Mainland Mustangs corral state baseball title

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mainfinal1 Bill LeConey/Mainland players celebrate their first state championship in baseball. TOMS RIVER - In the half-century-plus history of Mainland Regional High School baseball there have been many great players, exciting moments, and tremendous victories.

But never until Saturday had there been a state championship.

The 2014 edition of the Mustangs made their own unique history Saturday, winning the Group III state championship with a 5-3 win over Mount Olive at Toms River South High School.

Mainland, an unheralded team that entered the playoffs as a No. 11 seed in the South Jersey sectional, won the first baseball state championship in school history, upsetting several higher seeds along the way.

Head coach Billy Kern, himself a former Mainland player, said he heard all the talk about the Mustangs playing as underdogs with “nothing to lose,” but always believed they had the ability to win a championship.

“I kept telling the kids, ‘You're not playing with house money, this isn't all gravy for you. You're playing for a state championship. There's something to lose, and you have the ability to go win it.’”

“So that's kind of been our mantra: 'Why not us?' These guys are good enough, and they proved it today.”

Jack Loefflad and Billy Talarico had RBI hits to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth, and Kyle Gerace pitched four innings in relief of Nick Droboniku for the win.

Four busloads of Mainland students and fans – known affectionately as “Corral Crazies” – took the ride up the Parkway to cheer for their Mustangs – and the players definitely felt the support.

“They bring the intensity,” Talarico said of the fans. “I think they help our team more than any other team's fans. They just get in (opposing) players' heads. I think they rattled (the MountOlive) pitcher today.”

Before Saturday, no Cape-Atlantic League public school team had ever won a baseball state championship. Buena Regional won the Group II title earlier Saturday, and the Mustangs followed suit a few hours later.

“It's a pretty surreal feeling,” Talarico said. “I don't think it's going to hit home until I'm home or on the bus ride back. It's cool to go down in history … it's cool.”

“It's unbelievable,” said Gerace, a sophomore. “Just to go down in the books as one of the best teams in Mainland history … It's unreal.”

More coverage of Mainland’s unprecedented state championship still to come at


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mainfinal2 Bill LeConey/ mainfinal3 Drew Riska scores the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. mainfinal4 Billy Talarico after his RBI double in the sixth. mainfinal9 The Mainland Mustangs celebrate with their fans. mainfinal10 Mainland coach Billy Kern gets a hug from his father, Dan. mainfinal12 Kyle Gerace mainfinal13 The 2014 Group III state champion Mainland Mustangs.

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