For the first time in more than two decades, the Ocean-side Little League 12-and-under team headed upstate on Monday to play in the state 12U Baseball Majors championship in Penfield, a suburb of Rochester.
“The way they’ve all come together from the beginning seems like they’ve been teammates forever,” head coach Mike Cowan said of his team. “Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, each player has positively contributed to the team’s success to get them [to] where they are today.”
The team defeated Rockville Centre, 8-6, on July 10 to capture the District 30 title. It then went on to top Massapequa, 1-0, to win the Section 4 West title and advance to the eight-team tournament.
In celebration of its victory, the team held a pep rally at Wright’s Field on Sunday as the players prepared to head upstate.
Assistant coach Scott Troy said the team’s assertiveness and the players’ ability to work together and support one another has been instrumental in its triumphs.
“The boys’ success is a product of their confidence,” Troy said. “They truly believe they can hang with any Little League team in the country. This confidence helps them remain relaxed in pressure situations.”
Troy cited the Section 4 West title game against Massapequa, when the venue was changed from a neutral field in Port Washington to Massapequa’s home field at John J. Burns Park — which didn’t bother the Oceanside players. Before the game, Troy said, while the teams waited for the umpires to arrive, field officials played “Sweet Caroline” over the loudspeakers, and the Ocean-side players sang along to the Neil Diamond classic.
The unity among the players has been growing for years. Many of them have been playing on Oceanside Little League teams since they were 6 and joined the T-ball league. Jake Lunenfeld pitched a complete-game shutout against Massapequa, and Sean Varon led the team to victory with a walkoff, bases-loaded, two-out, two-strike RBI single that brought home Jake Ducorsky.
Troy noted that the team has five players who have won the District 30 title each of the past three years, including Sean Varon, Jake Lunenfeld, Jake Ducorsky, Kyle Scheurer and his son, Scotty Troy, but none of them have ever advanced to states.
“It has been a long journey,” Scotty said. “I’m so happy we made it this far, and I hope we do well.”
Justin Alvarez said he was excited to play in the state tournament for the first time, and happy that the team went further than expected. “I feel so good making it to the states,” he said. “I’m so glad we proved everyone wrong, and I’m so excited to be a part of this team.”
Oceanside was scheduled to play Tuesday morning, Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning. The tournament is a pool-play format, meaning the eight teams are divided into two groups of four. Each team in the pool plays one another, and the two teams with the best records from each side will go head-to-head to determine which two teams will play in the Eastern Regionals in August in Bristol, Conn.
Cowan said that the team’s unity has been a big reason for its success. “These boys have played each inning with all heart,” he said. “They have been there to cheer on each other during every at bat, every play in the field, or to pick them up if they were down on themselves.”
Cowan added that the team was excited to represent Oceanside in the tournament, and that he hoped it would continue its winning streak, find success and have fun.
Troy shared that sentiment. “This team, the coaches and the parents are honored to represent their hometown, Oceanside Little League,” he said, “and grateful to receive all this support from the town of Ocean-side. We’re going upstate with high hopes.”
Oceanside was set to play Binghamton’s Vestal High School at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to begin the tournament.
“I’m so happy we made it to the states,” said Jake Cowan, Coach Cowan’s son. “It’s been such an amazing experience so far, and I can’t wait to play in the tournament this week.”