By Wayne Witkowski
The Holbrook Little League 12U All-Stars quickly regained their home run swing, but it couldn’t save them from elimination in the Section 3 tournament in a 23-13 loss to Bordentown July 18 at Michael J. Tighe Park in Freehold.
The power-hitting District 18 champions from Jackson hammered out four home runs — two by Dallas Weisse — against Bordentown after hitting the ball short of the fences for the first time this summer while dropping their Section 3 opener to host Freehold, 7-3, July 17.
Holbrook came into the game with 36 home runs in 10 games by nine different players, including five in the District 18 championship victory over Jackson, 15-5, July 12.
But Bordentown’s players, who won the state championship as 11-year-olds last summer, took command in the first inning. They scored 13 runs after Holbrook opened the inning with three runs of its own behind a run-scoring double by Gavin Kus and a run-scoring single by Gavin Bonitz. Holbrook battled back to 16-13 late in the game but got no closer.
“They hit the ball well and we made errors, and they capitalized on our mistakes,” said Holbrook manager Art Bonitz, who said he was proud of his team. “I like the fact that these kids did not give up. We had five come-from-behind victories. They could’ve packed it in in the fourth inning when Bordentown needed only one more run to end it [on the 10-run rule] and kept going.”
Instead, Holbrook answered back with two runs in the fifth inning on solo home runs by Sean Yergel and Weisse before Bordentown struck for three runs in the home sixth, with the game ending a little early on a run-scoring single for the 10-run lead as the mercy rule was invoked.
“District 18 was pretty difficult to get through and whatever team makes it out of Section 3, I wish them well,” Bonitz said.
Tai Mann, who started on the mound against Bordentown, is the only player coming back on Holbrook’s 12U team. The others go up to the Intermediate League level.
Certainly, Holbrook showed some determination against Bordentown when it pulled to 13-7 in the top of the second inning on four runs — two scoring off a home run by Weisse and another off a double by Devon Foderaro. Bordentown came back with three runs of its own in the bottom of the second inning, highlighted by a two-run homer.
Young Bonitz belted a two-run homer in the top of the fourth inning when Holbrook scored four runs to close to 16-11, and then it came back in the fifth inning with the two solo homers before Bordentown responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth.
In the section opener against Freehold, Bonitz pointed to Holbrook coming up empty on two bases-loaded threats with one out in the third and fifth innings. Jayden Toucher lined a double in the first inning and scored on a passed ball, but Freehold came back in its half of the inning with four runs. Toucher relieved starter Steve Davis.
Freehold struck for its other three runs in the fourth inning on a solo home run and a two-run double before Jake Hickman and Toucher slugged run-scoring singles in the fifth inning for Holbrook. Toucher finished with three hits.
But Holbrook fans will remember fondly the powerful display Holbrook showed before packed bleachers on its field in the district championship game against Jackson that was stopped in the fourth inning by the 10-run rule.
“It was pretty decisive,” Art Bonitz said. “We made a statement that we came to play. But you can’t expect something like this and to beat teams like this, especially in District 18, one of the most respected districts in the state.”
Davis hit a tape-measure shot to left field in the first inning after Yergel slapped a single. Gavin Bonitz followed a single by Mike Tamburrino with his two-run blast to left center field for a 4-1 lead.
Matt Potok had given Jackson a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a home run.
Davis drove a single in the second inning that delivered Hickman, who singled, to make it 5-1. But Potok hit his second homer of the game with a man aboard, and Nick Storaci tagged a solo homer to pull Jackson to 5-4.
That’s when Weisse led off the bottom of the third inning with a blast to left field, and John Sofick followed a single by Bonitz with a two-run homer, as Holbrook scored six runs. Toucher and Yergel lined run-scoring doubles, and Tamburrino smashed a run-scoring single.
Jackson rallied for a run in the top of the fourth inning and cut down a Holbrook runner at the plate in the fourth inning before the game came to an early ending. After Bonitz lined a double and Sofick singled to put runners on the corners, Foderaro grounded sharply to Jackson shortstop Zach Rogacki, who alertly threw the ball to catcher Storaci as he tagged out Bonitz. Wesley Deitch cracked a run-scoring single before Toucher belted his team-leading 10th home run of the district tournament — a three-run blast that ended it.
“I’ve never seen in my years played, coached and managed a team this powerful,” manager Bonitz said. “It was not one or two but nine kids.”
And it’s a 12-game run that Holbrook fans will long remember.