Massapequa already has a history and is now looking to make more.
The players from the Massapequa Coast Little League captured the New York state title last weekend, the first state championship in the league’s 72-year history. Massapequa will play in the Metro Regionals in Bristol on Saturday. They face one final obstacle before they attempt to make a run for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“There’s nothing more exciting than the idea of an 11- or 12-year-old fulfilling his or her little league baseball dream of getting to the Little League World Series,” Roland Clark, the team’s coach, told The Post on Thursday.
Added Alex Pagano, a pitcher and first baseman who leads the team in home runs: “It’s definitely really exciting. Making it to Williamsport, it would be huge because we would be the first Massapequa team to do it.”
They have every chance of achieving that dream. Stiff competition awaits in the regional — representatives from New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island are also vying for the coveted spot in Williamsport. Massapequa will face Toms River (N.J.), East in the double-elimination tournament. This perennial little league powerhouse is a perennial contender.
Massapequa wouldn’t have it any other way.
“At the end of the day, we are the New York state champions and the teams that we’re going to be facing in the regionals are state champions as well,” Clark said. “It’s a champions tournament and anything can happen. It’s going to be a fierce competition. We’ll just try to keep a positive attitude and never quit our philosophy that the game isn’t over until the final out.
“That’s worked pretty well for us so far.”
It has indeed, but Massapequa has seldom had to sweat and clench all the way to victory. The state championship’s two single-elimination contests proved to be relatively stress-free.
Massapequa won a 10-0 mercy rule victory in the semifinal against East Greenbush Castleton. Then, in the finals against West Nyack Nanuet — which had previously beaten Massapequa in pool play — Massapequa exacted revenge via another mercy-rule win, 15-5.
Massapequa currently has 12-2 in the tournament.
“It kinda sent the message that Massapequa would be a team to not forget about,” Clark said of his team’s triumphs.
Massapequa has turned that message into outstanding on-field play. Massapequa had the most home runs and allowed the least runs in the state championship.
“The great thing about my team, from the first guy to the 11th guy, is that everyone contributes,” Clark said. “Everyone has something special to offer. We don’t rely on one player. I think that’s what made the state tournament and this ride so far very special.”
Clark has experienced all of this before — the hoopla and fanfare from the Massapequa community, not to mention the mounting attention and the allure of realized dreams.
Massapequa has two Little Leagues. The other is the Massapequa International Little League. Massapequa Coast has never sent a team at regionals, but Massapequa International did so in 1989. Clark was part of the 1989 squad.
Threety-three year later, he’s back at the helm for another memorable run. Coming full circle, he said, is a “special moment.”
He insists, however, that the spotlight should be on the children. They weren’t the favorites to reach this point. Webster or South Shore Staten Island were bestowed this label.
“It wasn’t an expectation,” Clark said. “This is a difficult tournament.”
Added Pagano: “We expected to make it far, but not this far.”
But with a trip to Williamsport looming, there’s only one New York team left standing, just one making a definitive statement: None other than the boys from Massapequa.
“They might not be enjoying their normal summer of going to the beach or being able to hang out with their friends everyday,” Clark said with a laugh. “But I think they’re very happy with the trade-off.”
Source: NY Post