2009 New Jersey State Little League® Tournament Results
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New Jersey State Tournament
Major Baseball Division

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New Jersey State Tournament
Host - Garfield (District 5)
At Joseph LaFaso Field

Participating Teams
Section 1 Champions Somerset Hills (Bernardsville) (District 17)
Section 2 Champions Nutley East (District 8)
Section 3 Champions North Wall (District 11)
Section 4 Champions Haddonfield (District 13)

Click here to view 2009 district tournament results for New Jersey.

Tournament Results:

Opening Round:
Somerset Hills 5, Nutley East 2
North Wall 2, Haddonfield 0

Elimination Bracket Semifinals (four teams remain):
Haddonfield 8, Nutley East 2 (elim.)

Winner's Bracket Finals:
Somerset Hills 4, North Wall 3

Elimination Bracket Finals (three teams remain):
Haddonfield 9, North Wall 5 (elim.)

Championship Game:
Somerset Hills 10, Haddonfield 5 (TITLE)


When the preliminary schedule was released for the 2009 New Jersey District 17 tournament, the pairings called for Somerset Hills Little League to begin play on Tuesday, June 23, as part of a series of games taking place just eight days after U.S.-based leagues could announce their tournament rosters.

Not so fast, said officials at Little League Baseball's Eastern Region headquarters, who asked the district to push back the start date for its tournament by a few days rather than stick to the original first-out-of-the-gate schedule.

The delay meant little difference to Somerset Hills. The Bernardsville-based league opened its tournament run a few days later with a 15-2 thrashing of Bedminster Little League, and then kept playing. And playing. And playing. Somerset Hills may not have gotten the chance to start earlier than anyone else, but they kept playing longer than all but a handful of teams across the globe.

Somerset Hills won seventeen consecutive games against New Jersey competition, including a trio of contests at the state tournament in Garfield, to claim its first-ever New Jersey state championship. The league ultimately ran its winning streak to 20 games before suffering its first loss, and finished the summer as the Mid-Atlantic Region runner-up.

Somerset Hills defeated each of New Jersey's other three sectional champions at the state tournament, and overcame late-inning deficits in all three wins. In the title game, the District 17 champions trailed Haddonfield Little League 5-4 through three innings, but pushed across runs in each of the game's remaining innings to claim a 10-5 victory.

"A lot of these games have been back-and-forth," said Somerset Hills manager Doug Oliver after his team closed out the tournament. "But these kids continued to battle."

Oliver's team leveraged its depth throughout its international tournament run, and got contributions from all corners of its roster. Six different players were called on to pitch under the team's pitch-by-committee approach in Garfield -- an unusually high number for a team that stayed in the winner's bracket. Every player on the roster scored a run at the state tournament, and nine of the team's ten players had base hits.

The all-hands-on-deck approach was on full display in the state championship game. Somerset Hills broke to an early lead thanks to Conner Kirst's three-run homer in the top of the first, but Haddonfield responded with Charlie Clarke's two-run blast in the bottom of the frame and carried a 5-4 lead through three innings. Somerset Hills drew level when ninth-place hitter Luke Bowerbank drilled a one-out solo home run in the top of the fourth, and in the next inning, the lower half of the Somerset Hills batting order helped pull the team into the lead. Eddie Pavini sparked the rally with a double down the left field line, and after Kyle Verduin reached on an error and Bowerbank singled, leadoff hitter Jonathan Iaione drew a four-pitch walk that forced in the go-ahead run. One out later, Kyle Oliver provided insurance by delivering a two-run single.

Haddonfield had stranded eight baserunners through the game's first four innings, including seven in scoring position, but had only one batter reach safely against reliever J.P. Tantleff in the final two frames. Carter Klein's two-out, two-run double in the sixth gave Somerset Hills its final margin of victory.

"Once we got up 8-5, I felt a lot better," said Doug Oliver. "And then I knew (Haddonfield) could hit, so I was happy to get two more tacked on in the sixth."

Somerset Hills had opened the tournament with a 5-2 win over Nutley East Little League, then reached the title game by rallying past North Wall Little League, 4-3.

Nutley East grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the opening round clash thanks in part to a pair of Somerset Hills errors in the first inning. Somerset Hills struggled to generate offense in the early stages of the contest, before Danny McDonnell helped his team break through with a two-run homer to left field in the fourth inning.

"That was huge," said Doug Oliver of the lead-changing blast. "The kid who pitched for Nutley (Anthony Rossi) is one of the best pitchers in the state, so we knew we had our work cut out for us."

Nutley tied the contest on Jesse Kraft's solo home run on the first pitch of the fourth inning, but Somerset Hills managed to regain the lead when Rossi exited after reaching his pitch count limit with two outs in the fifth. Kyle Oliver greeted Nutley's new pitcher with a blast that landed some 50-feet beyond the right field fence and gave his team a 4-2 lead.

"That was a big poke," said Doug Oliver of his son's eighth international tournament home run. "And it came right when we needed it."

Somerset Hills needed late-inning heroics again in its next game, as the eventual champions trailed North Wall by a 3-1 score and stood four outs away from their first defeat of the summer before rallying for the victory. Alex Baratta kept his team's hopes flickering with a two-out, two-strike double that scored Klein and sliced North Wall's lead to a single run. Kyle Oliver followed by lacing a 1-1 pitch over the center field fence that reversed the one-run deficit.

