Lyndhurst Post 139 wins tourney in Scranton

Photos by Jim Hague LEFT: Lyndhurst Post 139 catcher Austin Meeney. RIGHT: Lyndhurst Post 139 pitcher/infielder Kevin Rehbein.
Photos by Jim Hague
LEFT: Lyndhurst Post 139 catcher Austin Meeney. RIGHT: Lyndhurst Post 139 pitcher/infielder Kevin Rehbein.



By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Just how confident is Lyndhurst American Legion Post 139 manager Mike Voza about the team he has assembled this summer? “I feel like I’m aboard Secretariat,” Voza said, alluding to the great thoroughbred race horse. “I’m just along for the ride. We really have put together a very talented team, a great group of kids.” American Legion baseball may be a dying breed throughout New Jersey, but not at the Lyndhurst Post 139. “We have more than 80 years of tradition in baseball,” said Voza, who took over the reins as manager three summers ago. “We’re not giving up.” The Legion Post recently had a fifth anniversary reunion of the team that won the New Jersey state championship in 2008 and went all the way to the East Region tourney in Connecticut. “The Post 139 people are behind us all the way,” Voza said. “They give us great support.” That’s why – without any hesitation or doubt – Voza took his team last weekend to a wooden bat tournament in Scranton, Pa. It was an eight-team, four-game, three-day tourney on the campus of the University of Scranton, a tournament held in the memory of Fred Battaglia, one of the biggest wooden bat advocates in Pennsylvania. “We went to the tournament to honor Fred, his name and what he did for American Legion baseball,” Voza said. “He was an old-school guy and believed that playing with the wood bats was the way to go. It wasn’t hard to get the kids interested in playing.” So the Post did a little fundraising, bought a few wood bats and sent the kids to Scranton. Little did they know that they would come home with the tournament championship. Lyndhurst Post 139 won all four games in the tourney, defeating a previously undefeated team from Latrobe, Pa., in the first round, 4-3, then defeating host South Scranton, 3-2, then defeated New Milford, Conn., 2-0, with pitcher Kevin Rehbein firing a no-hitter, then defeating Oneonta, N.Y. in the title game, 7-3. “The kids played great all weekend,” Voza said. “Two of our games were at 9 a.m., but they were up and ready. They didn’t make a single error in four games. It was amazing to watch.” Voza said that the highlight of the weekend was the no-hitter from Rehbein, the former Lyndhurst High School standout who now attends Rutgers-Newark. Not everyone is sold on Rehbein being a front line starter, but I believe in Kevin like nobody’s business,” Voza said. Voza likes the makeup of his pitching staff that includes Rehbein, Willie Krajnik, a Lyndhurst resident who just graduated from St. Mary’s of Rutherford, Anthony Pacillo, a recent graduate of St. Peter’s Prep who also resides in Lyndhurst and Bobby Miskura of Rutherford and Drew University. “We have a nice rotation of kids who can pitch, play first and be the designated hitter,” Voza said. “We’ll move them in and out.” The team’s catchers are Danny Bielitz, a St. Mary’s of Rutherford grad now playing at Bergen Community College and Austin Meeney, the starting catcher on the Lyndhurst High team that recently won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state championship. The second baseman is Danny Wagner, a guy who Voza said “plays with more enthusiasm than anyone I’ve ever seen.” The shortstop is Rex Mc- Millian, a former Rutherford High standout headed to NJIT in the fall. He scored six runs in the Scranton tourney. “Every college wanted him, but he’s going to NJIT,” Voza said. The third baseman is Jake Regina, the standout wrestler at Rutherford High who is headed to Maryland to wrestle in the fall. “He has the best swing on the team,” Voza said of Regina. “He’s a beast of a kid who hits the ball hard.” Regina had seven hits in 13 at-bats and five RBI in the Scranton tournament. Another infielder is recent Queen of Peace graduate Mark Petrucelli. The left fielder is Adam Hernandez, another Rutherford graduate headed to NJIT in the fall. In centerfield is Pat Landrigan, who played at Rutherford and will go to Rowan University in the fall to play either football or baseball. Landrigan played in the Bergen County All-Star football game last weekend in Palisades Park. In right field is Jimmy Fitzgerald, a Lyndhurst High grad who was on the Post 139 team last year. Fitzgerald goes to New Jersey City University. Sergio Turelli, a speedster on the Lyndhurst High state championship team, is also on the roster. Turelli will return to Lyndhurst High in the fall. Two other St. Mary’s graduates, Kevin Van Dyke and J.R. Hilcher, are pitchers as well. Hilcher recorded a save in the 3-2 win over South Scranton last Saturday and his grandfather is a member of Post 139. There is one major difference this year with the Post 139 squad. The Bergen County American Legion baseball league folded, so the team had to find another league to join. They are now members of an American Legion league in Essex and Union counties. “Some of the drives aren’t the easiest to do, but we look at it as a new challenge,” Voza said. “We won the league and the district last year, so this is something new. We’ve embraced the new league.” The local Post has already won one game in the league and will resume action with three home dates against Linden, Friday night against Union Catholic and Sunday a doubleheader at 4 p.m. against Edison. All of the Post 139 home games are played at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility. “We’re off to a great start,” said Voza, whose team now owns a 6-0 record after the tournament sweep in Scranton. “It’s going to be a great summer.”

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