Fresh from a 10-0 state championship whitewashing of Tiverton, the Johnston Little League Junior All-Stars will begin their bid for the Eastern Regional Tournament title today vs. Berlin, Maryland at Michael J. Tighe Park in Freehold, NJ.
Game time was scheduled for 10 a.m. with Johnston and Berlin having the distinction of opening the 11-team double elimination tournament that runs through Tuesday (Aug. 6) with the winner moving on to the Little League Junior World Series in Taylor, Michigan.
If Johnston wins today’s opener vs. Berlin, manager Gary Rianna’s club will move to tomorrow’s 4 o’clock game vs. the West Islip, NY All-Stars who like the Maryland state champs are making their first-ever appearance in the Eastern Regional Tournament.
If Johnston should lose today’s Maryland match-up, the Rhode Island champs would play again tomorrow at 1 p.m. vs. the Delaware-Pennsylvania loser.
Today though, holds a lot of history for the JLL dating back to the 2011 Eastern Regional when the Ed Bedrosian-managed All-Stars, who were also coached by Paul Martellini and Jerry Coro, captured the tourney title and went to Michigan for the prestigious World Series.
“We had quite the club,” Bedrosian, the JLL’s tireless president, said while sitting in the Engineers Field press box and watching this year’s Junior All-Stars stake claim to the state title last week. “It would be great if our kids could win the 2019 Eastern Regional title.”
Thus, many people including Bob Civetti, a Johnston Town Councilman who has been with the JLL for nearly four decades, offered, “The 201l club was powerful … Gian Martellini, the brothers Coro – Jacob and Zach … they had a great team.”
The 2011 JLL Eastern Regional championship club, which is prominently displayed on a huge billboard that’s affixed to the press box at Engineers Field inside War Memorial Park, also included: Aaron Perfetto, Michael Caparco, Jacob Podmaska, Armani Henderson, Lawrence Dureault, Joe Bongiovanni, James Picchi, Marc Conte and Korey Fijal.
In last Thursday’s state final, Johnston rode the stellar pitching of Derek Salvatore, who tossed a nifty two-hitter and fanned four Tiverton batters and threw only 58 pitches in a scheduled 7-inning contest that only went five frames because of Little League Baseball’s 10-run mercy rule.
Although Johnston only managed five hits, they combined Tiverton walks and errors with some smart base running and staked claim to the state title. In addition to his super pitching performance, Salvatore knocked out two key hits and scored as many runs.
Likewise, the JLL state champs were bolstered by key hits from Dylan Martins, Mike LaFlamme, Nate Lewis and Davian Nunez with Mike Salzillo, Chris Civetti and Jonah Pecchia also scoring runs with the above named players. Armani Arias also contributed a key RBI in the game.
Johnston jumped out to 2-0 lead in its half of the first inning and never looked back, especially since Salvatore was mowing down batter-after-batter and baffling Tiverton’s potentially dangerous line-up.
Tiverton got its first hit in the top of the second inning but Salvatore struck out the next batter and the inning ended via Johnston making a 1-6-3 double play. Tiverton’s only threat, in fact, game in the fourth inning when Nicholas Nasiff reached on an error Ryan Poland then reached on an error had two runners aboard, but Salvatore induced back-to-back ground outs to end the would-be rally.
“I’m very proud of these boys,” said Rianna, who managed the JLL’s 2017 Senior League All-Stars that went to the Eastern Regionals. “They beat the three best teams in the state; they worked hard and it showed tonight and in this tournament.”
Rianna also noted that, “in 2017 Chris Civetti and Derek Salvatore went to watch their older brothers play in the regionals, now it’s their turn to play in the prestigious tourney and try to bring home another Eastern championship just like our league’s All-Stars did in 2011.”