"Those teams played too many games together for us to even be competitive," said WNY Koufax manager Lou Nagurka, after his team fell in two straight games at the Koufax World Series held in Surprise, Arizona last week. "It was like playing a college team. They were huge and everyone hit the ball hard."
West New York suffered its first setback against the Arizona Firebirds, who eventually went on to win the World Series crown. The local team entered the tournament with an outstanding 84-2 record and didn't disappoint the hometown fans in the first round, defeating WNY by a score of 17-4.
"We got killed," Nagurka said. "We never expected that. We saw the Arizona team play the day before we played them and we were impressed, but we thought we could play with them."
A day later, WNY faced the Puerto Rican entry in the tournament and Puerto Rico came away with a 7-6 victory, winning the game in the bottom of the seventh inning and eliminating West New York from the tournament.
"We had our chances to beat Puerto Rico, but we just couldn't deliver the clutch hit when we needed it," Nagurka said. "Without a doubt, it was a disappointment to lose in two straight games. But we did get to play in some consolation games. The kids had a good time going to the games and making new friends. It was a good experience for them."
However, there was one thing that Nagurka and his teenaged players couldn't avoid - the extreme heat of Arizona.
"It was 113 degrees on the field when we played one game," Nagurka said. "None of our kids ever experienced heat like that. They didn't even want to go in the pool at the hotel because the water was too hot in the pool. I never felt that kind of temperature before. I'd been to Arizona before for baseball tournaments, but it was nothing like this."
Although WNY fell in two straight to two teams that were far more experienced - Puerto Rico had a 63-17 record, compared to the 23-3 mark that WNY brought to the World Series - Nagurka said that the future looks bright for West New York baseball.
"All of these kids are moving on to Memorial High School," Nagurka said. "We have some good players going there."
One of those who just might make an impression immediately as a freshman is pitcher/shortstop Bryan Cuevas, who had three hits in the loss to Puerto Rico and had two hits in the loss to the Arizona Firebirds.
"I think he has a very bright future," Nagurka said. "He might be able to jump in and play right away at Memorial."
You can be rest assured that West New York will field more competitive baseball teams in the summers to come...
A 16-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star team based out of Bergen County won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship last weekend in Newark, Delaware, and the team, which also won the New Jersey state title in the 16-year-old age bracket, featured three players and a coach from Hudson County.
Sean Roberts and Zac Schlemm of Secaucus and Reuben Vaquero of Weehawken and coach Tom Reynolds, also of Secaucus and an assistant coach on the Secaucus High School varsity baseball team, were members of the winning team that will move on to the Babe Ruth 16-year-old nationals next weekend...
The Bergen County team defeated Pennsylvania, 12-5, last Sunday, to capture the Mid-Atlantic Regional crown.
This will mark the final Extra Innings feature for this summer. We'll return with previews of the upcoming fall scholastic season beginning next week. Thanks to all who contributed to the weekly feature over the summer. - Jim Hague