Toms River East Little League, Hawk Basketball Grads Event

Toms River East American sat atop the Little League Baseball World in 1998. (Photo courtesy Mike Gaynor)

  OCEAN COUNTY – Their names will never be forgotten.

  Todd Frazier. Scott Fisher. Chris Crawford. Brad Frank. Casey Gaynor. Eric Campesi. Gabe Gardner. Tom Gannon. R.J. Johansen. Joe Franceschini. Mike Belostock. Chris Cardone. Manager Mike Gaynor. Coach Joe Franceschini. Coach Ken Kondek.

  And why not? All the aforementioned did as members of the Toms River East American Little League team, an all-star club, would captivate our nation, winning the 1998 Little League World Series at the Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

  Fittingly, the team will be honored 25 years after its run Saturday, April 22. “It will be a huge parade,” said Tommy Noone, president of the Toms River East Little League. “New Jersey State Police on their horses and in their vehicles will participate in the parade. The Toms River Township Police Department will participate in the parade. All of our players from T-ball through the Senior Division will be in the parade.

The Toms River East American Little League team made for a nifty montage. (Photo courtesy Mike Gaynor)

  A parade will step off at 9 a.m. at the East Dover First Aid Squad building. What promises to be an event as colorful as East’s pulsating march to the championship will conclude at the field on Windsor Avenue, the site of a 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

  “This parade is a Toms River East Little League tradition. Every kid remembers the opening day parade. It’s a huge part of our league and tradition,” Noone said.            

  Teams from the Far East, specifically Japan and Taiwan, often dominated the LLWS. East put an end to that, downing Kashima, Zbaraki, Japan, in the World Championship Game, setting off a decibel-shattering roar among its fans in front of an ABC national television audience and becoming the first American team to capture the crown since 1993.

  “I always told folks, ‘Enjoy yourselves. It’s the best time ever,’ ” said manager Gaynor, whose team was 5-0 in the 52nd LLWS. “I don’t know why we were so successful. We were always the smallest and youngest team. We were not imposing by any stretch. On defense, we were strong and Fisher was a beast on the mound. We didn’t run that much. Campesi was quick. Fisher ran like the wind. Casey and Brad were kind of plodders. We had pretty headsy kids.

  “They were all good students in school. They picked up on certain plays quickly. Our kids made the right decisions,” he said.

  To hear manager Gaynor tell it, the coaching staff did not pressure its players to win.

  “It was always about having a good time,” he said. “I told the boys, ‘You don’t go through life making excuses.’ I was the bad cop. Joe and Ken were the funny guys, the good guys. If the boys were upset, they ran to my coaches. Practices were a lot of fun. Kids received hot dogs and soda at our practices.”

  Manager Gaynor said the team gave itself no chance of putting Toms River on the map.

  “We had no hopes of winning anything entering the tournament (which began with District 18 play),” he said. “I had never met these kids before. I managed the Red Sox during the regular season. When I got these kids – other than when we played them – I did not know their personalities or tendencies. We were just happy to get out of the Districts. It was an interesting set of events that turned out well.”

  Frazier was the main reason events turned out a whole lot better than well.

  In a 12-9 victory in the World Championship Game, he stroked four hits in four at-bats and set the tone, leading off the contest with a home run. And he was the winning pitcher. Frazier, who would achieve stardom at Toms River High School South under legendary coach Ken Frank, Rutgers University, the major leagues and was a silver medalist in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, homered in all but one of the club’s five games. He stroked nine hits, including one grand slam, and four homers. Small wonder he was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence in 2022 as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the LLWS.

  It figures to be quite the day.

  “Frazier and a couple of team members are scheduled to attend,” Noone said. “Our 13-and-under Eastern Regional, 12-under state champions and 12-under Majors Mason Invitational Tournament winners will also be honored.”

Manchester Hawks Soar In College

  It was a successful season for ex-Manchester players Dakota Adams and Destiny Adams.

  Dakota Adams, a 5-foot-9 senior guard-forward, paced Rowan University in rebounding, averaging 7.4 boards per game, and was third on the Profs in scoring at 8.6 points per outing. She finished in a two-way tie for first on the team in assists with 47 and was charged with 37 turnovers. She added 39 steals. She appeared in 28 games and started 14. She was third on the team in minutes played per game at 21.0.

Destiny Adams, the former Manchester scoring machine, erases a shot for the University of North Carolina. (Photo courtesy University of North Carolina)

  Adams was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week after helping the Profs to their eighth NJAC Tournament title in program history. She scored a season-high and contest-best 19 points and added eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in a 68-58 win over Kean University in the semifinals. In a 79-70 conquest of New Jersey City University in the championship game, she netted 15 points and hammered for a team-high 11 rebounds.

  Destiny Adams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard-forward best known for her scoring prowess from anywhere on the court for the Hawks, proved her worth as a defensive player at the University of North Carolina, placing second on the Tar Heels in steals (50) and blocks (26). She averaged 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, added 18 assists and was charged with 32 turnovers.

  She appeared in 33 games and started four, averaging 17.2 minutes per outing. Adams, who was scoreless, fouled out in 17 minutes, grabbed three rebounds, blocked one shot and made one steal in a 71-69 loss to Ohio State University in the second round of the NCAA Division I Tournament for the Tar Heels (22-11). Her dad, Dennis Adams, a former Manchester football, basketball and baseball standout and the school’s principal, was shown watching the game from the seats on ESPN.

Former Manchester player Dakota Adams surveys the floor for Rowan University. (Photo courtesy Lee Kotzen)

  As a freshman, Adams averaged 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She appeared in 28 games off the bench, averaging 8.1 minutes per outing. She added nine assists, 23 steals and eight blocks for the Tar Heels (25-7). She buried 29 of 69 attempts from the field overall (.420 percent) and canned 27 of 46 free throws (.587 percent). She fouled out of one game. Her dad, Dennis Adams, a former Manchester football, basketball and baseball standout and the school’s principal, was shown watching the game from the seats on ESPN.    

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