Holbrook’s Little League Dream Comes To An End

Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – The Holbrook Little League All-Stars have been eliminated from title contention in the 71st Little League Baseball World Series.

The Fairfield (Ct.) American Little League All-Stars showed no mercy, ousting the Jackson Township team 12-2 in an elimination game of the United States Bracket on Wednesday.

The game ended with two out in the bottom of the fifth inning under the Mercy Rule. Fairfield bested Jackson 7-6 last Thursday in the first round.

Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League

Holbrook’s top hitter in all-star play, shortstop-pitcher Chris Cartnick, slumped to the ground in a battle against tears after Wednesday’s game. Teammates Mike Arent and J.R. Osmond collected dirt from a baseline for posterity.

“The boys were disappointed,” said Jim Osmond, a Holbrook assistant coach. “More than anything else, they were sad that the game part had come to an end. We believe we were better than what we showed on the field today. We tip our cap to the other team and to their pitcher (Ethan Righter), who was fantastic both times he pitched against us.”

Had Holbrook won, it would have played Saturday night in the championship game of the United States Bracket at 7:30 on ESPN at the Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Instead, it allowed five runs in the first and fell behind 5-0 in front of an ESPN audience at the Howard J. Lamade Stadium on Wednesday.

“We kind of wore down at the end,” Osmond said. “That is the most frustrating thing to me. We were in high pressure games. The boys are used to playing a much fewer amount of games during the summer. They are 12 years old – not pros who grind through 162 games. Our boys practiced pretty much each day when they were not playing in games. In my heart, I believed we were the best team of anywhere in America, but unfortunately we were not able to prove that here in this tournament.”

Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League

Holbrook won the Mid-Atlantic Regional title while Fairfield captured the New England crown in recent action in Bristol, Ct. The teams rode for five hours on a bus to South Williamsport after their championship games and bonded. Their elimination game was rained out Tuesday night and the teams played recreational games with each other.

Dean Daddio suffered the loss, allowing nine runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. Holbrook stumbled to three errors on the day. Righter surrendered two earned runs on three hits in 4 2/3 innings. Righter struck out eight and walked three, throwing 88 pitches.

Daddio tossed 35 pitches in the first in which he allowed five hits, walked two and unleashed one wild pitch. There also was a passed ball in the opening frame.

Osmond said Daddio learned about15 minutes before the game he was to take the mound, replacing Tai Mann.

“Tai was our guy to start, but he told us his arm was bugging him,” Osmond said. “In the end, he is a 12-year-old boy. As much as we as coaches wanted to say, ‘Go out there and get ’em,’ he said he was not feeling well when he was warming up to pitch prior to the game. We made the right decision to pull him out of there as he is very talented and 12 years old. The last thing we wanted to do was put our current situation ahead of his long term well being. It was a group coaches decision to pitch Daddio. He went down to the bullpen and got himself loose.

“When we told Dean he was to pitch, he popped right up and was ready to go. He had pitched some great games for us. As disappointed as it was to not get the ball to Tai, it was not a case of us not having confidence in Dean. We know that if we had just had a couple of things break in different ways there could have possibly been a different outcome.”

Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League

Righter opened the first with an infield single to deep shortstop and went to second base on a single by Michael Iannazzo. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third and Matthew Vivona followed with a two-run double, lining a 2-2 pitch to left field.

“Keep your pitches down,” Holbrook manager Rob Grano, wearing a live microphone, told Daddio after the hit. “Heart of a champion. Keep winning, OK? We’re fine. We’re fine.”

Aidan Rivera forced a runner for a 3-0 lead. Andrew Cutler followed with an RBI single to right on a 1-2 offering, pushing the lead to 4-0. Leo Randazzo banged into a force play, extending the lead to 5-0.

Holbrook cut its deficit to 5-1 in the second.

With two out, Charlie Meglio walked on a 3-0 pitch and moved to second on a single to left by Arent. Daddio stroked an RBI single to right, plating Meglio.

Holbrook pulled to within 5-2 in the third, scoring with two out as Cartnick hit a 3-1 pitch for a double to right and crossed the plate on a wild pitch.

Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League

Fairfield blew the game open in the fourth with one out.

Iannazzo singled to left and sped to third as Holbrook made two errors on the hit, prompting a visit to the mound from Grano.

“How do you feel?” he asked Daddio.

“I’m good,” Daddio responded.

“Heart of a champion here,” Grano said. “It’s OK. Keep the ball down. You are throwing terrific.”

Daddio intentionally walked Vivona. Holbrook botched a rundown play between third and the plate on a grounder to third by Tyler Bauer, loading the bases. Troy Ashkinos followed with a grand slam over the center field fence on an 0-1 pitch, expanding the lead to 9-2 and knocking Daddio from the mound after 73 pitches.

Fairfield ended the game with three runs in the fifth.

The first run scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored during a rundown play and Ashkinos capped the game with an RBI single off Andy Osmond.

Holbrook wound up with three hits in the game. Fairfield stroked nine hits and played error less ball.

“They are a real good hitting team,” Osmond said. “They don’t strike out. They put the ball in play and you don’t get any easy outs against them. They are not a big home run hitting team, but they put the ball in play.”

Righter bested Holbrook for the second time in the LLBWS.

“He took advantage of the extended outside corner of the strike zone of the umpire,” Osmond said after Wednesday’s game. “When you have a good fastball and a good curveball and are able to put the ball a few inches outside and get your pitches called for strikes, you are in a great position for a pitcher, especially if you continue to put your pitches there. He was able to figure out where the umpire was calling strikes and he kept putting his pitches there.”

Newsy Notes

Manager Rob Grano and Coach Gene Daddio with the coaches from last year’s Little League World Series Champions, from the Mid-Atlantic, Main-Endwell, NY
Scott Rush and Joe Hopko. (Photo courtesy Holbrook Little League)

Cartnick put on a spectacular display in four LLBWS games, stroking eight hits in 14 at-bats for a .571 average. He hit three singles, two doubles and three homers.

He drove in nine runs and scored six. He drew one walk and struck out one time. He posted a .600 on-base percentage and a 1.357 slugging percentage. He posted a 1.957 OPS (on base plus slugging).

Holbrook was 2-2 in the Series. Fairfield is 3-1. Earlier this summer, Holbrook won district, section and New Jersey titles.

“Even though it did not go down the way we hoped for it to go down, I could not imagine us being more proud of the boys, what they accomplished and how hard they worked,” Osmond said. “Our boys will probably never step on the field together again as a single team as kids split off in different directions.”

Dion Lowe, whose pitching and power hitting propelled Lakewood to the national title in 1975 when foreign teams were barred from the Series because of eligibility issues, said on his Facebook page after Wednesday’s game, “Not the outcome I wanted, I’m proud of my neighbors from Jackson, New Jersey and their Vice President of Baseball Operations, David Citron “Cit” for representing my home state. You guys accomplished a lot making it all the way to Williamsport! Continued success as you guys continue on to your next endeavors!”

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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.