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Toms River East stays alive in Little League World Series hunt

BRISTOL, CONN. – Not only were the 12-year-olds of the Toms River East Little League watching elimination ahead of Sunday night’s game, but the East 13 faced three serious threats in the last three innings, with Rhode’s Cumberland Island about to open the game in his favor.

Thanks to pitchers Christian Mascaro and Tyler Todaro, Toms River East escaped three consecutive goal-laden jams and survived to fight another day.

Mascaro blocked bases loaded in fourth and Todaro came in fifth to leave bases loaded in each of the last two innings as TR East toppled Cumberland, 3-2, to advance to the loser’s final of the Metropolitan Regional Tournament on Wednesday . in Bristol.

Cumberland buried Toms River East in a 2-0 home run on a massive two-run home run by Ryan Amaral in the top of the first inning. Mascaro entered the game on the mound with two outs and a runner up first in the top of the first inning and then pitched four scoreless innings with six strikeouts for the victory. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Mascaro persuaded leadoff hitter Tyler Lamora to foul East catcher Ryan McHugh to end the threat.

Mascaro handed the game to Todaro with two over and two up in the fifth inning and after running through the bases loaded on the first batter he faced, Todaro played copycat and caused an end popup innings, which McHugh once again pressed for the innings finale.

East couldn’t add to their 3-2 lead late in the fifth and Todaro had no margin for error in the top of the sixth. He retired the first batter of the inning, but Leonardo Chavez followed with a single and Lamora was hit by a pitch to move the tying run to scoring position and the go-ahead at first base.

TR East shortstop Jayce Cappello recovered a ground fly ball and returned it second for the forced out — the second out of the inning. With runners on the corners and two retired, the Eastern dugout opted to intentionally step on Amaral after Todaro fell behind in the count, 3-0.

This again loaded the bases with two outs and after jumping past Cumberland cleanup hitter Dylan Slak 0-2, Todaro peppered a pitch to the outside corner and got the three-hit call to end the game and spark a celebration of a delighted and relieved Toms River East team.

In the three-game state tournament, Toms River East faced no tense moments as they edged their three opponents by a combined 31-1 in three wins and weren’t required to use any pitchers other than Logan Macchia, Brady Gillen and Mascaro. In order to continue his summer, however, Todaro had to step up and record some big outs and the left starting outfielder – who also landed a dive in the first inning – got the upper hand.

Before his pitchers got big, the Toms River East bats hit a pair of rallies that turned the 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. East responded to Cumberland’s two-run first inning with two runs all on his own late in the period. Michael Mendes started the East’s first inning with a walk and advanced on three wild pitches, including one that scored him with the game’s first TR East run.

Cappello tied with one out, moved up to second on crazy ground and scored when Logan Macchia’s ground ball was misplayed in a scoring error to tie the game at 2-2.

Late in the third, Macchia started the deciding rally with a single and Mascaro found himself picking a defender to trade places with his teammate. Jake Gallagher then singled into right field and Mascaro went third with one out. The extra base proved crucial, as Phillip LaGrosso tackled Mascaro with a groundout at shortstop for a 3-2 lead over Toms River East.

East prevailed Sunday despite just three hits and the three plays that scored his three-runs did not involve a hit. Macchia, Gallagher and Brady Gillen were responsible for all three hits.

Sunday’s game started an hour and three minutes later than the scheduled first pitch at 7 p.m. due to thunderstorms in the Bristol area.

Toms River East will find their opponent Monday night, as Massapequa (NY) takes on Fairfield American (Conn.) for a spot in the championship game. The loser will face Toms River East on Wednesday, with the winner of that game advancing to Friday’s Championship game against the winner of Monday’s game.

While the remaining game attendees are still unknown, it’s much easier to guess who Toms River East will start on the mound in their Wednesday game. Logan Macchia threw 53 shots in Saturday’s overtime loss to Massapequa, which keeps him eligible to take the ball on Wednesday.

Toms River East is looking to reach the Little League World Series for the second straight season, which would make the New Jersey team the first to accomplish the feat since Toms River East’s decorated teams of 1998 and 1999.

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