Joe Torre kids become champs

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With an emphatic 17-2 victory over Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Inner City Little League last Thursday, the Joe Torre East Highway Little League took home the Brooklyn championship for the “Majors” division (ages 10-12).

In defeating Inner City, Torre dethroned last year’s Brooklyn champions and brought the title to Marine Park, where the league’s namesake – who, after a half-season in Los Angeles, still looks strange without Yankee pinstripes – was raised.

Coach Joe Arena’s team blasted their way to a title with outstanding hitting: In every game in the Brooklyn tournament, they put up double-digit run totals.

And although they eventually succumbed to the Queens-based RGMV Little League during the city-wide tournament, these Marine Park boys can proudly call themselves kings of Kings County baseball.

Their run began with a 10-2 win against Spring Creek Little League on July 7. Two days later, their bats stayed hot in a 16-6 victory over Williamsburg-based Roberto Clemente 16-6.

The victory set up a best two-out-of-three series against Inner-City for the title.

In the first game, Torre kept hitting in another 16-6 win. But the defending champs did not go quietly, coming back a few nights later and beating Torre 13-10, setting up a decisive game three.

Torre put the ball in the capable hands of Brandon End, and the diminutive End responded by pitching a gem, shutting down Inner-City in a 17-2 blowout to bring his team the title.

Like most championship teams, there was no shortage of contributors to the 2008 Joe Torre tournament team.

First baseman Peter McGurty was steady with both the glove and bat, and further contributed on the mound as one of the team’s best pitchers.

End, in addition to his pitching, was also the team’s second baseman. He helped spark the offense as the prototypical number two hitter.

Hitting in the leadoff hole was shortstop Charlie Misiano, who seemed always to be on base during the tournament. But Misiano’s biggest contribution came in the field, where he wowed coaches throughout the borough with his exceptional range, instincts and throwing arm.

Brandon Gilliam, the team’s third baseman, boasted a pretty good arm himself – in addition to his duties at the “hot corner,” he doubled as one of the team’s best pitchers. At the plate, the powerful Gilliam was the team’s number four hitter.

In the outfield, Anthony DeFillippo brought speed to both left field and the lineup, where he often hit fifth in the order.

Joe Cutrone played some left field and pitched, typifying a team whose players contributed in a variety of ways.

Center fielder Christian Pialotta used his elite speed to track down balls in the gaps. Offensively, his line-drive stroke fit perfectly into the three-hole.

Right fielder Peter Arena stepped up with some big defensive plays in the tournament, and provided pop from the nine-hole in the batting order.

Behind the plate, the athletic Logan Conroy was a team leader, tirelessly guiding the team’s pitching staff through the tense tournament games.

Utility men Paul Cameron, Jason Deodato, and Mike Curotola made invaluable contributions as well; the pair provided depth, an example of the team’s high talent level.

Coach Arena knew he had a strong team going into the tournament, but even he couldn’t predict his team’s multi-game offensive explosion.

“We felt pretty confident going in, but our bats just opened up,” he said.

“Both the hitting and pitching were outstanding. It was just a great accomplishment. They wanted to win and they played with their hearts. It was a great feeling.”

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