The Capitol City Little League team pushed the defending world champions to the brink today. The District of Columbia champions battled back from three four-run deficits, but in the end, Capitol City came up one rally short.
Chris Fontenelli hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning as the East American team from Toms River, N.J., defeated Capitol City, 8-6, in a semifinal game of the Eastern Regional Little League tournament at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Center.
It was the first extra-inning game of the tournament and the most exciting. It was the furthest a District team had advanced. Last year, Capitol City lost all five games it played and failed to advance out of its pool.
"This was a phenomenal run," Capitol City Manager Mike Domanski said. "We expected to go 0-5, and we won a quarterfinal game and were the number one seed in the Mid-Atlantic region. It's been a great experience. It exposed the kids to the best in the world, and in this case we won a bunch of games. I think the kids played real well."
Toms River (16-4 overall, 5-2 in the tournament) went ahead 1-0 on an unearned run in the first and 4-0 on a three-run homer by No. 9 hitter Zach DelVento, who was the winning pitcher in relief. Capitol City (8-3, 4-3) got on the board in the second on singles by Cameron Dantley and Ben Privot, and a double by Allie Levey.
It was 5-1 in the third when Tom Vladeck, playing left field after pitching his third shutout Monday, hit his first homer to make it 5-2. With the score 6-2 in the fourth, Capitol City rallied for four runs to tie it. Levey finished with three hits and Vladeck, Dantley and Privot two each.
Toms River will play Middleboro, Mass., Thursday in the regional final, which will be televised live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. The winner goes to the Little League World Series, which will begin Sunday in Williamsport, Pa.
"I give them a great deal of credit," Toms River Manager Mike Gaynor said. "Mike does a great job with the boys. My hat is off to him. They made a lot of nice defensive plays. We were just a little deeper at the bottom of the order."