BRISTOL, Conn.—Par-Troy East Little League pitcher Emil Matti and his Delaware counterpart Clayton Hansen settled into a taut pitchers' duel right from the start.
Hansen featured a sharp-breaking curveball that had the boys from Parsippany reaching. Matti used his fastball to dazzle the Delaware champions. With the pitching virtually even, the decision was clearly leaning toward defense and one clutch hit, and Par-Troy's Bener Uygun contributed both.
Uygun turned two glistening plays at shortstop to prevent a run in the second inning and drove the first pitch of the fourth frame for a home run Sunday to back Matti's two-hit hurling and send Par-Troy to the Little League World Series with a scintillating 1-0 victory over Newark in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament championship before an estimated 2,900 at the A. Bartlett Giamatti complex.
Par-Troy (5-1 in the tournament, 17-2 overall in all-star play) will play the Southwest regional champion San Antonio Friday in Williamsport, Pa. Newark (4-2) was ousted from the Mid-Atlantics by a New Jersey team for the second straight year.
Uygun was sure Hansen would start him out with a curveball in the tell-tale fourth.
"He left it up and my eyes opened real big," Uygun said. "Throughout the lineup he was throwing lots of curveballs and in my [previous] at-bat, he got me out with a curveball so I was focused on the curveball."
Matti retired the first two hitters in the sixth when Joe Silan, who authored a no-hitter in the semifinals against Maryland, drilled a shot to left center that caromed off the fence just three feet from the top. But Matti bore down and struck out Hansen for the final out.
"I thought it was going out, but when I saw it hit the fence, I breathed a sigh of relief," Par-Troy catcher Anthony Scannelli said.
Matti didn't walk a batter and struck out five. He got 11 outs on groundballs, and of the 72 pitches he threw, 59 were strikes. He said he felt that he had great command of his fastball while warming up before the game.
"I tried to stay focused and hit my spots. If they hit the ball, I looked to my fielders to make the play," he said. "Most of my pitches were fastballs [and I didn't throw breaking balls] until I got ahead in the count."
Hansen pitched around a single by Daniel Ruggiero in the first. He issued a one-out walk in the second but started a 1-6-3 double play to keep his ledger clean.
Matti retired the side in order for starters. Danny Miller reached on an error but was stranded at second when Uygun twice ranged deep in the hole to throw out hitters by a step at first. Matt Theodorakis laced an opposite-field double with two out in the third, but Silan made the mistake of hitting a grounder to Uygun.
"These guys rise to the occasion," Par-Troy manager Mike Ruggiero said. "The glove's on the ground with the pitch. They were sharp and came ready to play today."
Alex Cavaluzzo poked a one-out single out of the nine hole in the New Jersey third, but Hansen fanned Matti and Ruggiero to leave the runner stranded at second.
Uygun's difference-maker—his second homer of the tournament—clipped leaves from the trees 20 feet beyond out the outfield fence as it descended to earth.
Hansen yielded three hits, walked one, fanned seven and threw 67 pitches, 48 for strikes. Delaware manager Nick DiMartine said they handled New Jersey's top four hitters, responsible for all but five of the team's 42 hits during the tournament, in different ways.
"We saw things in games during pool play so we went with tendencies," he said. "We thought they didn't see many off-speed pitches throughout the tournament."
Par-Troy coach Ed Phillips described the emotional roller coaster ride he took over the course of the contest that lasted 1 hour, 19 minutes.
"I was losing it," Phillips said, thinking about the wing and miss that confirmed his late-summer travel plans. "I thought I would lose it somewhere along the line. I love these boys. I've been with some of them since they were 8 years old, some of them earlier than that.
He fought back the tears and said, "I was on a baseball field with them from April to the end of August. They're our kids."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated David Ton was Par-Troy's starting pitcher.