N.Y. champs edge Toms River East for Regional title Bronx stars prevail 2-0 in pitchers’ duel

first_imgStaff Writer N.Y. champs edge Toms River East for Regional title Bronx stars prevail 2-0 in pitchers’ duel The Rolando Paulino Little League All-Stars, from the Bronx, N.Y., were deserving winners of the Junior League (ages 13-14) Baseball Eastern Regional Championship held last week at the Marlboro Little League Complex. However, it was Toms River East, champions of New Jersey, that stole the show. With nine members from the TRE team that won the Little League World Series in Williamsport back in 1998 and making a return trip in ’99, East showed all the character and heart and love of baseball that made them Series champions. They also put their wealth of talent on full display as they played their way through the loser’s bracket to meet the Bronx for the Eastern Regional title on Friday night. Because the Regional is played in a double-elimination format, Toms River was going to have to beat the Bronx twice to win the title. But no one who had seen the TRE all-stars win five games in four days in sweltering heat doubted their ability to do it. Toms River East fell into the loser’s bracket in the very first game of the tournament back on Aug. 4, when a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the eighth by Ben Campbell propelled East Hampton Little League, the champions of Massachusetts, to a 9-5 win. That meant the TRE would have to win seven games in five days to get to the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Mich. There was no margin for error. That alone will test a team’s resolve, but add to it last week’s record-breaking heat and humidity and you really have to love your baseball to push on. And, as everyone in the Region would find out, Toms River East loves its baseball, and they happened to be pretty good at it. It’s easy to see how TRE has become a Little League powerhouse. They picked themselves up off the ground and rolled off five straight wins. The comeback began with a routine 7-0 win over Edgewood-South Elmwood Little League from Rhode Island behind Joe Dehart’s shut-out. Toms River East flirted with elimination in its next game, a heart-stopping 5-4 thriller over the Dover Little League from Delaware. Chris Fontenelli picked up the win with relief help from Casey Gaynor, who picked up a save. After slipping by Dover, Toms River faced its longest day, two games, last Wednesday in the oppressive August heat. Undaunted, Toms River East rolled to an 18-3 win over Norwich (Conn.) Little League and 9-1 over Grove City Little League from Pennsylvania as their bats began to warm up. Gaynor and Chris Cunningham were providing tape-measure home runs over the left field fence at Marlboro, endangering cars in the parking lot. On Thursday, TRE got a rematch with East Hampton, which turned into a 19-0 thrashing by the New Jersey state champions. Eric Campesi pitched a complete game shut out, as TRE proved once again its has a host of quality arms. Meanwhile, the Bronx cruised into Friday night’s showdown hardly breaking a sweat. They were undefeated with one-sided victories over Rhode Island (11-2), Bangor, Maine (14-1), and East Hampton (13-4). Their combination of speed and ability to string hits together put constant pressure on defenses and eventually wore everyone out. Both finalists featured high-powered offense. Toms River had more power, but the Bronx could light up the scoreboard as well, as it proved with double-figure runs in all three wins. Both teams could play little ball, moving runners up when they needed to. Both could run as well with the Bronx having an overall edge in speed. But offense would take a back seat to pitching on Friday night. A late-afternoon to early-evening downpour pushed the start back three hours but didn’t affect either starter. New York’s Ernesto Soriano and Toms River East’s Chris Fontenelli were in control from the start, quieting the red-hot bats. Soriano flirted with danger more often than Fontenelli but seemed to have the ability to put a little something extra on his fastball and throw it by the TRE hitters when he needed to. Fontenelli used a sharp-breaking curve ball, backed up by his fastball, to keep the New York stars at bay. The game remained scoreless as the tension mounted, until the bottom of the fifth, when an RBI single by Brian Class broke the deadlock and gave New York the 1-0 lead. Alvin Garcia provided insurance in the last of the sixth with a run-scoring single. The two runs were all that the hard-throwing Soriano would need as he registered 14 strikeouts and was at his best when TRE had runners on base. The 2-0 win meant there wouldn’t be a need for a second game. The Rolando Paulino Little League stars would be the team that represents the East this week in Taylor, Mi. They were most deserving winners, sporting a 4-0 mark during the week. The Rolando Paulino Little League stars are: Ernesto Soriano, Elbert Garcia, Albert Gonzalez, Alvin Garcia, Ramon Cueto, Rafael Sanchez, Anthony Garcia, Miguel Marinez, Jesus Hernandez, Brian Class, Alex Todman, Pedro Guzman, Juan Adorno and Junior Jimenez. Luis Garcia is the manager, and Miguel Marinez and Luis Montas the coaches. TRE did themselves proud, winning five elimination games before falling just short in Friday’s pitching duel. The TRE stars are: Jeff Burgdorff, Eric Campesi, Steve Bernath, Joe Dehart, Clancy Doyle, Zack DelVento, Chris Fontenelli, Casey Gaynor, Dave Capello, Chris Cunningham, Mike Casale and Troy Bayer. Rich Cunningham is the manager, and Vinnie Cassele and Mike Gaynor are the coaches. The Junior League Baseball World Series runs from Monday through Saturday. Cliff Radisch, president of the Marlboro Little League and director of the Eastern Regional, will be umpiring at the World Series. By tim morris last_img

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