Being a veteran of coaching Little League baseball for many years in Hoboken, Tony Montalvo knows when there’s the making of a good team that could make a run in the annual District 7 All-Star tournaments.
So instead of trying to coach the 12-year-old All-Stars this year, Montalvo decided to take on the younger 10-year-old squad, because he knew that they were a special group.
“I saw them coming up in the minor leagues,” Montalvo said. “I saw the potential they had last year. I wanted to have the chance to coach them. I saw a lot of potential. They’re a good group of kids.”
As the District 7 9-and-10-year-old All-Star tournament began two weeks ago, Montalvo knew that he had a solid pitching staff, comprised of starters Ryan Burke and Sam Cooper and standout relief specialist Jacob Wright.
All three hurlers are right-handed.
“Burke pitches for my team in the regular season, so I knew what he could do,” Montalvo said. “Sam is one tough customer. They’re both great kids. Jacob Wright is a very confident young man. I feel confident giving any one of those three the ball. They have a lot of heart. They want the baseball.”
Montalvo knew that he had the pitching and the defense, two essentials when playing in a post-season tourney.
“I thought it was a good, well balanced team,” Montalvo said. “Everyone does their part. I’m not surprised at all. For 10-year-old kids, they have a lot of confidence and composure. Even when times got tough, they stood their ground and kept playing. I think it’s because most of the summer, they played against 12-year-olds and held their own. So they were ready.”
Montalvo also liked that his team made the opponents work.
“They were very patient at the plate,” Montalvo said. “They made the pitchers throw them the pitch they wanted. We tried to drill patience into them and it worked, because they drew a lot of walks and got on base.”
They also scored a bunch of runs, getting 14 runs in one game and 13 in another.
“They’re also a good hitting team,” Montalvo said.
So there were no surprises when Hoboken won all five games in the tournament, eventually defeating Roberto Clemente of Jersey City in the championship game last Saturday night at the Secaucus Little League complex.
“The kids were ecstatic,” Montalvo said. “They really played well. I’m very proud of them.”
Burke was the winning pitcher in a semifinal win over Clemente, collecting two hits and two RBI in that game. Vinny Chirichella, the team’s shortstop, delivered the game-winning hit in that game.
In the title game, Sean Smith was the hero, collecting two hits and four RBI, while Wright had two hits and two RBI. Wright, who got the save in the opening game of the tournament against West New York American, had three hits in that game.
Matthew Harasek was the team’s catcher, but Joshua Sapira is another backstop who played well earlier in the tourney.
Cooper and Burke, the two pitchers, shared first base duties when the other was pitching. Wright was the second baseman and Chirichella was the shortstop. Anthony Henriquez is the team’s third baseman along with Paul Lisa.
Henriquez is the younger brother of the twins who starred on the Hoboken High School state sectional softball champions this spring and is the son of the former Hoboken football standout.
Seshan Ganesan is the team’s left fielder. He made a sensational throw from left field to home plate to secure the team’s win over Washington Park. Smith is in centerfield and Matthew Stewart is in right field. Eli Blumenfeld is a reserve first baseman and Jake Landsbergis is a reserve outfielder.
The Hoboken All-Stars move on to the Section 2 tournament at Fort Lee that begins Sunday night. Hoboken will face the District 8 champion in the double-elimination tourney.
“The kids are excited to go,” Montalvo said. “They are thrilled. It’s the first time for them to play in such a big tournament. I think they’re going to rise to the occasion.”
The District 7 12-year-old All-Star tournament has reached the final round, with West New York American competing against Elmora of Elizabeth in the title game. The game was played after press time and if WNY American wins, we’ll have more in next week’s editions.
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
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Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.