Sports columnist Marc Maturo’s official column
Pearl River all-stars exemplify heart and soul
To say that the Pearl River Little League 12-year-old all-star team enjoyed a magnificent season would actually be quite an understatement when one considers the manner in which it captured the Section 4 championship.
The all-stars, who had been together for the most part since they were a 9-year-old contingent, went on to distinguish themselves at the state tournament. Competing outside Niagara Falls in Lockport, Pearl River’s finest placed third in a high-quality field of some 537 teams.
Be that as it may, it already had been quite a ride for the youngsters, who nailed down the county title in thrilling 12-8 fashion over South Orangetown in 11 innings, five more than the regularly scheduled limit.
The victory, as hard-earned and well-deserved as it was, served merely as a prelude to an astonishing victory in the Section 4 tournament that featured all-star teams from Rockland, Westchester, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess counties.
Managed by Jay Flaherty – the elder brother of former big-league backstop John Flaherty – and with Mike McGee and Kieran Creighton on the staff, Pearl River surmounted a seemingly impossible, highly improbable task in the title game against New Rochelle.
Pearl River trailed by nine – count ’em – runs (13-4) as it came to bat in the sixth and final inning.
“We have a lot of heart, great heart, we never gave up. We had a pretty good team,” understated Flaherty, a soon-to-be 48-year-old former two-sport athlete at Albertus Magnus HS.
Displaying that heart and never-say-die attitude, Pearl River somehow erupted for 10 runs to pull out the astonishing triumph.
“I was certainly glad that baseball is a game that is played without a clock, because we needed every minute,” McGee recalled of that epic victory. “You know, I can’t ever possibly say we had a design, but one of the things we worked on all season is composure and focus.”
Down by nine, the staff practiced what they preached.
“We challenged each boy before that inning came up — refuse to make an out, and darn if they didn’t do it!” exclaimed McGee. “One after another, one after another, one after another — that was a very exciting way to win the Section championship. It was a scene right out of ‘The Natural,’ but without the fireworks.”
Pearl River’s success might also be traced to the players having first joined forces as a 9-year-old all-star team, one that placed second in the state as 10-year-olds. In four all-star seasons, Pearl River compiled a glittering 39-8 record against formidable opposition.
“That makes a difference because they have a familiarity with each other,” observes McGee. “When they flip the ball they know that someone will be there to get it. Sometimes when you put together an all-star team, you don’t have that, but we were tested, played a lot of ball under tournament competition. When it mattered most they seemed to play their best.”
Sean Byman, power-hitting outfielder
Kieran Creighton, starting pitcher and third baseman
Jonathon Farley, cleanup hitter and right fielder
Sean Flaherty, left-handed power hitter and third baseman Denis Fleming, defensive infield and outfield specialist Liam McLinskey, shortstop and leadoff hitter
Jack McKee, starting pitcher and first baseman
Kyle Muldoon, fleet of foot center fielder
Antonio Rinaldi, power-hitting catcher
Matt Russo, left fielder
Brendan Tarsnane, first baseman and closer.
Accomplishments: 3-time District champion; 2-time Section champion; 2nd place, N.Y. State 2011; 3rd place, N.Y. State 2013.
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS
Our continuing reports on the best softball team ever to grace the diamonds in Rockland County, brought another response – this one directly from a one-time standout on Modern Auto Body in Pearl River.
Tom O’Brien not only offered his opinion, but was kind enough to correct a note in last week’s column in which we put the former pitcher in the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame. He is, said O’Brien, a member of the Rockland County Softball Hall of Fame. We thank Tom for his input.
O’Brien later wrote, and we quote: “Modern Auto was truly a VERY GOOD softball team. Other outstanding teams of that era were Camp Hill, Apollo 12, Pride and Orange Lantern. There were many other good teams that played in the Deer Head league during what I would classify as the golden age of Rockland County softball. Other competitive leagues were the South Orangetown and Spring Valley Sunday morning leagues, and the Clarkstown evening league.
“While Modern Auto Body was very successful and highly respected … and was inducted as a team into the Rockland County Softball Hall of Fame, it’s the lasting memories and friendships that are of most value. Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories.”
Once again we ask interested readers to submit their nomination for the best softball team ever in Rockland County.
THIS & THAT
THE 10th JERRY McGUIRE Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled August 14 at Rotella Golf Course in Haverstraw, with a Shotgun start slated at 9:30 a.m. A breakfast is available at 8:30 a.m., with a BBQ planned at 2:30 p.m. Contact Sam McGuire at 201-529-8331.
REGISTRATION CLOSES on August 11 for the 24th annual West Point Triathlon, which will be held on August 18 at Camp Buckner, West Point Military Reservation. The race consists of an 800- swim at Lake Popolopen, a 25km bike along route 293, and a challenging 5km run through Camp Buckner and Camp Natural Bridge. Access: http://beta.active.com/west-point-ny/triathlon/24th-annual-west-point-triathlon-2013-1147