BRISTOL, Conn. – Cumberland just couldn’t get a hit.
If you’re looking for the reasons why the Rhode Island champions were ousted from the metro area here on Sunday night, start there. Each of the last three innings has ended with the bases loaded, including the start of the sixth.
Dreams of a trip to the Little League World Series ended against New Jersey champions Toms River East. Tyler Todaro’s strikeout earned him a stoppage and sent Cumberland to a narrow 3-2 loss at Breen Field.
A pair of receiver pop fouls shorted Rhode Island’s rallies at the top of the fourth and top of the fifth. Cumberland got to the meat of his batting order in the top of the sixth, but went down a critical hit before extending his stay here a few more days. He comes out after losing that game and a biter Saturday to Connecticut by a 3-1 count.
“We came here and lost 3-1 and 3-2,” Cumberland manager Gary Lamora said. “It shows how even the level of competition was. We came here and didn’t play our best baseball, and we’re here in two games.
It looked like Cumberland would at least manage to tie the game on their last chance on Sunday. Leonardo Chavez lined up a single with a left out, Cam Slack reached for a defenseman’s pick and Ryan Amaral walked to put the tying run at 60 feet. It was the same storyline as the previous two frames, and it ended in a similar disappointment – an exit that shattered Rhode Island’s hopes, this time for good.
“We just couldn’t find the opportune shot when we needed it,” Lamora said. “What are the odds of two straight innings with the bases loaded and a pop-up for the catcher?”
Philipp LaGrossa’s infielder in the bottom of the third broke a 2-2 tie and tackled what turned out to be the winning run. New Jersey picked up a pair in the bottom of the first and found most of the night’s good fortune from there. Ryan McHugh’s two catches behind the plate were critical defensive plays to keep Toms River ahead.
“We never practice that,” McHugh said. “It was really stressful. Sometimes it was so dark you lost it in the lights, but I stuck with it.
It all started so brilliantly for Cumberland after thunderstorms in the area forced a 64-minute weather delay. Amaral’s two-run homer early in the first saw the visitors take a 2-0 lead, a titanic shot over the center scoreboard straight away. Rhode Island left a man at second while wrapping up their opener at bat, the first of 11 blocked overall and eight in scoring position.
“It’s quite telling of how our games went,” Lamora said. “We jumped early and then the bats seemed to calm down for the rest of the game.”
Michael Mendes walked the first and took the next three wild pitches to put New Jersey on the board bottom of first. Logan Macchia bounced an RBI single down the right side and Toms River was on it before Cumberland even had a real chance to capitalize on their lead. Christian Mascaro shot four scoreless frames in relief and Todaro recorded the final four outs.
“We got some big hits early on,” New Jersey manager Mike Mendes said. “We handled the basics well in the first run – that helped us. We just have enough.
Both teams entered the match as losers believing they could survive. This comes from recent successes in their respective leagues. Toms River is a seven-time New Jersey champion since 1995 and won the World Series behind future big leaguer Todd Frazier in 1998. Cumberland was here for the fourth time since 2011 and needed a rebound from an opening loss to capture his last state crown. .
“It’s a long tradition of greatness,” Lamora said. “We were happy to represent them well here.”
Cumberland, RI 200,000 – 2 6 1
Toms River, New Jersey 201 00x – 3 4 2
Cam Slack, Pedro Cardoso (3) and Dylan Slack; Brady Gillen, Christian Mascaro (1), Tyler Todaro (5) and Ryan McHugh. HR – Ryan Amaral (C).
On Twitter: @BillKoch25