Howell South Junior all-stars claim state championship

Staff Writer

The Howell South Little League Junior League all-star team has made history this summer. When the all-stars defeated Buena, 8-2, on July 31 in Gloucester City, they became the first team from the Howell South Little League to win a Little League state championship.

The reward for the squad’s historic title is a berth in the Little League Junior League Eastern Regional Tournament being hosted by the Freehold Township Little League on Aug. 4-9 at Michael J. Tighe Park.

Howell South, which draws its players from the Ramtown section of Howell, opened play in the double-elimination regional tournament on Aug. 5 vs. Pennsylvania state champion Dunbar. Howell was leading 3-0 when the game was rained out. The game will be replayed in its entirety.

Howell South went 3-0 at the state tournament to improve to 10-1 in tournament play.

As 13-year-olds in 2011 the Howell South all-stars won the District 11 championship, but they could not go any further because the 13-year-old division in Little League stops at the district level.

Rather than leaving Little League behind them, the all-stars came together this season as Junior League players (ages 14-15).

“The team decided to come back,” manager Jeff Steel said. “It’s the same team as last year with the addition of one player.”

The Howell South Junior League allstars made the most of their return. They repeated as the District 11 champions by defeating Howell Central Little League, 13- 1, in the final.

Their next stop was the Section 3 tournament hosted by the Holbrook Little League in Jackson. The all-stars lost to Brick Township, 9-2, but bounced back to defeat Brick Township, 7-2, to advance to the finals where they had to defeat Sayrewoods twice in the double-elimination format and they did, winning 4-2 and 12-2, to claim the state title.

That victory sent Howell South to the state tournament in Gloucester City, where the all-stars defeated Buena, 8-4, Madison, 18-1, and Buena again, 8-2, to win the state title.

Steel said pitching was the team’s best asset.

“We’ve got great starting pitching,” he said. “We have multiple kids who can pitch.”

Connor Fey, Andrew Larsen and Justin Steel have been Howell South’s starters and they have pitched deep into games. Donovan O’Malley has closed games, while Timmy Preston and Russell Quinlan have been used in relief.

Howell South’s ERA in tournament play is 3.60 as the all-stars allowed 38 runs in their first 11 tournament games. Howell South scored 106 runs through its first 11 tournament games.

The team’s leading hitter has been Greg McManus, who has smacked two home runs and is batting .488.

The Howell South Little League Junior League all-stars are Russell Quinlan, Donovan O’Malley, Ryan Snyder, Greg Mc- Manus, Vince Murphy, Andrew Larsen, Connor Fey, Justin Steel, Zach Rucci, Josh Venetos, Matt De Pompo, Tim Preston and Matt Masone.

John Quinlan, Rob Fey and Jeff Preston are the coaches on Steel’s staff.