Locally-based travel team finishes runner-up after heartbreaking loss
When Joe Curreri founded the Northeast Pride back in 2011, his intent was to establish an organization that exposes local baseball players to higher levels of competition.
Now, seven years later, the Pride has evolved into one of the most respected travel team programs in the entire region.
Teams ranging from 11U to college are traveling all over the east coast, playing in prestigious tournaments while garnering attention from NCAA recruiters and professional scouts.
“We definitely pay attention to wins and losses, but our main focus is on the big picture,” Coach Curreri told TWI Sports. “We stress fundamentals and player development first. And, it seems to be paying off. The kids are really buying into what we're preaching.”
All told, there are more than 120 players involved across eight Pride teams. They range in age from 11 to 18, many of whom are local products.
“We have kids from Honesdale, Wallenpaupack Area, Delaware Valley and North Pocono right now,” Coach Curreri said. “There are others from out of the area, but for the most part we're locally based.”
This past weekend, the Northeast Pride 13U team traveled to North Branford, Connecticut, to compete in an invitational event.
There, Coach Curreri's squad battled its way to a silver medal showing at the “Sun Rises” tournament, held at the Connecticut Sportsplex.
“I'm proud of the way we played,” he said. “We had a little bit of adversity early on, but the kid battled back and never gave up.”
The Pride dropped its first game on Saturday, an 8-3 decision at the hands of the Bergen (NJ) Thunder.
This placed the local lads in a precarious position as another loss would bounce them from this double elimination event.
“Our backs were definitely up against the wall,” Coach Curreri said. “But, the kids really responded well.”
The Pride squared off with the Long Island Junior Ducks in Game Two and, once again dug themselves a big early hole. Trailing 5-0 after half an inning, the local lads roared back with a 10-run eruption in the bottom of the frame.
“That was a 52-minute inning,” Coach Curreri said with a laugh. “But, it also kind of turned things around for us. From that point on, we were rolling.”
Thanks in large part to some brilliant mound work by Gombita, the Pride went on to post a 14-7 win. Trent put out the first in the top of the first, then went the rest of the way to earn a win.
“Trent did a great job for us,” Coach Curreri said. “He pitched great, but he also played first base and was one our best hitters all weekend long.”
The Pride followed up this key victory with two more wins en route to an appearance in the tourney's title tilt. They defeated the Hamden Yard Dogs, 8-4, and then the Yard Dogs Black, 13-3, to claim their spot in the finals.
There, they went toe-to-toe with the highly-regarded Long Island Titans in a game that quickly evolved into a slugfest.
Sadly for local fans, when the dust finally cleared, the Pride had suffered a heartbreaking 17-16 extra inning loss.
Joseph Curreri paced the offensive attack in the final two games. The hard-hitting third baseman went 3-for-3 with a double in the semis. He then added two more hits and an RBI in the final.
Gombita enjoyed a 3-for-4 outing in the semis, roping a key double and driving in a run.
Delaware Valley products Corey May and Quinn Curabba also dazzled at the dish. May crushed a pair of doubles in the gold medal game, while also collecting four RBIs and scoring three runs. Curabba banged out three hits, tallied once and drove one home.
Max Mickel was extremely effective at the top of the order throughout the weekend. The Honesdale lad reached base 10 times, including an eye-popping nine walks.
Peter Lynch of Paupack chipped in with a key base knock in the semis.
The Northeast Pride 13U travel team will play a total of 10 tournaments over the course of its 2018 season.
Next up for Coach Curreri and his squad is a home event.
The “Battle of the Lake” will take place June 23-24 at Wallenpaupack Area High School.
“We're looking forward to it,” he said. “These kids have already come a long way this season and I can't wait to see where they can go from here.”