Jersey’s best standing tall at World Series

Freehold Township wins first three games in Maine tournament

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Freehold Township’s Jason Elo fires a pitch to the plate during the recent state championship game in Parsippany. Elo got the win in the state final, and came back to get another win on Sunday in the township’s first Little League Senior League World Series game in Bangor, Maine.Freehold Township’s Jason Elo fires a pitch to the plate during the recent state championship game in Parsippany. Elo got the win in the state final, and came back to get another win on Sunday in the township’s first Little League Senior League World Series game in Bangor, Maine.

Apparently, being the top Senior League baseball team in all of New Jersey was not enough for the Freehold Township All-Stars.

After rolling through the state tournament undefeated, the Freehold Township squad proceeded to dominate the competition in the Eastern Regional tournament (held in West Deptford last week), earning the nod as the U.S. East representative in the Senior League World Series, which is taking place this week in Bangor, Maine.

Now that they’ve reached the grandest of stages, they have only turned it up a notch and have been the dominant team through the first three games, going 3-0 to remain the only undefeated team in Pool B.

Yesterday, they were set to square off against the Latin American representative, Maracaibo, Venezuela, which beat the U.S. Central team from Chicago on Tuesday, 5-2. With a win yesterday, it would be on to tomorrow’s semifinals for the Freehold squad, with a chance to earn the right to play for the World Series.

No contest at Eastern Regional

Manager Mike Brach brought out the Opening Day pamphlet from the very first year of the Freehold Township Little League, 1965, and showed it to his Senior League all-stars prior to last Thursday’s Eastern Regional championship in West Deptford.

Brach was in the pamphlet that day as a member of the Cardinals. But that wasn’t the point of his pregame talk.

"I wanted to give them some perspective," he said. "I wanted them to grasp the opportunity that they had. Nobody of any age group had gotten there [World Series] before."

A lot of great players and teams have gone through the Freehold Township Little League in the last 40 years, and it was left up to the 2004 Senior League team, fittingly managed by Brach, to become the first to make it to a World Series.

Before taking the field for the Eastern Regional final, the all-stars all put their hands on the pamphlet in a symbolic gesture that they were going to win not just for themselves, but for all those who had gone through the league before them.

Their opponent in Thursday’s championship game, West Deptford, didn’t stand a chance.

Although the host team would battle hard, the game came to an end mercifully in the bottom of the fifth with Freehold Township scoring a knock-out 14-3 victory. AJ Rusbarsky’s two-run home run over the left-field fence put the 10-run rule into effect and Freehold Township was the 2004 Eastern Regional Senior League champions.

"I really felt we were the best team there," said manager Brach. "I thought the Maryland team was the best team we played, and I told the kids if we beat them we would win the whole thing.

"They wanted these games [Eastern Regional] more than anything else," he added. "I can’t say enough about them, the whole team. You hope and pray for chemistry, and we got it. They all play for each other."

Step up in competition

makes no difference

Winning the first game in Little League tournaments is always critical, and that’s exactly what Freehold Township did on Sunday, with a 7-4 victory over the Central Regional champions, Humbolt Park from Chicago, Illinois.

Jason Elo went the distance, striking out three and pitching out of a jam in the last of the seventh.

Csakai had three hits and scored three runs while Rusbarsky was 4-for-4, including a double and three RBIs. Cuneo was 1-3 with two RBIs. Csakai, Rusbarsky and Cuneo each had a double.

Monday night, Freehold Township played Rotterdam, the national champions from the Netherlands and winner of the Europe/Middle East/Asia Regional, and once again, it was no contest.

Dominick Hayes led the way for Township on Monday, hitting his first career home run, singling twice and knocking in five runs altogether to lead Freehold to a resounding 16-2 win over Rotterdam. The Freehold squad was in control from the start, which allowed Brach to use five different pitchers, one inning each, after scoring five runs in the top of the first. Those pitchers (Brad Brach, Boysen, Nardi, Hayes and Cuneo) combined to throw a one-hitter with six strikeouts, but more importantly, set the pitching staff up so that Brach has everyone at full strength the rest of the way.

On Tuesday, Freehold Township took on U.S. Southwest champion Greater Helotes National Little League of San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio edged Maracaibo, Venezuela, 2-1, on Monday, and also entered the game 2-0 in Pool B.

But once again it was Freehold Township’s potent offense that was the difference, as the Jersey boys routed San Antonio, 12-1, to advance to the finals.

The big blow was a fourth-inning, pinch-hit grand slam by Jason Nardi, one of just seven hits for the Freehold Township squad. In total, Freehold scored nine runs in the fourth to put the game away, plating five runs before Nardi even stepped to the plate.

Brett Brach was the winning pitcher, allowing just two hits and one unearned run over five innings.

There are 10 teams in the World Series, and they are divided into two five-team pools, A and B. After pool play, the top two teams from pool A and pool B will meet in Friday’s semifinals, with the winners playing for the World Series Saturday.

Freehold Township is in pool B with Humbolt Park, Rotterdam, Greater Helotes and Maracaibo, Venezuela, the Latin American champion.

Mike Brach entered the tournament believing his Freehold Township team would be more than a participant this week in Bangor.

"I feel good about us," he said. "We can make some noise. I believe we can play with anybody."

In their first three games, Freehold Township certainly backed the coach up, running its summer record to 19-0.