BRISTOL - Chris Cartnick played the role of hero for New Jerseyâ€™s Holbrook Little League from Jackson by ripping a grand slam to dead center field on a curveball by Matt Tsiaris with two outs in the fifth inning and his team tied with Pennsylvaniaâ€™s Upper Providence Little League from Oaks, 6-6.
The homer put New Jersey up 10-6 and that score held as New Jersey advanced to the championship game on Saturday.
â€śWe said youâ€™re going to get curveballs. I donâ€™t know if theyâ€™ll come after you with fastballs,â€ť New Jersey manager Robert Grano said. â€śThey all have good curveballs. Weâ€™ve been practicing this for two years.â€ť
Two runs in the second inning gave New Jersey a 3-1 lead, following each team plating a run in the first inning.
Garrett Drewâ€™s single forced a strong throw from Pennsylvania center fielder Michael McKenna that held Charlie Meglio at third base. However, the catcher at the time, Tsiaris, tried to gun down Meglio as he headed back to third and that scored Drew.
The second run scored on a wild pitch from Pennsylvania starting pitcher Gage Swanger.
For New Jersey, starting pitcher Tai Mann showed filthy stuff in the game. He recorded eight strikeouts and struck out the side in the first and third innings.
Mann pitched three innings and allowed one earned run to go with the eight strikeouts. Mann and his relievers combined to register 14 strikeouts.
â€śI knew they could put the bat on the ball, so I was trying to mix it up a lot,â€ť Mann said. â€śThe top of the order I was throwing the curveball a lot and they couldnâ€™t really hit it, so I stuck with it.â€ť
The fourth and fifth innings were when the game really took a turn for both teams. Pennsylvaniaâ€™s Jake Voynar ripped a grand slam off reliever Drew to give his team a 6-5 lead.
â€śOnce you give up a home run you know you must have done something wrong,â€ť Drew said. â€śI know I hung a curveball in this situation and I realized not to do that again and I just got them after that.â€ť
The lead didnâ€™t last long, though, as Cartnick pulled his team even at 6-6 with a sacrifice fly.
With the game tied in the fifth inning, Cole Nilles came on to pitch for Tsiaris after Tsiaris allowed singles to Meglio and Mike Arent and walked Andy Osmond.
Nilles did his best job to help his team by striking out the first two batters he faced. Unfortunately, the final out was not to be had as Cartnick got his opportunity and delivered with the key grand slam.
Cartnick and J.R. Osmond both had strong days for New Jersey. The duo drove in eight runs combined. Cartnick had two home runs and Osmond had one of his own.
â€śA lot of confidence came into play. I was guessing fastball, but I got a curve and I just went with it,â€ť Cartnick said.
With the win, New Jersey will receive important days of rest and will be watching the three teams remaining in the Mid-Atlantic Region - Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ , orÂ On Twitter: @OrencoleDan