MARLBORO – Dave Gagliano has watched the 12 players on his Marlboro 9U baseball team build their baseball skills on the diamond over the past three years.
Gagliano, who also serves as the vice president of travel league operations for the Marlboro Youth Baseball and Softball Association (MYBSA), was beaming with excitement on July 19 in Upper Allen, Pa., when he saw his squad make history during the finals of the Cal Ripken Baseball Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament.
All of the hard work his players have put in during the last three years, including practicing for 10 months each year, paid off with a championship.
Marlboro secured a spot in the Cal Ripken Baseball World Series, becoming the first 9U team in MYBSA history to become regional champions with a 3-1 victory over Methacton-Audubon of Pennsylvania.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Gagliano said. “We have all been together over the last three years. The kids have worked very hard to improve. All their hard work over the last three years is paying dividends.”
Joining Gagliano on the 9U coaching staff are Paul Block, John Dutcher and Richard Greenberg.
Luke Guagliardo, Austin Klein, Richard Magielnicki, Shane Medvin, Christopher Mondella, Cory Schifter, Kyle Strohl, Vincent Tirado Miles Block, Joshua Dutcher, Leonardo Gagliano and Max Greenberg are the players who will travel to Treasure Coast, Fla., on July 28 to compete in the Cal Ripken Baseball World Series.
The tournament will officially begin on July 31 with three days of pool play games.
There has been no stopping Marlboro since May 31 when the players defeated Manalapan while competing in a Memorial Day weekend tournament that was held by the United States Amateur Baseball League (USABL).
Since that day, Marlboro has won 21 consecutive games in district, state and regional tournaments. The streak includes 15 wins in three tournaments.
“To go undefeated in district, state and regional tournaments is not easy to do,” Gagliano said. “We have had success in USABL tournaments, but we have never have won big championships like these” district, state and regional events.
Pitching and defense have led the way, Gagliano said.
Marlboro allowed four runs or fewer in the Northern New Jersey State Tournament, which included a 5-0 victory over Cranford in the state championship game on July 10.
Opposing teams averaged slightly more than three runs a game against Marlboro pitching during the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament.
Marlboro outscored its opponents 65-20 during the regional tournament en route to advancing to the World Series.
“Our pitching and defense have been phenomenal throughout the tournaments,” Gagliano said. “It’s the hallmark of our team.”
Winning the World Series is the players’ ultimate goal, but Gagliano said the youngsters understand it is a process.
He said the players will focus on winning their bracket in pool play before turning their attention to the games that would follow if they are able to advance in the competition.
Noting how “hungry” his players were to reach the World Series when they began play in the regional tournament, Gagliano expects them to have that same fire when they get to Florida.
The coach has been impressed with the way his players have handled any adversity they faced during tournament play. He said the players have shown “mental tenacity” and he believes that can help Marlboro make a run in the World Series.
“These kids don’t fold. They fight back and do what they need to do to win. Hopefully, we can bring back a national championship to New Jersey,” he said.