BRISTOL, Conn. – After rising up to win a pair of elimination games to reach the Metro Region championship game, Toms River East’s magical run ended a win short of reaching the Little League World Series Friday night.
Massapequa Coast’s Joey Lionetti fired a complete-game no-hitter in a 4-0 victory, as the New York champions completed an unbeaten run through the region, including a pair of wins over Toms River East.
As the final out was record, the disappointment was apparent for the New Jersey champions, with the program looking to send a team to Williamsport, Pennsylvania at the World Series for the second straight year and fifth time overall.
“A lot of emotion. It has been once heck of a summer," said Toms River East manager Mike Mendes, who played in the Bristol region in 1990 for Brick. "These kids, they really came together. I thank them all for letting me be a part of their lives. I know they are going to remember this forever. I remember when I was 12 and played in Bristol. I know they are going to.
“I’m proud of all of them. They fought hard."
In all, Lionetti allowed four baserunners, hitting three batters, while striking out nine.
“He was unbelievable," Mendes said. "Give him all the credit in the world. On this stage, to step up like that, he deserves every accolade he gets.”
"In the beginning I didn't realize it, but then I looked up at the scoreboard in the fourth inning and realized he was throwing a no-hitter," said Massapequa shortstop Christian Bekiers. "He was great."
Last year, Toms River East lost in the region final but advanced to the World Series since the top two teams got invitations because there were no international teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it was over, the Toms River East squad gathered in the outfield for a final time, seven weeks after beginning their run to district, section and state titles.
“I just walked out there and told them I loved them and I was proud of them," Mendes said. " Regardless of the loss today, we made it to the Metro Region final. How many teams would die to be here. We like to say we finished top 20 in the country, a finalist in the region. So I am proud of these kids and I told them that.”
Toms River East was trying to reach the Little League World Series for the fifth time, including in 1995, 1998, 1999 and winning it all in 1998.
It would have been the eighth team from Ocean County to reach the World Series, with Lakewood, which won the title in 1975, Toms River National (2010) and Jackson-Holbrook (2017) also making it.
Here are the key moments
Bottom fifth inning: Massapequa extends lead
After Alex Pagano singled and Mikey Castellano was hit by a pitch, Macchia got a strike out. But after the runners advanced on a wild pitch, Michael Clark got a run home on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Macchia reached his pitch total and Tyler Tedero came on in relieve, with a single by Liam St. George scoring their fourth run.
In all, Macchia gave up seven hits before leaving. He had not given up a run in 5.1 innings at the region coming into the game.
“I can’t say enough about Christian Mascaro, as a player, as a kid," Mendes said. "He knew we needed five good innings out of him. He knew that going in and he gave that to us. He battled and battled and battled. If the other kid doesn’t throw a no-hitter this is a tight game.”
Top fourth inning: Massapequa goes up 2-0
A two-out rally allowed Massapequa to extend its lead to 2-0. After Mascaro struck out the first two batters of the inning, second baseman Anthony Badagliacca reached on a single, before going to second on a wild pitch. Then Bekiers, the leadoff hitter, stroked an opposite-field single down the leftfield line, scoring Badagliacca from second. Mascaro got out of the inning, but his pitch count rose to 76, just nine below the 85-pitch limit.
Bottom second inning: Massapequa strikes first
Massapequa loaded the bases with no outs, as Mikey Castellano and Ryan Huksloot singleg to open the frame, before Clark laid down a sacrifice bunt that catcher Ryan McHugh fired to third trying to get the lead runner, but the throw was not in time. Castellano then scored on a throwing error by Mascaro on a grounder. But Mascaro was able to limit the damage to just one run by striking out the next three batters.
Bottom first inning: Flashing defense
Toms River East’s defense had been excellent throughout the tournament, and that continued the first time they took the field. After Lionetti delivered a one-out single, Pagano hit a sharp grounder to second. Philipp LaGrossa scooped it, flipped the ball to shortstop Jayce Cappello who completed the double play to end the inning.
Top first inning: TRE strands runner
Michael Mendes led the game off by getting hit by a pitch, advancing to second on a wild pitch. But Lionetti settled down and got Brady Gillen to strike out looking, before Jayce Capello grounded out to second. Then Lionetti got Macchia, who belted a two-run homer in the first inning of Wednesday’s win, to strike out on a high fastball to end the threat.
Toms River East (Visitors)
2. Michael Mendes CF
12. Brady Gillen RF
17. Jayce Cappello SS
54. Logan Macchia
8. Christian Mascaro
9. Jake Gallagher P
43. Philipp LaGrossa 2B
4 Tyler Todaro LB
25. Ryan McHugh C
5. Bryce Tomitz
13. Kevin O’Donnell
88. Deklin Sloan
99. Gavin Senger
Staff: Manager Mike Mendes, Coaches Ed Todaro and George Gallagher.
Massapequa Coast (Home)
3. Christian Bekiers SS
13. Joey Lionetti P
24. Alex Pagano 1B
14. Mikey Castellano RF
2. Ryan Huksloot C
7. Michael Clark 3B
4. Liam St. George LF
15. Danny Fregara CF
16. Anthony Badagliacca 2B
27. Brendan Hanley
34. Lucas Mininni
Staff: Manager Roland Clark; Coach Brian Bekiers.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: 2022 Little League World Series: Toms River East falls to Massapequa