Haddonfield defeated Cherry Hill American Little League, 12–1, on Monday to win the title.
Haddonfield Little League’s 2018 12U district team is used to coming out on top.
In 2016, the team won the New Jersey District 13 championship in the 10U division. Last year in the 11U division, Haddonfield won the District 13 and Section 4 titles and went all the way to the state championship game.
This year, the same group of kids is hoping to top their previous accomplishments. Haddonfield got one step closer to the state tournament last Monday when it won the District 13 championship, defeating Cherry Hill American Little League, 12–1, in the final game.
Last Monday’s win capped a perfect district tournament for Haddonfield. The team went 5–0 in the tournament, sweeping through pool play in June and then winning all three games in the ensuing double-elimination tournament.
“We just like to play very loose,” head coach Gary Narducci said. “That’s all we preach to the boys is to have fun and play loose. It’s not stress. It’s fun being on this side of the fence.”
Haddonfield became very familiar with Cherry Hill American during the course of the tournament. Three of Haddonfield’s five games were played against American. The two teams first met in pool play to open the tournament, with Haddonfield winning 4–2. Nearly two weeks later, the teams met again in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination phase, with Haddonfield winning another close game, 8–6.
Last Monday’s final wasn’t as close as the two preceding games as Haddonfield got a solid four innings of pitching from Raffaele Rogers. Rogers allowed just three hits and one walk and struck out eight in the game.
“I was just throwing strikes and making sure that my mechanics were smooth,” Rogers said.
“(Rogers) has worked himself up into being a great baseball player just through hard work,” Narducci said. “He plays year-round. He loves the game. It’s a gift he’s got, but he works his tail off at it.”
Haddonfield also managed to hit well against hard-throwing Cherry Hill American pitcher Kevin Rorke. Rorke kept Haddonfield off balance in the first two innings, holding them to one run. However, Haddonfield’s bats came alive during the second time through the batting order and the team scored 11 runs in the final three innings.
Haddonfield prepared for Rorke by enlisting the help of two local high school pitchers. Haddonfield Memorial High School pitchers Jack Narducci and Marc LaProcido both have brothers on the 12U team. The two have thrown batting practice to the Little Leaguers, giving them a sense of some of the velocity the kids will face in the tougher tournaments.
“We invited them to pitch to us,” Gary Narducci said. “They pitched about 80 percent from the short mound.”
“There’s nobody who’s going to pitch faster to them than the high school kids,” he added.
Haddonfield broke open the floodgates with doubles from John Sheehan and Sammy Narducci to start the third inning. Sammy was the only player to reach base four times in the game. He led Haddonfield with three runs scored.
“It’s really been fun playing with a lot of the same kids,” Sammy said about the team. “It’s been a fun three years.”
“We just want to keep playing as long as we can,” Sammy added. “It’s our last year in Little League.”
Haddonfield was scheduled to kick off its run in the New Jersey Section 4 tournament last Friday at Glassboro Little League. The team knew winning sections wouldn’t be easy, with a number of tough teams from other South Jersey districts awaiting them.
“It’s not going to be easy by any stretch,” Gary Narducci said. “But we did it last year so we’re sure as heck going to try.”