Freehold Township’s 13U team repeats as state baseball champion

Now that the New Jersey state championship has been secured for the second straight season, next up for Freehold Township’s 13U baseball team is the Atlantic Regional Tournament.

After a dominating 22-4 victory over Buena, the 13U Freehold Township Little League team repeated as the New Jersey state champions.

Freehold Township defeated Buena, 22-4, to capture the state tournament July 16 at the Midletown Little League complex in Red Bank. That dominating victory sent Freehold Township to the Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Connecticut, where it will play the New York state champion July 22 at 4 p.m. at Leon J. Breen Field.

If Freehold Township wins against New York, it will play July 24 against the winner of Maryland and Connecticut/Massachusetts.

The winner of the Atlantic Regional will earn a berth in the Intermediate 50/70 Baseball League World Series that will be played July 30 through Aug. 6 in Livermore, California.

In the state final July 16, Freehold Township built a 10-0 lead after two innings. On the strength of five homers, including a grand slam by J.J. Donahue, Freehold Township won by the mercy rule, as the game was halted after five innings.

Manager Jeff Gorman was happy with his team’s performance, but there are more games to win.

Freehold Township was eliminated by Maine in the regional tournament last summer.

“It feels good,” Gorman said. “It’s all part of the goal. We were able to get this far last year, so it’s good that we repeated this year. We lost in the regionals last year, so the job isn’t over yet. We still have work to do.”

Gorman believes that last year’s experience will go a long way to this year’s success.

“We’re a lot more focused this year,” Gorman said. “Last year, we were so excited to be there. It was an incredible experience. We took a tour of ESPN. We took it all in, and I think we got in over our heads once the games started. This year, we know this is a business trip. We’re going to have fun up there, but I know it’s not going to overwhelm us this year.”

Gorman’s players echoed a lot of his settlements.

Donahue, who hit his first grand slam of the season during the victory, was focused on the mistake he made before he delivered his key blow.

“I made a costly error the inning before,” said Donahue, an outfielder. “I just wanted to redeem myself the best way possible. It feels great to hit a grand slam in the biggest game, but I just wanted to make sure I did right by my team and fix my mistake.”

Redemption was the feeling most of the team had going into the state tournament.

Ace Jayce Schapiro stated that the team had longer practices this season and spent all year focusing on what it did wrong last year.

First baseman Connor Morie felt that the quest for redemption made the team that much better this year.

“It definitely feels redeeming,” Morie said. “This team has grown so much mentally and physically this year, partly because of what happened last year. I think we can win it all this year if we stay focused. We are all brothers who fight for each other. Because of that, I’m excited to see what we do in the next round.”

Starting pitcher John Abrahamsen said that it felt great to get the victory, but he felt the team still had things to work on.

“We won today as a team,” Abrahamsen said. “Going into regionals, we need to communicate more and continue to trust each other. If we master that, I think we have a great chance to make it to California. We’re focused on the next round first, though.”