TOMS RIVER – The Toms River East Little League All-Stars wound up on the wrong side of a gem in the Little League Baseball Metro Region Tournament in Bristol, Ct.
East was no-hit in the championship game by right-hander Joey Lionetti, who pitched the New York-Massapequa Coast Little League to a 4-0 victory at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center on Friday night, August 12, broadcast on ESPN.
Massapequa advanced to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., for the first time in the organization’s 72-year history.
East hoped to qualify for the World Series for the second straight season and the seventh time overall. It was 1-2 in last year’s LLBWS.
Led by Todd Frazier, who served as an ESPN analyst in Bristol during the recent event, East won the LLBWS in 1998 when it was known as the Toms River East American Little League. The former Toms River High School South, Rutgers University, retired major-league All-Star and Olympic silver medalist has donated a scoreboard to East.
Lionetti, whose team won the New York state title, blazed his way to nine strikeouts in six innings. He walked one, leadoff hitter Mike Mendes, whose father, Michael, was East’s manager. Lionetti hit three batters and threw two wild pitches. Of his 72 pitches, 49 were strikes. He tossed first-pitch strikes to 15 of 22 batters. He posted four ground ball outs. Three outs were on fly outs.
“He was somethin’ else,” said manager Mike Mendes, assisted by coaches Ed Todaro and George Gallagher. “We faced him in the first game and I felt we would hit him a little bit, but he had his stuff working. Nobody was beating him. He was that good. He did a great job.”
“The kid was dominant,” said Paul Mika, president of the Toms River East Little League. “He had complete command of his fastball. His curveball was insane. He had our hitters off balance for the whole game. His command was spot on.”
Toms River’s Christian Mascaro suffered the loss, allowing four runs – three earned – on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He hit two batters and threw two wild pitches. Of his 88 pitches, 60 were strikes. He threw 14 first-pitch strikes to 24 batters. Reliever Tyler Todaro allowed one hit in one-third of one inning.
“It was a heartbreaking loss,” Mendes said. “After the game, I told our boys they created memories for me that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a fun group to coach and watch grow.”
Massapequa took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. It went ahead 2-0 in the fourth and capped the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. East finished the game with one error. Massapequa, which hails from Long Island, stroked eight hits and played errorless ball.
East fell to Massapequa 6-3 in the first round of the double-elimination event. For East, Brady Gillen went 2-for-4 and scored one run. Mascaro stroked two hits, including one double, in three at-bats, drove in one run and scored one run. Deklin Sloan hit one triple in three at-bats, plated one run and scored one run. Mendes went 2-for-4. Bryce Tomitz went 1-for-2 and drove in one run.
Massapequa won it with three runs in the top of the seventh. Lionetti started and pitched to a no-decision, allowing three runs – three earned – on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and hit two batters. Of his 87 pitches, 61 were strikes. He threw 20 first-pitch strikes to 27 batters. He struck out eight.
East stayed alive in the tournament with a 3-2 conquest of Cumberland of Rhode Island. Mascaro posted the win, hurling four scoreless innings in relief of starter Brady Gillen. Mascaro whiffed five, walked none and allowed three hits. Of his 55 pitches, 36 were strikes. Tyler Todaro earned the save. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit, striking out two and walking two. Of his 26 pitches, 12 were strikes.
East scored the winning run in the bottom of the third. For East, Mendes went 0-for-1, scored one run and drew one walk. Gillen was 1-for-3. Jayce Cappello went 0-for-2, scored one run and drew one walk. Logan Macchia went 2-for-3 and drove in one run. Mascaro went 0-for-2, scored one run and drew one walk.
East followed with a 3-1 victory over Fairfield American of Connecticut. Macchia was the winning pitcher. In 5 2/3 innings, he allowed one earned run, whiffed six and walked none. He hit one batter and allowed a home run. Of his 85 pitches, 55 were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 23 batters.
Todaro notched the save, allowing one hit, whiffing none and walking none. He posted the final out of the game.
Macchia hit a two-run homer on a 2-2 pitch in the bottom of the first for a 2-0 lead. Mendes went 1-for-3 and scored two runs. Gillen went 1-for-3. Teammate Kevin O’Donnell went 1-for-1.
East won the New Jersey state title to qualify for the tournament. It also captured District 18 and Section III titles. It went 15-4 in All-Star action.
“Unfortunately,” Mika said, “our run ended.”
Manager Mendes, who played on the 1990 Brick National Little League team which lost in the regional semifinals, said he enjoyed his involvement with the team.
“The kids made it fun,” said Mendes, 44, who played football for the Brick Township High School Green Dragons of legendary coach Warren Wolf. “They were together almost each day since May 15. They were always ready to practice. They had a lot of fun with each other. I will not only remember our titles. I will remember each player’s personality and how we stayed in dorms during the last week we were together. I watched them develop relationships with the players on the teams from the other states.
“We have gritty kids who love playing the game and love battling. I love all of the kids and I am extremely proud of them.”
He said the team received strong support from Toms River Township.
“The whole town was behind us, ” he said. “There were watch parties in the bars and restaurants. The support was overwhelming. It was awesome to see.”