Brick Little League Wins 2012 District 18 Little League Championship, Defeating Toms River
By Phil Stilton
The District 18 Little League Championship was held Saturday evening at Joe Carter Stadium in Manchester between Toms River Little League’s American All-Stars and Brick Little League. Coming into the game, both teams had dominated their opponents. Brick was undefeated coming into the match up and Toms River’s only loss was just a few days earlier against this same Brick team.
Toms River was playing today without one of their key players, power hitting Jared Bellissimo who was one of the tournament’s top home run hitters. He sat out with a broken foot.
In the first two innings, Brick starting pitcher, Nick Stephan struck out 3 Toms River batters with just two reaching base. In the first, Ben Montenegro reached first on an error and Chris Pontrella hit a double, the first hit of his 3 for 3 night.
In the top of the first, Brick struck first, scoring two runs that began with a lead off walk to Stephan and Johnny Zurawski taking one for the team on a full count 2-2 pitch that got away from Toms River starter, Justin Schaff. Sacrifice fly by Mike Mooney, followed by a Ken Bala single put Brick on top 2-0. Schaff settled down in the bottom of the second retiring Brick in order.
In the top of the third, a lead off walk by Austin Feigin ignited a 5 run inning. Singles by Schaff and Matt Fitzpatrick culminated with a base clearing home run by Anthony Sasso. Brick started the inning off with another costly error by Toms River on a ball hit to the mound by Stephan. Anthony Vitale followed with a two-run shot over the fence to make the score 5-4.
Two batters later, Ken Bala tied the score when Mike Mooney, who got on base with a walk scored on a hard hit double by Bala. At the end of 3, Brick was back on top 6-5.
In the top of the 4th, a solo monster shot by Schaff tied the game at 6. Brick responded with 7 runs in the bottom of the inning on solid fundamental baseball at the plate and on the bases. Brick scored 7 runs on 5 hits, including a double by Bala. With Zurawski on first and Stephan on second with the score 13-5, Toms River faced the possibility of losing to the 10 run rule in the inning, but got out of the jam.
In the top of the 5th, Toms River was unable to capitalize on a scoring opportunity with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. A fly to short left and a soft grounder back to the pitcher ended the inning. Despite Michael Browne’s double and run scored, Toms River was still down 7. Brick added two more runs in the top of the 6th.
Brick shut down Toms River in the bottom half of the inning, winning the 2012 District 18 Championship.
Brick Overcomes Past History
It’s not the first time these two teams have met. In 2010 and 2011, these teams faced each other in the district finals, but both times the Toms River team came out ahead. This year, Brick not only won one for themselves, overcoming a formidable rival, they won one for their league. In 2011, Brick was a few outs away from winning the Little League title, but were defeated by a comeback from Holbrook Little League of Jackson. The next night, Holbrook came back to win two in a row and eliminated Brick in a heartbreaking loss in Berkeley.
First LL Baseball Win for New League
Three years ago, the state of Brick Little League was in turmoil after the original Brick American and National Little Leagues joined the Cal Ripken League in 2007.
For two seasons, the two leagues co-existed in Cal Ripken, but in 2009, Brick National (Cal Ripken) became defunct after many families had signed up and paid for the season. In a sign of good faith, the Brick Little League, a separate entity from both Brick National and Brick American, which was established in 2007, allowed those kids to play for free, which was the first part of the revival of Little League Baseball in the township. It was just the beginning for the new league and this season is a new chapter as Brick has claimed two District 18 titles this season. The Junior League All-Stars also won the District 18 title.
“The Mayor was instrumental in helping straighten everything out for us three years ago and it’s great to see that in just three years, we now have some district champions.” said League President Rich Soldo. “Last year we lost the championship, but this is good. We have a good group of kids playing from 11′s all the way up this year. I’m very proud of these guys, they’re a very strong team. Last year, they were a little upset losing to this same team, but they came back. This is where they wanted to come this year and this is who they wanted to play, the best.”
“It’s nice to come back again against these guys as 12′s and win.” said team Manager, John Brower. “They scored a lot of runs, they gave up a lot. It’s been three years with this team. They came out hitting, scoring runs, good hitting, home runs, rallies, this team never gets down, even when they’re behind. ”
Brower complimented Toms River saying they’re a team that can make an opponent pay for their mistakes. ”When you miss with them, you know they can put out of the park, but our pitching just hit their spots. It’s nice to be able to go to sections saying you’ve beaten the two time champions.”
“These kids won districts as 10′s and 11′s, fought hard today, but it wasn’t in the cards today.” said Coach Feigin of Toms River Little League. ”It’s a great group of kids and I wouldn’t trade for any of them. This isn’t the end of baseball for them and there’s a lot more baseball for them. I’ve enjoyed my years with them. It just wasn’t in the cards for us today.”
“This team kept low and under the radar.” said Dereck Davis, the District 18 coordinator. ”They were a real class act. When it was time to play baseball, that’s exactly what they did. It’s a very well deserved win for Brick Little League.”
For the first time in their 5 year existence, Brick Little League will be heading to the Section 3 tournament, hosted in Hamilton, New Jersey and have successfully completed the first leg in their journey to Williamsport, PA and the Little League World Series.