OC-Upper to face Erial Sunday in Little League play

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The Little League District 16 champions celebrate after winning theitr fourth straight game. The Little League District 16 champions celebrate after winning theitr fourth straight game. The combined Ocean City-Upper Township team won the District 16 championship of New Jersey 11-12 Little League Baseball on Saturday, defeating the Linwood-Margate team, 12-2, for its fourth straight victory.

The Ocean City Youth Athletic Association won the District 16 championship last year for the first time but Ocean City and Upper combined their leagues this year when Upper Township joined Little League Baseball.

The OC-UT team will play on Sunday (5pm) in North Vineland against Erial, the winner of District 14, in the first round of the New Jersey Section 4 Tournament. Erial defeated Audubon to win that district's championship. OC-UT will also play on Tuesday, either in the winner’s or loser’s bracket. 

The OC-UT team jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Saturday. Eric Greenling doubled home Brock Mercado in the first inning, John Lloyd hit a solo home run in the second and Nick Troiano’s two-run shot followed, driving home M..J. Ginn.

Gannon Brady, who played on last year’s district champs for the OCYAA, started the game, as he has all four games, and pitched into the sixth inning. Joe Gallagher came on to record the final two outs. Gallagher finished three of the four wins and also hit two home runs in the tournament.

But OC-UT might not have reached the championship game without Greenling’s long ball. The Upper Township first baseman, whose favorite major league player in Mike Trout, came up in the first game of the tournament in the last inning with the bases loaded. His team trailed Northfield, 12-10.

“I was excited that the bases were loaded,” Greenling remembers, “because I thought we might win.”

He proceeded to make sure, drilling a line drive over the fence for a walk-off grand slam. It was his second bases loaded home run of the game and he has gone on to hit four more homers, giving him six in four games.

Greenling also plays for the Hammerheads Navy AAU team.

OC-UT had defeated Linwood-Margate, 14-9, in the semifinals. Linwood-Margate then dropped to the loser’s bracket against Northfield and won, 11-1, to reach the final. Had Linwood-Margate defeated OC-UT on Saturday, the two teams would have played again for the title since OC-UT was undefeated and Linwood-Margate had one loss.

In the semifinal win, Mercado had three doubles and a single, Greenling had a double and two home runs and Gallagher smacked a homer and two doubles.

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