Massapequa becomes “Team America” ​​with trip to LLWS


BRISTOL, Connecticut – It’s Pride Day on the South Shore of Long Island.

Massapequa Coast clinched their ticket to the Little League World Series in the most legendary fashion: a 4-0 no-hitter win over the mighty Toms River in Eastern New Jersey to clinch the Bristol, Connecticut metro area. , Friday night. They are the first Long Island team to compete in the World Series since Rockville Center in 1978.

It’s also the first time the Massapequa Coast has reached Williamsport, Pennsylvania in its 72-year history, a feat that has garnered a lot of attention nationwide.

Manager Roland Clark first observed many stats shooting for his team ahead of the regional finals, but after pitcher Joey Lionetti’s no-no – a performance that was ESPN highlights – fans across the America started cheering Massapequa from coast to coast. .

Massapequa’s World Series opener, which begins Wednesday, is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. (ESPN) against the winner of a game between Bonney Lake, Washington, and Honolulu.

The Massapequa Coast Little League clinched its ticket to the Little League World Series on Friday.
For NY POST Photo/Robert Sabo

Clark, who has been concerned about the logistics of his team’s arrival in Williamsport, said he hasn’t had a chance to let things sink in yet. But when it comes to the team’s success and popularity, he told his team, “a job well done and well deserved.”

“Massapequa Coast has now overtaken the Dallas Cowboys as an American team. It’s the underdog no one expected to see here,” said Nassau County Manager Bruce Blakeman, who attended the game on Friday and has become an avid fan of the Massapequa Coast. “They have real courage, determination and they have a great sense of teamwork.”

Wide receiver Ryan Huksloot said being called Team USA sounded good.

“I feel pretty good about it. … I feel like almost everyone is supporting us, and I hope we can live up to their expectations,” he told the Post before boarding a team bus bound for Williamsport. “We feel like professional athletes.”

Other team members, like right fielder Brendan Hanley, are soaking up the sudden stardom, especially at the grassroots level.

“It was really good because now everyone in town knows us, even our teachers give us praise,” Hanley said. “Even those who didn’t like us.”

The boy band attracted a massive following from Long Island.
The boy band attracted a massive following from Long Island.
Douglas Healey

As for the hero of Friday night’s match, Lionetti is still enjoying the moment.

“I’m starting to get it, it was amazing, amazing what I did last night,” he said, adding that “it was pretty cool” to hear that Scott Mayfield of the NHL Islanders has tweeted about his outstanding six innings.

When it comes to settling into the Little League World Series, Lionetti and his teammates have a mission beyond winning more ball games. They want to make friends.

“We made friends with the teams [in the Metro], but I hope to do more in Williamsport,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to sleeping with my teammates again and continuing to get closer to them, plus they have an arcade and stuff there.”

Ryan Huskloot said he looked forward to trading with international teams – who have joined the tournament for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic – in the coming days.

“Meeting all these kids from other countries, they are the best in their country and they worked hard for it,” he said. “I’m just happy to meet them and talk to them about how baseball is where they come from.”

Beyond the game that unites nations, some members of the Massapequa team already think like professionally-approved athletes.

“I can’t wait to receive all the new equipment [from Little League] to be honest,” first baseman Alex Pagano said, with Hanley reiterating the sentiment.

While the spectacular moment was pretty extraordinary for the Massapequans – whose fans filled not only the Connecticut field, but also their home diamond at Burns Park for an evening watch – Clark was able to share a particularly magical moment with his son. , third baseman Michael Clark .

The manager reached the same kind of regional tournament while playing for the Massapequa International Little League in 1989, but was knocked out at the same Bristol Field. This 1989 team was the most recent in town to come close to the World Series.

“[My dad] had the same [elated] after winning states and going to regionals, I loved sharing that moment with him,” said Michael, who immediately jumped into his dad’s arms in the final.

But the standout athlete wouldn’t get too sappy during an interview. He knows there is work to do and a lot of preparation in the days to come. Young Clark certainly doesn’t take things for granted.

“I know I did something most kids never did or dreamed of,” he said. “We are pumped, we will use all the energy we have, keep fighting all the time.”

New York Post

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