WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — For days, the Massapequa Coast Little Leaguers have been donning their newest duds, the black and orange uniforms and practice shirts that say “Metro” to signify the region championship they captured to reach the Little League World Series.
But that wasn’t the clothing of choice for practice on Saturday as they regrouped from Friday night’s 12-0 loss to Hawaii and prepared for an elimination game on Sunday.
Instead, they tapped into their roots.
The Long Islanders wore their home uniforms, the navy ones with “Massapequa” emblazoned across the chest and their names on the back.
“There’s a little bit of significance,” Massapequa Coast manager Roland Clark said. “I wanted them to put those jerseys on so when people did see us again . . . [they’d] be recognized. Our players have been [followed] since we won states and regionals, and I want that after a loss as well.
“They’re walking through these walkways and past the stadium, and there’s thousands of fans still here. I still want them to be recognized, and . . . hear, you know, the [encouraging] comments.”
The World Series is a double-elimination tournament until the championship round, and Massapequa Coast (15-3) has been relegated to the elimination section of the United States end of the bracket. It will have to win four games to reach the U.S. championship game.
The first one will be Sunday at 2 p.m. at Lamade Stadium against the winner of Saturday night’s contest between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
“We’re not thinking about who we’ll play,” centerfielder Danny Fregara said. “We’re concentrating on how we’re going to play.”
It’s understandable that the Massapequa Coast players were feeling upset after the West Region champions held them hitless and connected for four home runs.
“We were all a little disappointed last night [Friday],” shortstop Christian Bekiers said. “Today [Saturday] we’re feeling a little bit better about ourselves. I just hope that [loss] doesn’t affect how we do in the rest of the tournament . . . But I think most of us have cleared our minds and are now thinking about tomorrow [Sunday].”
“Most of us took it fine but some were mad,” second baseman Anthony Badagliacca said. “I told them, ‘It’s OK to take a loss because it happens to everybody, so next game come back and do really [well].’ That’s what I think we’ll do.”
In addition to Bekiers and Badagliacca, Clark said first baseman/outfielder Alex Pagano and third baseman Michael Clark delivered strong messages of inspiration to the group after the loss.
This is not the first time that Massapequa has had its backs against the wall. In the district tournament, they suffered an early loss and had to win three straight elimination games to advance to the sectionals. In overcoming that adversity, the players showed not only the depth of having eight players who can pitch but also their character.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Roland Clark said. “These guys really counted on each other and bonded together to win those games. They can be very impressive.”
“I feel we played better because it’s more intense and we have to win,” Badagliacca said. “We knew we had to win or go home. I believe we’re better than usual in elimination games.”
Before Massapequa Coast won the Metro title, it had plans for a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown — an itinerary that had to be scrapped for this even cooler journey.
It has been a great time to be in Willamsport for this collection of 12-year-olds, and the players would like to hang around a while longer.
“You watch it on TV and think about what it would be like and a couple years later we’re here,” Pagano said. “It’s been more fun than I expected.”