Washington Park had not won the District 7 crown since 1969, before coming back to win the title from the losers’ bracket in 2015. They advanced to the District 7 final again in 2016 and won both the District 7 and Section 2 championships last year, advancing to the state tournament.
This year, it has been more of the same and Washington Park, long time a fixture in Jersey City youth baseball, finds its All-Stars on the doorstep of glory once again.
At press time, the Washington Park All-Stars were set to face Elmora of Elizabeth in the District 7 title game.
“I’m a little dumbfounded, because I don’t think anyone expected this team to do so well,” said Roberti Severino, the head coach of the Washington Park All-Stars for the second straight year. Severino was an assistant coach for the first two years of the powerful run.
“We lost so many guys from last year’s team, so we had to start over,” Severino said. “For us to go back to the finals once again is pretty remarkable. This is a team that a lot of people doubted could get this far.”
Severino was asked why his Little League program has done so well over the last four years.
“I think we’re getting a lot more talent,” Severino said. “We have a lot more younger kids coming into the league. Word of mouth has helped getting kids to come to play. We now have brothers who played for Washington Park now in our league. Word gets out when you do well.”
Severino said that it helps that the league plays some games with a field with 70 foot bases and a pitcher’s mound 50 feet away, this way the players develop faster.
“We’re trying to get them stronger,” Severino said. “The arm strength has increased. It helps running the longer bases and throwing to the longer bases. A majority of kids around the state play 50/70. It gets them more advanced.”
The current Washington Park All-Stars feature only three kids who were on last year’s team.
The pitching staff features 12-year-old right-hander Jhosei Bernhardt, who throws very hard.
“He has been lights out for us,” Severino said of Bernhardt. “He’s a flame thrower.”
Justin Hernandez is another of the pitchers. The 12-year-old right-hander was on the team last year. He is also the team’s regular shortstop.
Raymond Mola and Cesar Peguero are also on the Washington Park pitching staff.
The catcher is Julio D. Hernandez, who handles the pitchers well. Hernandez is also a pitcher if needed.
Peguero plays first base when not pitching. The second baseman is Achilles Guerrero, who has the best name in the entire tourney.
“He’s our smallest kid and our leadoff hitter,” Severino said of Guerrero.
Justin Hernandez is the shortstop and Mola is the third baseman and team’s resident power hitter.
The left field duties are shared by a pair of brothers, 11-year-old Jakob Lopez and his older brother, 12-year-old Jaybriel.
Justin Mora is the centerfielder and Brian Vargas is the right fielder. Rahul Rahim and Jaden Callender are key reserves.
Severino’s coaching staff includes Lue Collazo and Reynaldo Hernandez, who is Justin’s father and the father of former Washington Park Little League standouts Roddy and Roger Hernandez.
“We just have to get these kids to believe that they can do it,” Severino said.
It’s been done before. Washington Park Little League’s All-Stars are proof.
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