State champion Holbrook aims to conquer regional tournament

The Holbrook Little League 12U team beat Wayne Little League, 10-2, on July 30 to win the state tournament championship game.

The Joe Graziano Little League Baseball State Tournament was played this past weekend at the Kittatinny Little League Complex in Newton.

Holbrook moves on to the Little League Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Connecticut. The regional tournament starts on Aug. 6 at 10 a.m., when Holbrook will play the Washington, D.C., champions.

The team beat Swedesboro-Woolwich, 10-4, on July 28 to advance to the state tournament championship game.

Holbrook opened the state tournament with a 6-4 victory on July 27 against Washington Park of Jersey City in Newton.

The win marks the third year in a row that this Holbrook team is the state champion. Holbrook manager Rob Grano believes that its long runs in the postseason will help this year.

“We’re battle-tested,” Grano said. “This is our third year in a row winning states. We’ve played a lot of games together. I think that’s going to help us.”

Grano, who has managed most of these players since they were 7 and 8 years old, also noted the growth this team has had over the years.

“We don’t get nervous,” Grano said. “Even in [the state title game], we never got rattled. The guys were joking around and loose in between innings during the game. We got a good group of kids.”

Grano also doesn’t think the team will be in over its head in the regional tournament because the players’ focus is where it needs to be.

“I know it’s cliché, but we are taking it one game at a time,” Grano said. “We try to take every game inning by inning — try to win every inning if you can, and good things happen.”

Grano is confident in his team’s depth and versatility, and he believes that it could be the difference for Holbrook this year.

“We try to play all 13 guys,” Grano said. “We have a very versatile team, and all 13 guys could start, so we play them all. We want everyone to feel like they are a part of this thing.”

Grano believes this year’s team has the right tools to win it all.

“I think we have a really good chance of winning this thing,” Grano said. “If our pitching is good, then we should be fine. We play great defense. I know we’re going to hit. So if the pitching is good, then we’re a tough out. It’s going to be hard to beat us twice.”