island. While the state level is the highest offered to this age group, "It will be interesting to see how far this team goes next year," Carey says. The players were awarded a certificate for their achievements at a Stony Point town board meeting on September 13.
Stony Point Little League also celebrated three more state champs this year, in its baseball division (the 11-year-old, junior, and senior teams), bringing the town's total to four-a number that matches the league's total state titles before this year. "It's been a special year," says Bob Jordan, president of the league, adding that this type of grand slam may be a Little League record, but the organization doesn't keep those types of records on file. The teams will be honored in a Little League Parade through Stony Point on September 16 and at an awards dinner for all the all-star teams in early October.
The Rock Stars
The New City team made it all the way to this year's Little League Softball World Series where they placed fifth and set a Rockland record.
In addition to the state title, the New City 11-12-year-olds, managed by Mike Herskowitz and Andy Kaye and coached by James Guevarra, Mike del Rosario, and Glenn Powers, collected the U.S. East Region champion title and went on to place fifth in the Little League Softball World Series in Oregon in mid-August-the highest any Rockland team of this age group has ever placed. The girls beat out Italy, Portland, and Puerto Rico to secure their spot.
It was clear from the start that this all-star team was one to be reckoned with: Their first game in district play was an 18-inning win (17 of those innings were scoreless) versus Nanuet, the defending state champions. Lon Hofstein, president of New City Little League, says this hard-fought four-hour game was the beginning of the team's dream tour.
"New City Little League is at a loss for words to say how proud we are of these girls," Hofstein says. "They play with all their heart. It's such a pleasure to watch them and work with them, as well as their parents."
The team was sent off to the World Series with a community-wide pep rally and were equally embraced when they returned: On August 25, the girls were introduced at a Rockland Boulders game, and on September 3 they stood side-by-side on the field with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Town of Clarkstown is also planning an awards ceremony for the players, and they'll attend New City Little League's champions' dinner in November. "They're like rock stars," Hofstein says with a laugh. "This is something they'll look back on for years to come."
The Returning Champs
Pearl River's junior team proved their talent again this year by taking states and missing the World Series by just two runs.
Pearl River's Juniors are no stranger to the winners' circle. Nine out of the 10 players on this year's team took the state title in the 11-12 age group in 2009 and five of the team members were on Pearl River High School's district-winning varsity softball team this year. "They're a committed bunch of kids," says Mike O'Malley, one of the team's coaches and corresponding secretary for Pearl River Little League. "Most of them have been playing together since they were 7 or 8 years old."
The all-star team, coached by O'Malley and Rick Alicandri and managed by Mike Woods, topped the state junior (13-14-year-old) division after trampling South Shore Staten Island 11-0 in just six innings (juniors usually play seven innings, but the mercy rule shortened the game). After states, the players took on nine teams at the U.S. East Region tournament, winning eight games and ultimately losing 6-5 to Pennsylvania in the finals-a heartbreaking loss, because the team was up 5-1 earlier in the game, O'Malley says. But the Pennsylvania team was a worthy opponent, having beaten Pearl River at the regional tournament two years ago and reaching the World Series for the past six years. "It was harder this year because they went further-they were only two runs away from going to the World Series," O'Malley says. "They're a talented group. They just invite us along for the ride."
The Pearl River team was honored on the field at a Rockland Boulders game September 4. Orangetown Supervisor Paul Whalen also invited the girls to a televised town hall meeting September 26, where they will receive certificates for their accomplishments.