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The Toms River East Little League 12-year-old squad dominated the competition in the New Jersey State Finals, but in the first round of the Metro Regional Tournament against the New York State champions from Massapequa, TR East had to reacclimate itself to the pressure of a close game.

Toms River East battled back from a two-run deficit, but Massapequa delivered three runs in the top of the seventh inning to outlast Toms River East, 6-3, in extra innings in the opening round of the Metro Region Tournament Saturday in Bristol.

A two-run rally in the bottom of the fourth drew Toms River East even, 3-3, with Massapequa and the thunder came from a line of pinch-hitters. Deklin Sloan blasted an RBI triple to the fence in right field to score Christian Mascaro, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the fourth.

Bryce Tomitz then came through with a single off the glove of shortstop Christian Bekiers and through the drawn-in infield for a game-tying RBI hit.

Starter Logan Macchia allowed a single to leadoff the fifth and retired the second batter of the inning before being lifted with 53 pitches. Mascaro came on a struck out the next two batters and after a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth, he struck out another two to end his outing with four strikeouts in five batters faced on 23 pitches.

Toms River East pitcher Logan Macchia. Photo: Matt Manley
Toms River East pitcher Logan Macchia. (Photo: Matt Manley)

Brady Gillen took over on the mound and retired the lone batter he faced in the top of the sixth to send the game to the bottom of the inning with Toms River East one run away from ending its opener with a win.

Massapequa's pitching, however, was up to the task. Starter Joey Lionetti reached the in-game maximum with 87 pitches and gave up the ball two outs shy of completing six full innings. Alex Pagano came on and allowed a single to Michael Mendes and a walk to Jayce Cappello around a fly out to centerfield for the second out.

Bekiers then took over on the mound with two out and the bases loaded, including the winning run 60 feet away, and induced an inning-ending ground ball.

Massapequa put the pressure on Toms River East early in the top of the seventh with a one-out double by Bekiers followed by a single from Lionetti that placed runners on second and third.

Gillen made a key pitch and induced a groundout to Sloan at second base for the second out of the inning. On the next batter, however, Gillen's pitch hit the dirt and got away from catcher Ryan McHugh to allow Bekiers to score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Mikey Castello added an exclamation point on a 3-1 pitch when he crushed a two-run home run to left-centerfield for a 6-3 lead for the New York squad.

Bekiers returned to the mound for the bottom of the seventh and retired the side in order to close out the win in relief and send Massapequa to the winner's bracket final Monday night against Fairfield American from Connecticut.

Mascaro drove in the first Toms River East run with an RBI single that knotted the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first and finished 2-for-3 with a double, a hit-by-pitch and a run scored to go with the RBI.

Macchia allowed two earned runs on seven hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Mendes and Gillen each went 2-for-4 out of the top two spots in the order and Cappello was 1-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch out of the three-hole.

Toms River East -- which outscored its opponents, 31-1, over three games in the New Jersey State Championship Tournament -- will try to extend its summer run on Sunday night in Bristol at 7 p.m., when it will play Cumberland of Rhode Island in an elimination game.


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