Love of the Game Leads Four Softball Teams to Championship Glory

The Rye Recreation softball season recently concluded, and many of the league’s familiar teams were crowned again. Congratulations to all the competitors and – especially – our hometown heroes: Poppy’s Café, F&A, Rye Liquor Store and Uncle Henry’s-Gabelli.

Poppy's Scott Moroney

Poppy’s Café won their seventh championship in the team’s 19 years of existence by defeating Hi Intensity in a two-game sweep in the Men’s A Division finals. It was the third time the two teams met in the finals – Hi Intensity won both previous clashes. Poppy’s cruised to victory in game one, but entered the bottom of the seventh and final inning of game two trailing 11-9. Rich Falcone doubled home Steve Massinello to cut the lead to one, and Micky Glauber hit a sacrifice fly deep to right that allowed Wil Ramsey to tag up from third and tie the game. Then with one out and the bases loaded, Frank Luciano hit a sacrifice fly to left center that scored Falcone from third, giving Poppy’s their fourth championship in six years.

Poppy's Ian Ahearn gets the force-out at third.

“It amazes me that whether it’s your first year playing or 30th, you can still have 11 guys who all do different jobs, have different interests and are at different points in their lives working together for the same goal,” said Poppy’s Massinello. “The love for the game never goes away. We always want to come back next year and do it all over again.”

To get to the finals, Poppy’s had to defeat their archrivals – Tony’s Legacy – in the semifinals. Tony’s ousted Poppy’s from the playoffs last year, and won all three regular season encounters this summer. In game one of the three-game set, Tony’s erased a 12-2 win to stun Poppy’s 19-18. Poppy’s squeaked out a 9-8 win in game two, and then vanquished Tony’s 18-13 in the rubber match.

Rye fireman Jim Groglio at bat for Poppy’s Café

Poppy’s roster was comprised of two sets of brothers – Ian and Brendan Ahearn and Steve and Wil Ramsey – as well as longtime GM and player/coach Luke Walsh. Anthony Derenzis is an 18-year member of the team, and Massinello, who has been on the team since 1993, is the son of Gerri Massinello, the Purchase Street institution’s owner. Jimmy Groglio, another longtime player, is a Rye fireman, and John Castelhano has been with Poppy’s since 2001. Scott Moroney and Mike Bruno joined the team in 2005, and Bobby Romanchuk served as Poppy’s good luck charm this season, going 4-0 in the playoff games he attended.

F&A celebrates their seventh championship in nine years.

In the Women’s Division, F&A – short for Port Chester businesses Frank’s Italian Restaurant and America’s Stitch Authority – struck gold for the seventh time in nine years by besting the underdog Pub Ryots in a two-game sweep. The champions defeated the Ryots, making their first finals appearance in 25 years, 7-1 in the first game, and then clinched the title with a 14-3 victory in game two.

Jill Rabius led F&A from the mound.

Jill Rabius was the ace on the mound for F&A, who repeated after falling to Poppy’s Ballbusters in the 2007 and 2008 softball finals. She allowed just four runs in the championship series, doing so by limiting the amount of extra base hits. F&A’s offensive firepower came from Cristina Strazza and Alison Gregory in game one, while Sharon Stein-Giampia pulled a key double play to end a Ryots’ threat. It was more of the same in game two, as aggressive base-running and patience at the plate propelled F&A to the title. Leading the way were Gregory, who finished a double shy of the cycle, and Christina Gallinari.

Rye Liquor Store won their 16th championship

Rye Liquor Store, which has been together for 33 years and actually outlasted the former Purchase Street establishment, claimed the Men’s B Division by sweeping Uncle Henry’s, 9-4 and 12-9. In game two, they rallied to score six runs in the top of the seventh inning, turning a three-run deficit into a three-run lead. The comeback was spurred by a close play at the plate in which D’Arcy LeClair scored from second on a single by Jim Hanigan to cut the lead to 9-7. Pat Gillick then hit a two-run triple to tie the score, and timely hitting from Rob Gillick, Brian Gillick and Paul Cherrone put Rye Liquor ahead for good. Shorstop Alex Tejera led the team with eight hits in the finals, while outfielders Cherrone and Brian Gillick provided unforgettable defensive wizardry.

The championship was Rye Liquor’s 16th overall, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a variety of contributors. Brothers Steve and Rich Verille were invaluable, as were the Gillick trio of father Pat and sons Rob and Brian. Willie and Remy Totten, another father and son pair, made their mark as well, as did Rye City School District teachers Tejera, James Kennedy and Dave Ball. Rye Liquor’s roster also included Public Works employee Tommy Nordman and Rye Golf Club pro Mike Rapisarda. LeClair and John Pasarelli, both over 60 years old, proved age means little, and Cherrone, Steve Fier, Jimmy Hanigan, Paul Vier and Dan Puffer all added to a magical 17-1 championship season.

Uncle-Henry’s-Gabelli, winners of back-to-back championships

Uncle Henry’s-Gabelli won the Men’s C Division championship for a second consecutive year. They defeated the RGB Hackers in a thrilling semifinals series that was decided in three games, and then swept the Wranglers in the finals.

Dan Lofrese starred at third base in game one against the Wranglers, making numerous outstanding plays, and Michael Kuhlman survived a collision at first that prevented the Wranglers from stringing together a rally. With the offense clicking, Uncle Henry’s-Gabelli stormed to a 14-6 victory. The eventual champions saved their best defensive work for game two, with the infield of Tim Doering (SS), Dan Lofrese (3B) and Chris Slowey (2B) gobbling up everything. The outfield did their job as well, and – after the second inning – the team did not allow one baserunner to get past first. Although they didn’t light up the scoreboard, No. 3 and 4 hitters Patrick Feeney and Doering powered Uncle Henry’s-Gabelli to an 8-1 victory and repeat championship.

Gabelli’s Mergers & Acquisitions Department made a profitable move when they added Uncle Henry’s standouts to the side last summer. Contributions came from many players this season, including Doering, Feeney, Alberto Dominguez, Brian Sponheimer, Michael Kuhlman, Bill Gregorio, Jeff Illustrato, Blake Elder, Jose Garza, Chris Lofrese, Dan Lofrese, Slowey, David Rabin, John Sarrubbo, Joseph Vita and Matthew Adelhart.

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