Jackson 13-year-olds capture District 18 championship

By Wayne Witkowski

Jackson Little League’s Intermediate 13-year-old team, which was one win away from reaching the Little League World Series as 12-year-olds last year, battled back to beat Beachwood, 13-10, June 27 for the District 18 championship.

Tyler Beck belted two homers and a double, but his biggest hit was a two-run single in the last inning that snapped a 10-10 tie. A passed ball let in the final run. Ryan Lasko closed out the game for the win on the mound. He was the fourth pitcher in the game, as Jackson has had to make up for the loss of Sean Slusser, who was out with an injury.

Jackson led, 5-0, entering the bottom of the third inning when Beachwood scored five runs to tie it. The game was tied two more times at 8-8 and 10-10 before the final rally.

Jake Wendell cracked two home runs and drove in three runs, Matt Feld tagged a two-run blast, and Dan Green and Wendell each finished with three hits for the day.

“Our bats were hot and we never gave up, which is a big thing,” manager Tim Beck said. “We were down but never out and fought to the very end.”

The champions head into the Section 3 tournament in Middletown at the end of the week in a schedule to be determined.

Jackson Little League Intermediates opened district play with a 5-2 victory over Beachwood June 23, with Lasko closing out the victory for starting pitcher Tyler Beck. The following day, Jackson hammered Lacey, 25-2, to make for an easy outing for starting pitcher Wendell and reliever Caden Brooks. It set the scene for a rematch with Beachwood.

This summer’s Jackson Little League 12-year-old team — with Matt Potok and Zach Rogacki as the lone holdovers from last year’s team that rolled through the district, section and state tournaments and ended the season in a loss to Redland, Pennsylvania, in the Eastern Region finals — won its opening game, 4-3, over Toms River June 25. It returned to action at Stafford at 6:30 p.m. June 29.

Rogacki and Potok hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning to stake Jackson to its 4-3 lead. Potok belted two solo homers in the game.

Toms River got two of its runs on solo homers but was held in check by Jackson’s pitching — including Potok, the starter — which struck out 15 batters.

“While it’s always good to get that first win, Jackson hopes to get the offense going more consistently when we travel to Stafford,” manager Jeff Goekel said.

Another team from Jackson that also went far in the postseason last year, Holbrook’s 11-year-olds that lost in the Eastern Region final to Maryland (the final stage of its age group in tournament play), opens in District 18 July 11 under manager Rob Grano.

Nearly all of the players return from last year’s Holbrook 11s, except for Tai Mann, who moved up to the 12s. Pitchers R.J. Vashey and Chris Andrews play at first and third base, respectively, when they’re not on the mound, and Dean Daddio and Jarrett Drew also pitch along with left-hander Andy Osmond. Shortstop Chris Kartnick continues to show power at the plate, as he did last summer along with Vashey. Charlie Meglio at second base and J.R. Osmond at catcher round out the infield.

Anthony Addonizio starts in center field and Mike Arent and John Grano play in left and right field, respectively. Ryan Kinsman, another outfielder, hits solid line drives.

As for Holbrook’s 12s, they got off to a fine start winning their first two district games under manager Al Bonitz. They beat Toms River, 11-3, June 27, as Sean Yurgel blasted a homer and drove in three runs, and Jayden Toucher also homered while striking out seven in three innings of one-hit relief of starter Jake Hickman. Gavin Kus and Gavin Bonitz each batted in a run and slugged two hits.

On June 22, Holbrook’s 12s won their opener, 12-6, over Toms River East. Jonny Sefick and Bonitz blasted three-run homers — the latter one capping the scoring. Sefick’s homer snapped a 5-5 tie in the fourth inning.

“We played as well as I anticipated for our season opener,” manager Bonitz said. “Defensively, we didn’t commit any errors, and we capitalized offensively with runners on base.”

Holbrook’s 12s were scheduled to play at Brick June 29 and are at home July 1 against an opponent to be determined.