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Hardball for Ridge dynasty

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Move over, 1960s Boston Celtics, 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, and 1400s Ming — there’s a new dynasty in town.

A group of ordinary men representing Areo restaurant has become the stuff of legend by winning the Bay Ridge Restaurant and Bar Softball League Championship for the seventh consecutive year.

Like most paths to greatness, this one was fraught with peril.

In Game 1 of the best-of-three championshp series against their bitter rivals, the Blue Zoo Lounge, Areo was taken to the brink of defeat.

The turning point in the game between these arch rivals (it’s like the Red Sox and Yankees, except those rivals don’t share a block of Third Avenue like these guys) came in the seventh. Trailing 6–5, the Areo heroes tied the game on a bases-loaded walk. Then, in the eighth, Areo won the game on an Andrew Lardaro single that sent co-MVP Michael Ventra racing home.

A picture-perfect, Jackie Robinson-esque slide by Ventra got the game-winner home.

Game 2 was a slugfest, with the Blue Zoo going up 3–0 in the first. The score see-sawed until Areo went ahead for good on a two-run double by co-MVP John Sacco in the fifth.

Blue Zoo chipped away at that 10–7, but it was too little, too late for the lounge lizards, who did manage to get one run, but lost 11–8.

When the final out was recorded, the Areo champions returned to the restaurant for a well-deserved plate of the eatery’s famed baked pasta and a few bottles of red.

“I can’t put into words how proud I am to play for a great restaurant like Areo,” said Glen Young, the team’s skipper and star. “But this team, these players, have become such a family. It’s that bond that keeps us successful in these hard-fought games.”

Areo’s amazing success wasn’t always fun and games: it began with a stunning defeat.

Areo, an always-busy Northern Italian joint at the corner of 85th Street, started its title run in August, 2001 — one month before the attacks on the World Trade Center claimed the life of star player Joseph della Pietra.

The league’s games have been played each year in memory of della Pietra’s, whose still jersey hangs in the clubhouse.

One teammate says della Pietra is always on everyone’s mind.

“We definitely play to win,” said Young, an original member of the team. “But we also play every game in Joe D.’s memory.”

The league includes 101 Restaurant, Yellow Hook Grill, Canteena, Bay Ridge Honda, Pippin’s, the Kettle Black and Salty Dog, and is under the direction of Commissioner Al Marietta. The games are played in local parks and fields throughout the summer.

Anyone thinking eight-peat?

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