Toms River East is in line for a lifetime of memories.
It has earned a berth in the Little League Baseball World Series.
East can pack its bags for Williamsport, Pa.
East qualified with a 6-3 conquest of Canal (Del.) in the modified double-elimination Little League Baseball Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament on Friday night, Aug. 13, at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center in Bristol, Conn.
East entered the top of the sixth inning down 3-0, but was far from out as it staged a miraculous comeback, erupting for six runs.
Enter center fielder Carson Frazier, who will be forever known as East’s Mr. Clutch.
With New Jersey champion East down 3-2, Frazier doubled home three runs with a line drive to the right field fence on a 2-2 pitch for a 5-3 lead with two out, keying a six-run explosion as the East fans roared their approval. The hit scored Max Mika, Steven Malato and Joey DiMeo. Standing on second base, Frazier flexed his arms and shouted at the top of his lungs.
Christopher Tennaro ignited the outburst with a double to left field, putting runners at second and third with none out. Adrian Bilotti, the next batter, hit a sacrifice fly. Then came a grounder up the middle and a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Frazier’s heroic hit.
“That was the right man at the right time for the right job,” East manager Paul Mika said. “I thought it was going over the fence. It was a feeling unlike anything I have ever felt in my life. We’ve been dreaming about this for so long and the dream was fulfilled tonight.”
Frazier stroked two hits in three at-bats, scored one run and drew one walk on the night.
Frazier, whose uncle, ex-Toms River High School South and Rutgers University standout Todd Frazier, starred on 1998 LLBWS champion Toms River East American Little League and was a two-time major-league All-Star, keyed the offense. He batted .364 in four games, stroking four hits, including one home run, in 11 at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring one. He posted a 1.189 on-base plus slugging percentage, slugged .727 and finished with a .462 on-base percentage.
Carson Frazier’s father, Charles Frazier, another former South star, played minor-league ball in the Florida Marlins’ farm system. Another uncle of Carson Frazier, ex-South standout Jeff Frazier, excelled at South and Rutgers and played briefly in the major leagues. Jeff Frazier played on the 1995 Toms River East American team which competed in the 1995 LLBWS.
“The Frazier family is awesome and their legacy continues now with Carson tonight,” manager Mika said.
Max Mika and Jason Verderosa also plated runs for East in the sixth. Verderosa and Mika hit run-scoring singles.
Prior to the sixth, manager Mika turned to his team and asked a simple question: “You guys ready to go home?”
The team replied it was not.
“You know what you have to do,” manager Mika said he told the team.
Righty Cole Garrison earned the win, pitching a six-inning complete game on ESPN. He struck out six, walked none and allowed five hits. Two of Canal’s runs were earned. Garrison threw 20 first-pitch strikes to his 24 hitters. Of his 73 pitches, 54 were strikes. He notched eight groundouts and one flyout. He was 1-for-3 at the plate. He scored one run and drew one walk.
Garrison, who was 2-0 in the tournament, pitched to a 1.09 earned run average. He blazed his way to 16 strikeouts in 11 innings and walked one while allowing eight hits. He surrendered three runs – two earned. He posted an .818 WHIP (walks and hits to innings pitched).
DiMeo, who was 1-for-3, scored one run and drew one walk. Verderosa was 1-for-4. East’s Christopher Tennaro hit one double in three at-bats and scored one run.
Mika, whose father, Paul, manages the team and serves as the league’s president, went 1-for-2 and scored one run. Teammate Cailen Cimorelli was 1-for-2. Malato went 1-for-3, scored one run and drew one walk.
Canal, the Delaware champion, led 1-0 on a home run in the first, 2-0 through three frames and 3-0 after five innings before East erupted.
East, which banged out nine hits, made one error. Delaware finished with one error.
East will meet Upper Providence of Oaks, Pa., on Saturday, August 14, at 6 p.m. in the Regional championship game in a rematch of the winner’s bracket final won by Upper Providence. Both teams will advance to the LLBWS as there are no international teams in this year’s tournament.
The World Series will begin Thursday, August 19. Foreign teams have been banned by event officials because of COVID-19. No fans will be allowed to attend the tournament because of the COVID-19 variant. Spectators will be limited to family and friends of the teams plus select volunteers and supporters.
In the third game of the Mid-Atlantic event, East fell to Upper Providence (Pa.) 6-1 on Thursday, Aug.13. The teams will meet Saturday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. to determine seeding in the LLBWS.
Frazier led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to left field. He stroked two hits in three at-bats.
Losing pitcher Joey DiMeo worked 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs – one earned – on six hits. He struck out six and walked two. Of his 86 pitches, 54 were strikes.
Tennaro pitched 1 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs – one earned – on four hits, whiffed three and walked one. Of his 36 pitches, 24 were strikes.
Winning pitcher Jalen Bowman, who hurled a six-inning complete game, struck out 12, walked one and surrendered six hits. He threw 82 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Upper Providence scored three runs in the second, one in the fourth and two in the fifth. East stranded six runners. Upper Providence left eight runners on base.
In the second game of the Mid-Atlantic event, East downed Montgomery County (Lower County Little League of Maryland) 3-1.
In that match, Frazier hurled a six-inning complete game. He allowed one earned run, whiffed nine and threw 18 first-pitch strikes. He finished with a flourish, striking out Montgomery’s final hitter.
Mika stroked two hits and drove in three runs. Joey DiMeo drew two walks.
East bested Canal 3-0 in the first game in Mid-Atlantic play.
Garrison blazed his way to 10 strikeouts in five innings. He allowed two hits and tossed 15 first-pitch strikes.
DiMeo banged out two hits, a single and a triple, in two at-bats, drove in one run, plated one run and drew one walk. Verderosa and Mika drove in one run each.
East qualified for the Mid-Atlantic tournament with an 8-4 win over Hillsdale in the New Jersey Tournament state championship game in Cherry Hill.
Winning pitcher Frazier hit a three-run home run, keying a six-run outburst in the second inning. Malato plated one run with a double. Tennaro and Dominic Roma hit run-scoring singles. Verderosa plated one run with an RBI single.
Malato, who was 2-for-4, hit two doubles, scored one run and drove in one run. Verderosa hit two singles in two at-bats, scored two runs and knocked in one run. Tennaro was 2-for-2, including one double, and drove in two runs.
Earlier in all-star play, East won District 18 and sectional titles.
East also qualified for the LLBWS in 1994, 1995 and 1999 when it was known as Toms River East American.
Other Ocean County teams have made it to this round in Little League play. Lakewood, led by the pitching and power of Dion Lowe, won the single-elimination tournament in 1975 when foreign teams were banned because of eligibility issues. Holbrook of Jackson, paced by hot hitting Chris Cartnick, was eliminated from title contention in the United States Bracket in 2017.
NOTE: The New York Post contributed to this report.