Bunkmates during their time at the regionals Aug. 4-10 in Bristol, players from the New Jersey and Rhode Island baseball teams built friendships and respect for one another during the weeklong run at the Giamatti Little League center.
That’s what made things a bit tougher, maybe a little bittersweet, when the two clubs met in an elimination game Tuesday night at the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
And it was a competitive matchup that went down to the wire, New Jersey breaking a 0-0 tie in the top of the sixth inning on Jayden Capindica’s RBI groundout that scored two runs, and four pitchers combined for a one-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory.
“I just wanna say what a great performance by Rhode Island,” New Jersey manager Jairo Labrador said. “The coaches and the kids over there are great. It’s a shame that somebody had to lose a game like today. That’s a great group of boys.”
Sal Garcia (2 2/3 innings), Derek Escobar (1 1/3), J.R. Rosado (1 2/3) and Capindica (1/3) combined to strike out six batters, walk four, and Rosado allowed the lone hit on a Mason Crain infield single with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the sixth.
“We trust all these kids, and tonight was just evidence behind it,” Labrador said. “It’s not made up. We don’t just say we trust in them. We believe in our boys that somebody’s gonna step up. They did such a great job. I’m so proud of [these] guys.”
Garcia led off the top of the sixth with a first-pitch double to center field, and Rosado followed with a line-drive single up the middle on the next pitch.
That’s when Capindica, with one out and the two runners on second and third, pulled a grounder to second base, and he was thrown out at first. But the Rhode Island first baseman’s throw home to try and cut down Garcia went wide to the backstop, allowing Garcia to score easily, and Rosado sprinted home as well.
“Just in the moment, I couldn’t hear Jairo. I didn’t know if he was saying anything, but as soon as he threw it, I knew I was gonna take off,” Garcia said of his decision to run home upon the second baseman’s throw to first.
Labrador added: “I trust them to make the right decisions. We’ve been practicing and working on decisions like that for so long that I tell them if it’s in your gut and you can go, I believe in your decision. If he gets thrown out there or he’s safe, I’m not gonna lose it because Sal thought that was the right move, and he’s usually right about those situations.”
After Crain went down 1-2 in the count to Rosado, he singled on a ground ball to short, and Capindica came on in relief for a bit of redemption.
In the Mid-Atlantic Regional opener on Aug. 5, Capindica surrendered a walk-off three-run home run with two outs in a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to Washington D.C.
This time, he shut down a rally with five quick pitches to record the final out.
“I was closing the game in regionals, and the kids hit a walk-off home run against me,” Capindica said. “I was just thinking don’t let up a home run. Don’t walk this guy or anything and let the next kid hit a home run.”
The terrific combined pitching performances from New Jersey and its late offense helped spoil a fine performance on the mound by Rhode Island’s Miles Fontaine, who allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks.
“When we built this team, we knew pitching and defense was gonna be a big part of it,” Rhode Island manager Chris Promades said. “Knowing that I had three big horses like [Fontaine, Owen Pfeffer and Alex Anderson] ... that’s a good start with any pitching staff. That’s what we needed from Miles. I couldn’t ask for anything else from Miles. He pitched fantastic.”
The loss ended a memorable, successful run for the New England Regional champions.
“I think our kids have shown everybody here and around the world what we’re all about,” Promades said. “We’re a bunch of scrappers, grinders and fighters. If we’re going down, we’re going down swinging.”
Following its victory over Rhode Island, New Jersey was eliminated from the LLWS with a 4-1 loss to Louisiana on Wednesday.
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or