Villager photo by Clayton Patterson
The L.E.S. Gauchos try to muster smiles after losing the Parade Ground League Championship to Youth Service League.
Gauchos’ gallop for glory pulls up short in Brooklyn
The 14-and-under L.E.S. Gauchos spent the season riding roughshod over the baseball competition, but last weekend in their biggest games of the season, they came up just short, barely missing out on winning the coveted Parade Ground League Championship.
Going into the championships at Parade Ground Stadium in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, the Gauchos, the number-one seed, only needed to win one out of two games against perennial powerhouse Youth Service League to win the league. They’d beaten Service League in the tournament once already. But an untimely rash of fluke injuries wrecked the Gauchos’ chances, and they ended up losing by scores of 4-1 and 7-3.
Leading hitter Nelson Jiminez broke his shoulder two days before the games while working out in the weight room. Matt Safko, who is also the quarterback at Xavier High School on W. 16th St., hurt his knee the morning of the championship games. Tommy Cardona, the Gauchos’ top pitcher, played a football game for Mt. St. Michaels that morning, playing both tight end on offense and linebacker on defense, and had nothing left in the tank to pitch against Service League.
“Not having that big bat of Nelson and Matt really hurt. They have been our leading hitters all year,” said Gauchos Coach David McWater. Cardona took the mound in the second game, but gave up 7 runs.
“Eric Torres pitched great for us in the first game,” McWater said. “Irving
Guzman made a couple of ridiculous plays in the outfield going airborne, full layout to make catches.”
McWater said the Gauchos, who were founded shortly after 9/11, have made huge strides, but that Youth Service League of Brooklyn remains the team to beat.
“This is the best team in New York City,” he said. “Manny Ramirez played for them. For years they had all the Lower East Side kids before we started taking them back. Joe Torre and Joe Pepitone played for them.”
As for the L.E.S. Gauchos, McWater said, despite the painful loss, “They had a lot of dignity.”