EXTRA INNINGS Lyndhurst Legion team has local flavor Tauber, Urbanovich, Innis key state tournament run
by :Jim Hague
Aug 17, 2004 | 914 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The name emblazoned across the front of the team's jerseys may read Lyndhurst, but the Lyndhurst Post 139 team that is playing in the American Legion state tournament in Atlantic City this week certainly has a distinct Hudson County flavor.The Lyndhurst Post 139 team, which is enjoying a miracle run in the state tournament, features Hudson County products like All-Area standout Rick Tauber of Hudson Catholic, Paul Urbanovich and Joe Zembryski of St. Peter's Prep and Chris Innis of St. Mary's (Rutherford), who is a resident of Secaucus.
Both Tauber and Innis have already made commitments to play college baseball in the fall at St. Peter's College.
What makes the Lyndhurst run in the state tourney more remarkable is that they were one loss away from a departure from the District 5 tourney two weeks ago.
In the opening round of the New Jersey American Legion Baseball District 5 tournament, Lyndhurst Post 139, the host team at Breslin Field, suffered a horrendous 10-2 loss to Oakhurst.
"We were horrible," veteran Lyndhurst manager Jerry Sparta said. "We made 11 errors in that game and fell apart. We embarrassed ourselves on our home field in front of our hometown fans. It was disgusting. So I read them the riot act. I told them that we weren't done until we lost two games in the tournament, that this was just only one loss. I told them that they had to come back the next day and see what happens."
Little did Sparta know that his little pep talk would eventually turn out to work wonders on his ball club. Because since that loss to Oakhurst, the Lyndhurst Legion team hasn't lost a single game, winning six straight contests to advance to the second round of the state championships, which were played Tuesday afternoon at the Sandcastle in Atlantic City, the home of the Atlantic City Surf.
"I'm on a cloud here," Sparta said. "I'm flabbergasted. It's amazing when you consider where we were, one game away from getting eliminated. I don't think anything can get me off this cloud. Just seeing their faces, getting the chance to play on some fantastic ball fields, it's really been exciting. This is the way it's supposed to be."
The Lyndhurst Legion winning streak began with a 12-4 win over Milton in the District 5 losers' bracket, with Tauber continuing his torrid summer hitting with three hits and two RBI and Innis delivering two hits, including a homer, and two RBI.
The next victim was Hudson County champion West New York, which also captured the regular season championship in the Bergen-Passaic American Legion League, a league that Lyndhurst finished fourth in.
"I really had a good feeling against West New York," Sparta said. "I thought it would come down to which team had better pitching."
In that game, that team was Lyndhurst, which eliminated West New York, 11-0. Innis fired a three-hitter, striking out nine. Urbanovich, the son of veteran St. Peter's Prep head coach Joe Urbanovich, had three hits, and Tauber had two hits and four RBI. Innis chipped in with three hits.
The next contest was against Livingston, the Essex County champion. Urbanovich and high school teammate Zembryski had two hits each. Lyndhurst won that game, 6-1, thanks to the hitting exploits of the two Marauders.
The fourth straight win came against Sparta, with Tauber scoring the game-winning run in the eighth inning, giving Lyndhurst a 6-5 win and a berth in the state tournament.
The state tournament's first two rounds were held at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, the home of the Lakewood BlueClaws of the South Atlantic (Class A) League.
In the first round of the state tourney last Friday night, Lyndhurst's good fortunes continued against Milltown, one of the favorites to win the state tournament title. Milltown entered the tourney with a 23-2-1 record, but that didn't deter the local kids, who earned a 7-6 decision in 10 innings.
Innis was the winning pitcher, going the first nine innings and throwing 163 pitches. Tauber once again scored the game-winning run and had two hits and one RBI in the win, while winning pitcher Innis had three hits, including a homer.
Lyndhurst then advanced to the winner's bracket second round, facing Carteret. Lyndhurst had no problem in the second game, winning 12-1, with Innis again providing the big bat, collecting five hits, including three triples and three RBI. Urbanovich had two hits and two RBI.
There are four teams remaining with no losses. Lyndhurst right now is two wins away from qualifying for the American Legion Eastern Regional in either Boyertown, Pa. or Middletown, Ct.
"We've been to the Districts many times over the last 15 years and we've had nothing like this," said Sparta, who has funded and organized the Lyndhurst American Legion baseball team for many years. "We would win perhaps one game, lose two and be gone. It's so amazing because we finished fourth in our league, yet, we're still playing. We can't finish any worse than sixth in the state. It's really amazing."
The EXTRA INNINGS feature focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area. If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by voice mail at 201-798-7800, ext. 751, by general mail at 1400 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story.
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