NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – The Tiger Sports Club of New Rochelle 16-and-under baseball team was angry with itself after a loss in a July tournament, so the players wanted to participate in another one as quickly as possible.
The players received another opportunity and came away with a title, recently winning the Combat 16-and-under All-America Games National Baseball Championship in Nacogdoches, Texas.
The 10-player team, with boys representing New Rochelle, Fox Lane, Gorton, Stepinac and Salesian, went 5-0, outscoring their opponents, 50-1. P.J. Pimble, a junior at Stepinac, was named the tournament MVP.
The team is composed of Brenden Cuni (Iona Prep), John Valente and Jason Gray, both of New Rochelle, Fox Lane’s Anthony and Mark Shkrelja, Austin Disher (Hackley), Buzzy Irizarry (Gorton), Arien Novaj (Salesian), Justin Ortiz (Columbus High School) and Pimble.
“When we received the invitation, we were a little nervous at first, because we were going to play in Texas,” said Pimble, who played on the Stepinac varsity last spring. “Once we got on the field for our first game, we gained our confidence, and when we mercied the team, our confidence went up.”
The Tiger Sports Club used a six-run first inning in a 12-0 crushing of the Houston Thunder in the final. Cuni, a senior at Iona Prep, threw one-hit ball for three innings.
Irizarry, a senior at Gorton, led the pitching staff, throwing six innings (three games), striking out six and not allowing a hit.
“Our pitching was great,” Pimble said of Irizarry, Cuni, Valente, Anthony Shkrelja and Ortiz. “They struck out a lot of guys. Whenever one pitcher reached his maximum pitch count, we had another guy ready to come in.”
Along with winning the championship, the Tiger Sports Club also defeated the 18-and-under champ, the Puerto Rico Raiders Academy, 9-7. Pimble broke a 7-7 tie with a two-run double in the fifth inning, and Anthony Shkrelja preserved the win.
Pimble learned this week that he was selected the tournament MVP. His father received a text message from coach Cesar Cuni with the good news, but Pimble thought his father was joking around with him.
“It made me feel good, but the whole team worked hard for this win,” Pimble said. “Winning the tournament was spectacular. Winning it was the last thing on our mind. We were just hoping to win one game.”