Huge Fifth Inning Powers Toms River East, NJ to Comeback Win in Little League World Series
The dream was six outs from being cut short, the sand in the hourglass of their once-in-a-lifetime summer about to run out. But then, the clutch kids from Windsor Avenue did what they have been doing all along. They found a way to win.
Facing a three-run deficit vs. Connecticut in an elimination game at the 2021 Little League World Series, Toms River East clawed back to pull within one run before exploding for eight runs in the bottom of the fifth inning that sent them to an 11-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Toms River East now awaits the result of Sunday's game between Michigan and Texas. They will face the loser of that game at 1 p.m. on Monday.
Trailing 4-3 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Dominik Sabatino began the emphatic rally with a booming double to center field. Tommy Intintola then made a productive out by grounding out to first and moving Sabatino to third with one out. Adrian Bilotti then reached on a fielder's choice when Connecticut tried to catch Sabatino off the bag at third but he was able to dive back before the tag. Cailen Cimorelli delivered an RBI infield single when his grounder deep in the shortstop hole plated Sabatino with the tying run.
Toms River had battled back from a 4-1 hole to tie the game, but the boys were not done yet. Far from it, in fact.
After a pitching change, leadoff hitter Steven Malato drew a walk to load the bases with just one out. With Bilotti on third, Cimorelli on second and Malato on first, Joey DiMeo strolled to the plate with a chance to give Toms River East the lead. On a 1-1 count, DiMeo blasted the offering over the 225-foot sign in center field for a grand slam to bring Toms River East all the way back with an 8-4 advantage.
Toms River ending up adding three more runs in the inning to take an 11-4 lead. TRE re-loaded the bases on consecutive walks by Jason Verderrosa, Max Mika and Carson Frazier before Cole Garrison's bloop single to center field scored Verderossa to make it 9-4. Two batters later, Dominic Roma drew another walk to bring home Mika and make it 10-4. Cimorellii was then hit by a pitch to plate Frazier for Toms River's 10th straight run.
After his heroics at the plate, DiMeo came in to pitch in the top of the sixth and delivered a 1-2-3 inning to clinch another dramatic victory.
Toms River East was playing catchup most of the game after Connecticut got to Frazier early. The team from Manchester Little League took a 1-0 in the top of the first inning when Arlen Peyman led off the game with a double and Jacob Budarz followed with an RBI single to center field. Toms River was able to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom half of the inning when DiMeo reached on a fielder's choice, Verderrosa singled, and Mike was hit by a pitch to load the bases. DiMeo then scored on a wild pitch.
Frazier bounced back with a 1-2-3 second inning but Connecticut got to him again with three runs in the top of the third inning. Budarz cracked a two-run homer to left field to make it 3-1 and Ryan Gorman hit an RBI single to center field for a 4-1 lead.
Toms River got two of those runs back in the bottom of the third inning. Verderrosa led off with a line-drive single to center field and Sabatino came in as a courtesy runner. Mika then singled to left field to put two on with nobody out. After Frazier popped out to second, Garrison came through with an RBI single to center field to score Sabatino and cut Connecticut's lead to 4-2. Chris Tennaro then legged out an infield single to bring home Mika and make it 4-3.
In addition to DiMeo's grand slam, Garrison finished 2-for-3 with two RBI, Cimorelli was 1-for-3 with two RBI, Malato was 2-for-3 with two walks and a run scored, Verderrosa was 2-for-2 with a walk and a run scored, and Mika was 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored.
Roma was excellent in relief of Frazier on the mound, tossing 3 2/3 hitless innings with three strikeouts.