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UPDATE: Toms River Wins Again

The Toms River Little League has just won their first game of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament at the Giamatti Little League Center in Bristol, Conn.

The game was over in four innings, 12-2, with a nine-run third inning, according to eyewitness reports from parents at the game.

Jason Kapp drove in a run with a double to center followed by a  two-run double by Kayla Roncin.  Jon Giordano closed the inning with a grand slam.

The team will play a New York Little League at 5 p.m. Sunday. Other states included in the tournament include: Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Check back to Shore Sports Network for more on the games this week…and in the interim, check out the video highlights from the Monday night game that sent them to Bristol!

HERE’S HIGHLIGHTS FROM MONDAY’S GAME:

Jonathan Giordano set out Monday night to carry his Toms River team to a state championship-clinching win over Ocean City-Upper Township with his flame-throwing right arm and a dose of his thunderous bat. Ocean City held its own against his right arm and didn’t bother to challenge his bat, but in the end, it could not prevent Giordano’s glove from securing yet another Toms River championship.

Giordano made a game-ending, game-saving diving catch with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning to set off a celebration as Toms River held on to beat Ocean City-Upper Township, 7-6, to win its second Joe Graziano Little League State Championship in the last five years.

Toms River will now travel to Bristol, Connecticut, for the United States East Regional championships, which begin with pool play on Friday. This year’s squad will look to duplicate the run of the 2010 team, which won the East to advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“This was great,” Giordano said. “I’ve played in games like this before, but never in an atmosphere like this. I made the catch and all of a sudden, the whole team was piling on top of me and people are rushing on the field. It was pretty incredible.”

Kayla Roncin earned the save by throwing one pitch – a 2-0 fastball with the bases loaded to Ocean City cleanup hitter and first baseman Eric Greenling. Roncin also broke a 2-2 tie with her first homer of the tournament, a two-run blast to left field in the third inning.

Ocean City scored five runs against Giordano – four earned – in five innings and ran his pitch count past the 85-pitch limit during a ground out to start the sixth and final frame. Alex Civitello recorded the second out of the inning, but ran into trouble with a walk, a single to the fence by leadoff hitter and shortstop Gannon Brady and an RBI single by third baseman Brock Mercado.

Toms River manager Pete Avallone elected to walk catcher Joe Gallagher to load the bases after watching Gallagher hit his third home run against Toms River pitching of the tournament with a first-inning solo shot.

“I’ve managed in a bunch of these tournaments over the last couple of years and that’s the first time I’ve ever called for an intentional walk,” Avallone said. “We were not going to let (Gallagher) beat us in that spot. He’d shown us enough. That was a pretty easy call.”

When Civitello fell behind Greenling 2-0, he called on Roncin to challenge the Ocean City cleanup hitter already down in the count.

“I thought I might pitch if John couldn’t finish,” Roncin said. “I was still nervous.”

“We brought her into the game in a very difficult situation, but that’s why I wanted her out there,” Avallone said. “She is such a competitor, and I felt good about our chances to get out of it with her out there.”

Greenling hit a shallow fly ball to center field, and as Giordano and second baseman Vinny Rose converged, Giordano made a diving grab while also avoiding a collision with Rose.

“I just saw the ball,” Giordano said. “I was probably pretty close to colliding (with Rose), but all I was focused on was the ball. As soon as I saw it in the air, I knew I had it.”

Colin Baker knocked in what proved to be a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning with a single to the gap in right-center that scored left fielder Jason Kapp all the way from first base, making the score 7-5. Ocean City had cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the fifth with three runs off Giordano, highlighted by a two-run homer by Mercado that made the score 6-4. Mercado also saw six pitches in the at-bat, which pushed Giordano closer to his pitch limit.

Starting pitcher Brian Furey singled home Gallagher from third with two out to cut the Toms River lead to 6-5.

“Once they got it to 6-4, we know we’ve got a fight on our hands because at that point, a bloop and a blast ties the game,” Avallone said. “It’s the same thing we look for when we’re down one or two runs and now, they are right there with (Giordano) coming out of the game soon and their big hitters coming up.”

Giordano had quieted the Ocean City bats for the previous three innings after allowing solo home runs to both Brady and Gallagher in the top of the first inning. He finished the game allowing four earned runs on seven hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts.

Toms River drew even with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Baker beat out a potential double-play ball with the bases loaded and one out to drive in catcher Connor Cino, and Roncin scored a second run on the play when the low return throw from second base got away from Greenling at first.

Roncin then broke the tie with a first-pitch home run that comfortably cleared the fence in left field to plate two runs. Roncin – the only girl on any of the four rosters in the championship tournament – had started Toms River’s first three games and came off the bench to deliver, arguably, the game’s biggest swing and its biggest pitch.

“It felt great just to get a hit,” said Roncin, who said her father – assistant coach Ray Roncin – told her to look for a first pitch to hit. “I have been in a slump during the whole tournament, and I really wanted to help the team.”

“We know what she is capable of, and we knew she was going to come through with a home run at some point during this tournament,” Giordano said.

Toms River tacked on two more runs in the fourth to go ahead, 6-2. Pinch-hitter Joe Schifilliti delivered a clutch two-out single to center field to score Phil Antoniotti from second to put Toms River up, 5-2, before giving way to Rose, who re-entered to run after Schifillitti hit for him. Giordano drew his third walk of the game to put runners on first and second for shortstop Nick DeRose, who smacked a long single off the fence in center field to score Rose from second.

Nine different players accounted for the 10 Toms River hits, with Antoniotti checking in with two singles for the team’s lone multi-hit game. Cino, first baseman Christian Wood, Kapp, and right fielder Bill Fleury each singled to go with run-scoring hits from Roncin, Schifillitti and DeRose.

Monday’s win capped a three-game series between the two teams during the double-elimination tournament. Toms River won the first meeting, 4-2, with two sixth-inning homers – one by Giordano and one by DeRose – and Ocean City answered with a 10-6 win on Sunday afternoon that forced a decisive game Monday night. Over the three games, Ocean City outscored Toms River 18-17, but Toms River won the two close games.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Antoniotti said. “We’ve been talking about this since we’ve been playing together, and it’s awesome that we were able to win a state championship and go play for a chance at the World Series. It’s a dream come true.”

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