Baseball – Frazier Keys Sixth-Inning Rally, Sending Toms River East to the Little League World Series
The Canal, Delaware Little League squad was one out away from a trip to the Little League World Series when they woke up the Beast from the East. It was not, however, a tip-toe past the monster that woke up Toms River East's No. 3 hitter with the familiar last name, but rather a firm poke with the business end of a baseball bat.
After watching Canal opt to intentionally walk powerful shortstop Joey DiMeo ahead of him to load the bases with two out in the top of the sixth and final inning, Carson Frazier slammed a two-out, two-strike, bases-clearing double off the centerfield fence to give Toms River East the deciding blow in a come-from-behind, 6-3 win on Friday night in Bristol.
With the win, Toms River East clinches a spot in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. for the first time since 1999, when the program came two wins shy of repeating as LLWS champions.
Frazier's uncle, Todd Frazier, was Toms River East's star during its run to the 1998 Little League World Series championship and on Friday, the younger Frazier and son of former Florida Marlins farmhand Charlie Frazier showed he has the family flair for the dramatic.
Before Frazier came through with his go-ahead swing, Toms River East had to chip away at a 3-0 deficit heading into the sixth after Canal scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. Canal starter Brody Fleming took a four-hit shutout into the sixth inning, but with his five-pitch walk to lead off the sixth, winning pitcher Cole Garrison drove Fleming's pitch count behind the single-game limit of 85.
Canal went to the bullpen and Toms River East went to work. Chris Tennaro drove a double to the fence in left and Adrian Bilotti followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center that scored Garrison with the team's first run and allowed Tennaro to tag and move to third base. Second baseman Max Mika then stroked an RBI single through the middle to score Tennaro and reach base as the tying run.
No. 9 hitter Cailen Cimorelli kept the line moving with a single down the line in right field and leadoff man Steven Malato grounded into a fielder's choice to shortstop for the second out, wiping out Cimorelli while advancing Mika to third.
It was at that point that the Canal dugout elected to intentionally walk DiMeo to load the bases and pitch to Frazier with two out. Pitcher Aiden Collie jumped ahead in the count 1-2 before Frazier laid off a pitch low and away. On the next offering, Frazier muscled a fly ball out to centerfield that hit the base of the fence on the fly and chased home all three of Mika, Malato and DiMeo to make the score 5-3.
Catcher Jason Vederrosa then dropped a single into shallow right to plate Frazier from second and cap the sixth-inning outburst.
In the bottom of the sixth, Malato set the tone with a slick, back-handed stop and throw to first for the first out. Garrison then struck out each of the next two batters to end the game and set off the celebration.
Toms River East will play Upper Providence of Pennsylvania Saturday at 6 p.m. in Bristol to determine the Region winner, which will impact seeding at the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Upper Providence defeated Toms River East, 6-1, on Thursday.
This year's Little League World Series will only consist of teams from the United States, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the international teams out this year. In past years, one team from each region would advance, with the Mid-Atlantic winner playing the New England winner to determine one of the four U.S. spots in the LLWS. This year, two teams from each of the eight regions will go to Williamsport to form the 16-team tournament.