The North Bellmore-North Merrick Rebels reached their goal this year by defeating the Massapequa Coast to become New York District 31 Champions, it was the first time since 2012 that the team took the district title, but the Rebels didn’t stop there. The 11U, or, “11 and under,” Little League baseball team continued winning games, making the state tournament in Williamsport, N.Y., on Aug. 3, and earning second place out of 400 competing teams.
“We got new players, and I think our team just worked together,” said team member Trey O’Neill.
“We got older, stronger,” he added, before one of his teammates interjected, whispering, “We hit puberty,” which was met with giggles.
“No matter what the score was, we always battled back,” teammate Hunter Keegan said after the laughter dissipated.
At the state championship, the Rebels lost their first game, but won the next four. In their game against Saratoga, the Rebels were down 16-4 but came back to win 21-18. They defeated the Plainview Hawks to make it to the title game against Mid Island.
While they lost the final game, the Rebels overall stats at the state championship included 52 runs, 15 home runs, a game-winning grand slam and a walk-off, three-run home run by Bryce Bowers.
Squad members joked that their good luck charm was teammate Nick Walker’s mother, Debbie. Every game the Rebels won began with a series of inspirational quotes from Debbie, who texted them to her son.
Such positivity propelled the Rebels to the title game, O’Neill added, describing one rough patch in which the team needed a base hit to tie one game. O’Neill was up at bat, but struck out. “That took our morale down,” he said.
But the team won the next day’s game. “We definitely never give up,” Bowers said.
“Every time someone strikes out or makes an error, we pick each other up,” said teammate J.D. Decina.
This was the Rebels fourth year playing Little League together. For some, next year might be their last before they move on to junior high school.
“It’s probably going to be a lot different,” said Conor Mylett. “Our best pitchers are going into the seventh grade, so when they leave we’ll have to [find] new pitchers.”