Yes, yes, everyone's focused on the road to Williamsport, and the quest of those remarkable 12-year-olds of Jackson's Holbrook team to reach the big lights of the World Series. But last night, with little fanfare and lots of support, the 11-year-old Toms River Little League All-Stars defied the odds stacked against them, and won the New Jersey State Championship.

Toms River Little League All Stars (TRLL web site)

On a field in Mt. Ephraim, Camden County, the boys met copped their second defeat of a tough Haddonfield squad that had beaten them once, a 4-3 victory, despite Haddonfield's home-crowd advantage.

As far as parent Jerry Kulpinski is concerned, it came down to their level of skill, character, desire and confidence.

"You could just see [them gaining confidence] game by game," he remarked. "I think the parents were more nervous than the kids."

The tournament started in the beginning of July, and entailed a grueling sectional and regional schedule that takes the boys many a mile and keeps them hard at it for many an hour. Daunting for an average 11-year-old, perhaps, But these are not your average kids.

Kulpinski explained that a couple of early defeats placed the club in the loser's bracket, but the stigma wore away quickly as the players found their focus and revved up their energies.

"They started off only 1-3 in pool play," Kulpinski said, "At one point, it all clicked together, and they started believing in themselves."

That self-confidence was borne, in no small part, by the parents, and especially by  Manager. Angelo Urso and Coaches J.M. Gold and Larry DiChiara.

There's no Williamsport-size glory in this age bracket, so, so if there's no movement in Town Hall for a Main Street parade for the intrepid team, maybe there should be. Meanwhile, we'll see of their confidence, character and talent can take them to a world championship, a year from now.

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