"It was a laser drive," said Somerset Hills coach Neil Klein of the lead-shifting home run. "If the fence was eight feet, it only cleared it by two feet."

Baratta retired six of the seven hitters he faced in the final two innings to earn his second save of the state tournament.

"It was definitely the biggest win of the season," said Somerset Hills coach Joe Baratta. "This puts us in the finals of the state tournament, and we have to win just one more game."

"This was a huge game," concurred Doug Oliver. "That's a great team over there... If we lost, we'd have to win three in a row, which would be very difficult."

Haddonfield can attest to the challenge of playing out of the bottom bracket. The Section 4 champions dropped their opener when North Wall pitcher Ryan Orender fired a sparkling three-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory, then bounced back with a pair of victories. But the extra games coupled with a rainout that condensed the schedule of games the tournament's latter stages eventually wore through the team's pitching staff.

Haddonfield reached the state championship game for the first time since 1960, while Somerset Hills became the first league from Bernardsville to win the state championship since Bernardsville/Basking Ridge Little League claimed top honors in 1981.

"Right now, it's like a dream," said Doug Oliver after his team captured the championship flag. "And I hope no one wakes me up."

Follow Somerset Hills at the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament -- click here to view results.


  Opening Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 R H E
Somerset Hills 0 0 0 2 2 1 5 7 2
Nutley East 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 4 1
  Opening Round
Haddonfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
North Wall 0 0 2 0 0 x 2 3 0
  Elimination Bracket Semifinal
Haddonfield 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 5 1
Nutley East 0 5 2 1 0 x 8 7 0
  Winner's Bracket Final
Somerset Hills 1 0 0 0 3 0 4 8 2
North Wall 0 1 0 2 0 0 3 6 0
  Elimination Bracket Final
North Wall 3 1 0 0 0 1 5 10 1
Haddonfield 0 0 3 0 6 x 9 7 0
  Championship Game
Somerset Hills 3 0 1 1 3 2 10 11 2
Haddonfield 2 2 1 0 0 0 5 8 3

2009 New Jersey District Champions and Sectional Tournament Results

District Champions
in Section 1
District Champions
in Section 2
D1 - Tri-Town (Boonton/Mountain Lakes)
D2 - Wayne National
D4 - Washington Township
D17 - Somerset Hills (Bernardsville)
D20 - Vernon

Section 1 Tournament
Host - Roxbury (District 1)

Tournament Results:
1 - Somerset Hills 13, Wayne National 2
2 - Washington Township 11, Vernon 2
3 - Tri-Town 7, Washington Township 1
4 - Vernon 4, Wayne National 0 (elim.)
5 - Somerset Hills 15, Tri-Town 2 (4 innings)
6 - Vernon 8, Washington Township 6 (elim.)
7 - Tri-Town 9, Vernon 8 (elim.)
8 - Somerset Hills 4, Tri-Town 3 (7 innings; TITLE)

D5 - Garfield
D6 - Ridgefield Park
D7 - West New York American
D8 - Nutley East

Section 2 Tournament
Host - Lyndhurst (District 5)

Tournament Results:
1 - West New York American 6, Ridgefield Park 1
2 - Nutley East 3, Garfield 1 (7 innings)
3 - Garfield 11, Ridgefield Park 1 (5 innings; elim.)
4 - Nutley East 7, West New York American 5
5 - West New York American 9, Garfield 3 (elim.)
6 - Nutley East 8, West New York American 3 (TITLE)

District Champions
in Section 3
District Champions
in Section 4
D10 - Old Bridge
D11 - North Wall
D12 - Nottingham (Hamilton Square)
D18 - Jackson Township
D19 - Manalapan National

Section 3 Tournament
Host - Sayreville (District 10)

Tournament Results:
1 - North Wall 8, Old Bridge 1
2 - Jackson Township 6, Manalapan National 2
3 - Old Bridge 2, Manalapan National 0 (elim.)
4 - Nottingham 3, North Wall 2
5 - North Wall 1, Old Bridge 0 (elim.)
6 - Nottingham 4, Jackson Township 2
7 - North Wall 19, Jackson Township 5 (elim.)
8 - North Wall 4, Nottingham 3
9 - North Wall 10, Nottingham 2 (TITLE)

D3 - South Vineland
D13 - Haddonfield
D14 - Erial
D15 - Oak Valley
D16 - Linwood
D21 - Franklin Township (Malaga)

Section 4 Tournament
Championship Game Host - Franklin Township (District 21)

Tournament Results:
1 - Erial 7, Oak Valley 1
2 - South Vineland 14, Franklin Township 2
3 - Haddonfield 5, Erial 0
4 - Linwood 11, South Vineland 4
5 - South Vineland 6, Oak Valley 2 (elim.)
6 - Franklin Township 10, Erial 4 (elim.)
7 - Haddonfield 3, Linwood 2 (7 innings)
8 - Franklin Township 6, South Vineland 3 (elim.)
9 - Franklin Township 7, Linwood 6 (elim.)
10 - Haddonfield 4, Franklin Township 0 (TITLE)

Toward the past

Toward the present

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Last revision: 06/21/2010