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MCU Championships Preview

08/14/2017 1:09 PM -

If you like baseball, MCU Park in Coney Island will be the place to be on Tuesday.

After crowning its champions in the U-14 and U-13 divisions this past Thursday at Yankee Stadium, the Borough Cup will host its title games in the Under-8 through 12 divisions on Tuesday in Brooklyn.
First up is the U-8 final between Baserats Baseball and the Brooklyn Bluestorm. The Baserats are making their second straight appearance in this division championship and returning many of those players, who were just 7-year-olds last year.
"Our core four of five guys have been together since they were 4; most of the players have been together for two or three years," noted Baserats manager James Speciale, whose squad enters with a 39-3-1 record. "This is a tournament we've wanted because we had the game last year and blew it in the end."
The Baserats have won the USABL Spring Fling in Jackson, N.J.; the U-9 title in the Bridgewater (N.J.) Stars & Stripes Memorial; the North Jersey USABL tourney in Edison, N.J.; and the won the U-8 season crown in the USABL.
"What I'm most impressed with is how well-rounded this team is," Speciale said. "We play very good defense, our pitchers throw strikes and we're fundamentally sound. We can bunt, run the bases and play outfield defense well. And we go seven or eight pitchers deep."
Having played at MCU last year, "I wouldn't say 100 percent of the nerves are gone, but we definitely know what to expect," said Speciale, who will likely utilize Jake Levine, John Gano and Gioacchino Bonsangue on the mound Tuesday. "Last year, we were the No. 6 seed and upset the No. 1 then lost to the No. 2. This year, we're the top seed, so we expect to win."
The Bluestorm have also won three tourneys, including a season-opener in Philadelphia. Last month, they placed fourth in the AABC series in Connecticut.
"This is the biggest tournament on our schedule," said coach Darren Lopez of the Borough Cup. "Last year, we made the U-8 semifinals when a lot of these kids were either 6 or 7 years old. Last year, the kids were really young and I think were overwhelmed (playing at MCU); now, we're ready."
The Bluestorm dropped a decision to the Baserats during pool play. "It was a very good game," recalled Lopez, whose club is keyed by good pitching and defense.  "They're a very good team, but in my heart, I feel we're a better team. We made some mistakes in that game that we've been working on in practice."
After the U-9 championship between the Brooklyn High Heat and the Astoria Storm, the Bronx Raiders will take on the Brooklyn Bandits for the U-10 title.
For Brooklyn Bandits manager Mario Delgado, he'll be looking to go 2 for 2 at this year's Borough Cup, having guided the Williamsburg Sports League All Stars to the U-14 championship last Thursday.
"Our team does a little bit of everything ... speed, power, play great defense and can pitch," said Delgado of the Bandits. "The only fear I have is playing in the big stadium. When you're dealing with such a young age group, outfield defense can be pretty hard."
Still, Delgado said the Bandits are a resilient bunch.
"This team has been through so much. We've had some tough losses. But once the players understood their roles, things came together."
The Raiders, meanwhile, "have been playing together since they were 4 years old," said coach William Ramirez, whose squad plays in the Rolando Paulino League in the Bronx. "We have a pretty strong team. It's a good group of kids who listen and play hard."
The Raiders, who are coming off a championship appearance in the PONY tourney in Virginia two weeks ago, are extremely excited about Tuesday.
"It's awesome. The kids are happy and appreciative for this opportunity," Ramirez said. "Not every kid plays on a field like this."
In the U-11 final, the Phenoms face the New York Bandits.
Coach Phil Kelly and manager Matt Roventini personally foot the bill for the Phenoms. 
"I think we're the only privately sponsored travel team in the city, the only 100 percent no-fee scholarship program in the city," said Kelly, who for 30 years has known Roventini -- the longtime skipper of Poly Prep, the school where they were classmates together and who currently co-own the N.Y. Premier Baseball training facility in Queens.
Kelly said the Phenoms "are a very deep team. Players 1 through 12 are capable of contributing every game. They can all pitch and they're all competent hitters."
The Bandits defeated the Phenoms in pool play at a Perfect Game qualifier on Staten Island earlier this year but the Phenoms rebounded to win that tournament.
The N.Y. Bandits are paced by ace hurler Jerry Guzman, power hitters Carlos Tavares and Jesus Batista, infielder/pitchers Justin Hernandez and Brandon Gonzalez, and catcher Seven Alemas, whom manager Carlos Diaz calls the team's inspirational and vocal leader.
"Pitching and defense are the key for us. If Jerry comes with his 'A' game and we play solid defense, we have a good chance, but the Phenoms can hit the ball," said Diaz. "We're young and energetic. Our motto is: You hustle, you win."
Finally, the Bonnie Robins will square off against the Bronx Bombers for the U-12 honors.
Tuesday's final will amazingly be the 112th game of the spring/summer season for the Robins, who are managed by veteran skipper Jose Castro.
The Robins' highlights include winning a regional Baseball Heaven tournament, which will take them to the Sports at the Beach event in Delaware later this month; capturing the Parade Grounds League and the N.Y. Travel titles; placing second in the Hot Stove League on Long Island; and being runner-up in both the NABF World Series and the AABC Regional.
"This group won the Borough Cup two years ago," Castro said. "Their eyes lit up playing on such a stage. They know it's their time to shine."


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