It was a “very fun” couple of days last weekend for the Hillsborough Junior American Legion baseball team during the USABL Jersey Battle Tournament held in Hillsborough Township at Mountain View Park.
Competing in the 16U Central Division, the Raiders reigned supreme in its bracket to take home the top prize by representing the Hillsborough community in a “great way” as their coach Vincent Cuccaro said.
Hillsborough racked up a total of 38 runs in its four games over the course of the two-day tournament to go a perfect 4-0 and become champions of its division.
“We had a lot of fun,” Cuccaro said. “The boys deserve all the credit. I’m really proud of all of them. It was a full team effort. It was great to see all their hard work pay off.”
The Raiders competed in Pool B of the 16U Central bracket, starting day one of the tournament on July 10 with a 15-7 victory over Frozen Ropes Blackhawks Gold and then edged out Santos Baseball 16U, 4-3, for their second win.
Standing at 2-0 going into day two on July 11, Hillsborough rolled right past Heat Baseball to a 10-0 victory to claim the top spot in Pool B and advance to the championship game where they faced Pool A winner Untamed Baseball.
The “offensive explosion” in the tournament by Hillsborough was seen by Cuccaro as a “testament” to the hard work his players put in over the course of the last couple of weeks.
Cuccaro, who is also the junior varsity baseball coach at Hillsborough High School, has been impressed with the “desire” his players have shown this summer to get better on the diamond and win games.
Hillsborough is currently 4-1 in its Junior American Legion season and is on a four-game winning streak entering its contest against Manville on July 13.
“They want to win,” Cuccaro said of his players. “They are resilient. The boys have a lot of talent and we’re trying to put it all together.”
Most of the players on Hillsborough’s 16U squad and Junior American Legion team played at either the junior varsity or freshman level this past spring.
Cuccaro said that Hillsborough has used American Legion at the junior level each summer as a “developmental” session for players to help them get ready to compete at the varsity level the following spring.
What has also helped Hillsborough develop good baseball teams at the high school level in the past has been the coaching at youth programs in the township like the Hillsborough Baseball League.
“Kids are ready to rock and roll when they get up to high school,” Cuccaro said.
The desire to finish off the tournament with a championship plaque was on full display for Hillsborough against Untamed Baseball in the 16U Central final.
Hillsborough continued its offensive explosion, belting out nine runs to top Untamed Baseball by the score of 9-5.
Just as he has seen during their American Legion season, Cuccaro saw his players gain more and more confidence throughout the tournament after every hit and run scored.
Usually playing in two tournaments each summer, Cuccaro said that the USABL Jersey Battle Tournament is “likely” the only one Hillsborough will compete in this summer as they will focus on its American Legion schedule and trying to do damage come playoff time.
Hillsborough has seven games left in its American League regular-season schedule before the playoffs begin later this month.
Cuccaro believes that winning the USABL Jersey Battle Tournament will continue Hillsborough’s drive for more success this summer.
“Confidence is huge in baseball,” Cuccaro adds. “You can see teams build momentum after a couple of hits and great plays made in the field. Our kids feed off that and run with it.”