By Tim Morris
All the excitement created by the Freehold Township Little League Major League All-Star Team has served as added motivation for the Freehold Township Junior League all-stars.
While the Major League all-stars were off to Bristol, Connecticut, for their Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament, the Juniors were at home playing for the same stakes — a trip to a Little League World Series — at the Junior League Eastern Regional.
Freehold Township manager Steven Schulman said his club was hoping to ride the momentum generated by the Major League all-stars, who were the first Major League team for Freehold Township to win the state championship and play in the regional since 2003. He said that it would be great if both teams made it to their respective World Series.
As the champion of the host Little League’s district (District 19 in this case), the Freehold Township squad bypassed the section and state tournaments and went directly to the regional.
Any thoughts that they couldn’t hang with the other teams in the region, who were all state champions, was quickly silenced Aug. 5 when Freehold Township defeated Connecticut state champion Edgewood Little League, 10-0.
Schulman pointed out that Freehold Township’s tough road to the District 19 championship had tested it and had it playing with confidence.
In the district tournament, Freehold Township fell into the loser’s bracket early. However, the team recovered and came back to reach the finals, where it had to beat a Lincroft team that had beaten it earlier in the tournament twice. Freehold Township forced the if-necessary final by beating Lincroft, 10-2. In the finals, Lincroft rallied late to tie the game, 6-6, and force extra innings. Lincroft had runners in scoring position twice but couldn’t get the big hit. Freehold Township broke it open in the 10th with four runs for the 10-6 victory.
“That got the kids going,” Schulman said. “They built off that.
“I’m proud of them; they’ve shown a lot of heart.”
Freehold Township’s biggest asset is its pitching, Schulman noted.
“We’re nine deep in pitching,” he said. “They have different styles.”
Some of the pitchers throw hard, some off-speed and others have great location throwing strikes. The diversity helps Freehold Township mix things up and keep hitters off-balance.
In the regional opener, Brandon Ramos went the first three innings and fanned six. Pat Reilly closed the shutout out with two scoreless innings. Ramos and Reilly combined on a one-hitter.
Ramos also led the hit parade with three hits, and Sean Fiolek and Reilly each had two RBIs in the win.
Freehold Township fell into the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament Aug. 7, dropping a heart-breaker to Maryland state champion West Salisbury Little League, 6-5. West Salisbury won it in on a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh, breaking the 5-5 tie.
Alexander Ginter had three hits and two RBIs. Nicholas Ernst had two hits, and Reilly had two RBIs.
Freehold Township was scheduled to play New York state winner Throngs Neck Little League Aug. 8 at Michael Tighe Park. If Freehold Township won that game, it would have played again Aug. 9 at Tighe Park against the winner of the Delaware (Camden Wyoming Little League) vs. Pennsylvania (Yough/Connellsville Little League) game in the loser’s bracket semifinals.
West Salisbury and New Jersey state champion East Windsor Little League played in the winner’s bracket final Aug. 8. East Windsor (10-0) is undefeated in tournament play.
The regional finals are scheduled for Aug. 10 at 10 a.m., with the if-necessary game following at 1 p.m. The Eastern Regional winners will go on to Taylor, Michigan, for the Junior League World Series Aug. 14-21.
The Freehold Township Junior all-stars are Robert Beam, Andrew Bernstein, Patrick Borromeo, Kyle Checkett, Nicholas Ernst, Sean Fiolek, Alexander Ginter, Daniel Molina, Brandon Ramos, Patrick Reilly, Nicholas Schulman, Dylan Shah, Kyle Wenrich and Sean Wodell.