By Tim Morris
A Little League baseball team of 11- to 12-year-olds has grabbed the attention of the Freehold Township community.
The Freehold Township Little League’s Major League All-Star team has been creating a legacy all summer, as it has won one championship after another to pull the community behind it.
On Aug. 1, the team won the New Jersey state championship by defeating Upper Township (Marmora), 14-1, in Gloucester City. The next stop on its summer journey is Bristol, Connecticut, where the players will compete in the Eastern Regional. They will be just one step away from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the Little League World Series (Aug. 18-28).
Freehold Township manager Jeff Gorman said the response to his team has been overwhelming.
“The town has been rallying behind us,” he said. “The support has been tremendous. There’s a lot of positive energy.”
The team has given the community a lot to cheer about this summer. It received a police and fire escort out of Michael Tighe Park Aug. 6, as the team and family members began their trip to Bristol for the Eastern Regional, which runs through Aug. 13.
After some dramatic wins in the District 19 and Section III tournaments, Freehold Township cruised to the state title, defeating Randolph West, 10-0; Upper Township, 6-3; and Upper Township again in the finals, 14-1.
It was a far cry from the challenges that Freehold Township had faced earlier.
“The competition in the district and section were tremendous,” Gorman said.
In fact, it was a loss to Bordentown (last year’s state champion) in the Section III tournament, which Freehold Township hosted, that turned out to be the team’s most important game.
“No one liked the way [the loss] felt,” Gorman said. “The players agreed that they were getting overconfident. It was a great check.”
The defeat had Freehold Township facing elimination for the first and only time this year. The Major Leaguers responded to that challenge with a 6-0 triumph in the championship game.
That loss is still the team’s only blemish en route to capturing three championships. It brings a 12-1 record to Bristol.
In Gloucester City, Freehold Township continued to get its dominant pitching — just once in 13 games has a team scored more than three runs against it.
“Good pitching leads to everything,” Gorman said.
Because Freehold Township made it to the finals of the state tournament without a loss, Gorman pointed out that the club had all three of its starters ready to play.
“[The winner’s bracket is] such an advantage,” he said.
Jon Abrahamsen, who won the Section III finals, got the call to start, and Brandon Levy, the team’s closer, finished it off.
Freehold Township’s offense has been every bit as effective as the pitching. In the state tournament, Jonathan Olik and Colin Reilly smacked grand slams.
From the start of district play in June, the Freehold Township Major League all-stars were challenged by Gorman to “dream big,” and it has taken them to Bristol.
Freehold Township lost its first-round game in the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament, 8-6, to the Maine Endwell Little League from New York. Freehold Township scored four runs in the top of the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie, but Maine Endwell exploded for six runs in the last of the sixth.
Olik led all batters with three hits, and Anthony Sirico had two RBIs.
The tournament is double elimination, so the dream still lives on for Freehold Township. It was scheduled to play Aug. 9 against the loser of Keystone Little League (Pennsylvania) vs. Capitol City (Washington, D.C.) in an elimination game.
Freehold Township’s Major League all-stars are John Abrahamsen, Patrick Burns, J.J. Donahue, Zachary Gorman, Brandon Levy, Michael Mancuzi, Drew Montgomery, Connor Morie, Jonathan Olik, Colin Reilly, Mario Rivera, Brad Salamone, Jayce Schapiro and Anthony Sirico.
Notes: It’s been another great summer for the Freehold Township Little League. The Major League all-stars weren’t the only championship team.
This week, Freehold Township Little League is hosting the Junior League Eastern Regional for the 12th consecutive year. The champion of the host league’s district gets an automatic berth into the tournament and once again, that team representing District 19 was Freehold Township.
Freehold Township’s Seniors continued their stranglehold on District 19, winning the pennant once again.
This summer also saw the league garner its first District 19 softball championships with the 9- to 10-year-old and Junior teams capturing their respective divisions.
Additionally, a Freehold Township Little League alumni, Brad Brach, who is now pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, was named to the American League All-Star Team for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.