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Anthony Papa plus knuckle-drop pitch equals another Division win

Division pitcher Anthony Papa delivers to the plate

Division pitcher Anthony Papa delivers to the plate in the top third inning of a Nassau County varsity baseball game vs. Plainedge. (May 7, 2013) Credit: James Escher

The championships continue to multiply at Division, and much of the Levittown school's success can be attributed to the addition at a young age of a signature pitch that subtracts strain on the elbow.

"We call it the knuckle-drop and we start teaching it to schools in my camp when they are about 10 years old," Division coach Tom Tuttle said. "We've been using it for more than 30 years. It looks like a fastball coming out of your hand and it puts no strain on the elbow."

Do the math: Division is one of the winningest programs in Nassau, with 24 league titles, 12 county crowns and two state championships. Tuesday's 8-0 victory over Plainedge improved this year's team to 14-3 and a share of the top spot in Nassau A-II.

Naturally, it featured a dominant pitching performance by sophomore Anthony Papa, who pitched six scoreless innings, allowed four hits and struck out seven, six with the knuckle-drop that the late Division player and coach Doug Robins, for whom the high school field is named, introduced to the program.

"Doug taught it to me and I'm teaching it to every one of our pitchers," Tuttle said.

Papa is just the latest example of a Levittown kid who added the trick pitch to his repertoire "when I was about 8 years old" and finally mastered it last season when he pitched on the junior varsity.

"You don't break your wrist, you just flick your fingers and it goes straight down. No strain on your elbow," said Papa, who struck out the side in the fourth, after Plainedge (11-6) put two men on. All three batters were victimized by the knuckle-drop, two looking and one swinging.

James Varela, who mixed in a couple of knuckle-drops in tossing a scoreless seventh, contributed three hits and two RBIs, including a big two-out single to key a four-run second inning. Joe Piscitelli had a two-run double in the fourth and Papa helped his own cause with two hits, two stolen bases -- the aggressive Blue Dragons had eight total -- and an RBI.

"The pitch is a tradition at Division," Papa said. "Everybody on the staff throws it. It's hard to learn at first. You need long finger nails for a harder break. For me it was always iffy until last year. Then I started throwing it for strikes. This was my best day with the drop."

The numbers don't lie.

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