It was too little too late for the “Jersey Boys,” who never quite found their tune.
Despite scoring a couple of runs late in the game, Toms River East Little League couldn’t catch up to a strong Hastings, Neb., squad in its opening outing at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The team hailing from the Jersey Shore fell to the Cornhusker state representatives 5-2 at Volunteer Stadium on Thursday evening.
Hastings, facing Toms River East pitcher Cole Garrison, came out swinging in the first inning, which they closed out with a pair of runs while New Jersey failed to get on the board.
Led by the powerful bats of Kowen Rader and starting pitcher Hunter Nepple, Nebraska took a commanding lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Rader smacked an RBI double to center field putting Nebraska up 4-0 and Nepple provided an exclamation point, extending the lead to 5-0 with an RBI single.
Toms River East then swapped out Garrison, who had tossed 67 of his allotted 85 pitches, for shortstop Joey DiMeo. He cauterized the hot bats from Nebraska with back-to-back strikeouts.
In the fifth inning, third baseman and leadoff hitter Steven Malato ignited a spark, when he knocked a triple to left field. He then scored on a wild pitch, putting the Jersey Shore squad on the board.
In the top of the sixth, Garrison scored on a wild pitch cutting the deficit to three runs.
Ultimately it wasn’t enough to send Toms River East — which fell flat offensively, with star Carson Frazier going 0-3 at the plate — to the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Hastings will take on Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday.
Toms River East moved to the loser’s bracket, and will play the team from Manchester, Conn., for their Williamsport survival on Saturday (3 p.m., ABC).
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