"I knew we had a lot of potential," Light said. "But Billy turned to me and said, 'We have a good chance to win this thing.' We've been together so long that whenever he speaks, I believe him. We're like a two-headed dragon; that's how long we've been together. So when he says something like that, it makes me pay attention."
It didn't matter that Weehawken had never won the District 6 title for the elder players. They had captured crowns in the past with their 13-year-old and 14-year-old teams (with Light and Kallert calling the shots), but never with the 15-year-olds. Kallert felt there was a chance for this talented bunch to make history.
Guess what? Kallert was right.
Led by a fine pitching performance by Andrew Nasti and an explosive offensive attack that banged out 16 hits, Weehawken routed North Bergen, 14-3, to capture the District 6 crown last Tuesday night, winning the title for the first time ever.
Weehawken has been playing Babe Ruth baseball since the early 1970s.
"It's the first one we ever got," said Light, who serves as the manager of the team and received assistance from Kallert, John Reilly and Lou Nasti. "These kids really stepped up big time."
With the championship, Weehawken now moves on to the New Jersey Babe Ruth state tournament this weekend in Edison.
What made the Weehawken district title even more impressive is the fact that the team had to emerge from the loser's bracket to come back and win the double-elimination tourney.
After winning their first two games in the tourney, defeating Bayonne, 6-5, and West New York, 10-2, Weehawken suffered a setback, dropping a 6-3 decision to North Bergen in the third game.
"We played sloppy in the field, throwing the ball all over the place," Light said. "We also left 14 runners on base. It wasn't a good game."
Now, facing elimination with every game, the Weehawken All-Stars defeated Bayonne again, this time by a 4-3 score, knocking their long-time rivals from the tourney. In that game, Jack Montanile, who is already a two-sport standout at Hudson Catholic, was the winning pitcher and he also had two doubles and three RBI. Montanile's two-run double knocked in the winning runs.
Weehawken now had to face North Bergen again, once again facing elimination. Light could not use either of his top pitchers (Nasti and Montanile) in the game, so he turned to 14-year-old Derek Strandberg, his usual catcher, to take the mound.
"Derek came up big," Light said. "He gave us some solid innings there. It's hard to find another kid to step up there, but Derek did."
Behind Strandberg's clutch pitching performance, Weehawken won, 8-5, setting up a final game showdown with the team that had earlier defeated them in the tourney.
"We knew it was going to be tough to beat North Bergen twice," Light said.
However, it really wasn't. The Weehawken kids soundly trounced North Bergen in the final game. Nasti, who played for the Weehawken High School varsity last spring as a freshman, pitched a complete game, striking out 11. First baseman Steve Fernandez had four hits and four RBI, while Strandberg had four hits and two RBI. Third baseman Ruben Piquiero had three RBI.
"They really hit the ball in that game," Light said.
The Weehawken team has good balance between its pitching and hitting. Montanile and Nasti handled the top half of the pitching rotation. Fernandez was solid at first base. Edgar Montilla, the team's top hitter in the tourney, batting better than .600, was the second baseman. Montanile, who was named the Most Valuable Player in the tourney, and Nasti shared shortstop duties. Piquiero was impenetrable at third.
Kelly Hogan is the left fielder, with Angelo Corredor in centerfield and Fransua Garcia in right. Light liked the speed that the two latter outfielders gave the team.
"Corredor is a good fielder who runs down everything," Light said. "He runs like a deer. Garcia is a really little kid, but he's so fast. He made some big plays."
Other Weehawken players include reserves T.J. Perez, Ian Gruttadauria, Ricky Pressler, Jared Grimes, Johnny Flores and Peter Ramanand, who got hurt in the district tourney and will not be able to play in the state tourney. Jeremy Abreu, who was hurt earlier in the year, has recovered and will play in the states.
Now, the true test begins. The Weehawken team will be among nine district champs and the host team, Edison, to participate in the tourney, which was scheduled to begin Friday night.
"It's going to be a challenge," Light said. "But Bill has a good feeling about our chances."
Hey, the good feeling approach worked once. Who knows? Maybe there's a little magic left for this weekend.