Ocean City-Upper Township team made Little League history

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Brian Furey was the winning pitcher in the Section 4 championship game Brian Furey was the winning pitcher in the Section 4 championship game The combined Ocean City-Upper Township team added another Little League championship to its resume and, in the process, accomplished something never achieved by a Cape May County team.

OC-UT defeated Haddonfield, 7-4, in North Vineland to win the Section 4 championship and improve its Little League tournament record to 8-0. It marked the first time a Cape May County team had won the section title and advanced to the state tournament.

OC-UT will play Somerset Hills on Wednesday at 5:30 on Community Medical Center Field in Berkley, off Exit 77 of the Garden State Parkway. The other two teams in this Final Four Tournament – The Joe Graziano State Tournament – are Wood Ridge and Toms River.

Whether it wins or loses on Wednesday, OC-UT will play again on Friday – 5:30 after an opening loss, 7:30 with a win Wednesday. The remaining games will be played Saturday, Sunday and, if necessary, on Monday.

The win over Haddonfield in the Section 4 championship went down to the wire. OC-UT was trailing, 4-3, entering the sixth and final inning. But Luke Bowman singled and scored the tying run on a Gannon Brady double. Joe Gallagher drove home Brady with a single to give OC-UT the lead. Then Eric Greenling blasted his seventh home run of the Little League tournament to give his team a 7-4 lead.

But it wasn’t over yet.

Brian Furey, the winning pitcher in relief, issued a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth and then an intentional walk put two on base. Furey’s cousin, Alex Kadar, then singled for Haddonfield to load the bases. But Furey got the next batter to pop up to end the game.

Brady, who was the starting pitcher and threw the maximum 85 pitches, finished with a single, double and home run in the game. He scored four times, also coming home in the first inning on a single by Joe Gallagher and in the third on Brock Mercado’s sacrifice fly.

Brady is the only member of this team who also played on the Ocean City Youth Athletic Association team that won the District 16 championship last year.

OC-UT had beaten Haddonfield, 3-1, in the semifinals when John Lloyd broke the 1-1 tie with a two-run double. Gallagher got the win in relief. Haddonfield then dropped into the loser’s bracket and defeated East Greenwich to earn another shot at OC-UT.

“This has been an amazing trip,” said Joe Furey, one of the team’s coaches. “It’s a little like a kid who dreams about playing in the major leagues finally getting his chance. We’ve all watched the Little League World Series and to advance this far into the tournament is amazing. The kids have been great, never getting down. And Greg Brady, who went through this last year with the Ocean City team, is a wizard with the strategies involving pitch counts and other Little League rules. We just want to see how far we can take this.”  

The Ocean City-Upper Township team joins Hammonton, Margate, Linwood and Ventnor as the only teams from District 16 to reach the state finals. Hammonton won the state title three times (1947-49), winning the Little League World Series in 1949. Margate won two state titles (1965, 1980).

This week will be an exciting experience for the Little Leaguers and their coaches. A banquet was scheduled for Tuesday night with former major leaguer Mark Leiter, who played with the Phillies and Yankees during his 11-year career, as the guest speaker.

On Wednesday, the celebration of baseball and the recovery of the Jersey Shore from Hurricane Sandy continues with Opening Day festivities. Families will have a taste of the boardwalk right next to the baseball complex, as three blocks of Red Bank Avenue will be converted into a midway, with vendors and special displays. Buster, mascot for the Phillies’ minor league affiliate Lakewood Blue Claws, will be in attendance and the New Jersey Mobile Hall of Fame will be there.

On Thursday, the Berkeley Little League complex will turn into Laser Tag Central. A laser tag tournament, that’s open to everyone, will take place. Thursday evening is Little League Legacy Night with a celebration of Little League’s 75th Anniversary planned for The Cove Waterfront Grill, which sits on scenic Barnegat Bay in Bayville.

On Friday the fun continues with Little League Day at Blackbeard’s Cave in Bayville, with all-day ride bracelets for the amusement park. Saturday opens with baseball, as the elimination games are played, and then it’s off to the real boardwalk, as Seaside Heights opens its arms to embrace all New Jersey Little Leaguers & their families.

Sunday features the championship games in both the Little League and Junior League brackets. The Lakewood Blue Claws have invited the finalists to be honored that evening at the game at First Energy Park. If necessary, there will be winner-take-all games on Monday.

The New Jersey state champion will play the champion from Washington DC on Saturday, Aug. 2 in Bristol Connecticut to start the double-elimination Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament. Other state champions in that competition will be from Delaware, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.

The Mid-Atlantic Region champion will advance to the Little League World Series from August 14-24 in Williamsport PA. 


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