MANCHESTER TWP. - For the first 10 games of its run through the Little League Tournament season, the Jackson Little League team overwhelmed opponents during its perfect start, which got them within one win of the state finals as they took the field in Thursday's Section 3 championship against Clark at Joe Carter Stadium.

After showing its dominance for 10 games, Jackson must now demonstrate its resilience for one.

Sean Slusak had a pair of hits Thursday in Jackson's loss to Clark. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Jackson chipped away at an early seven-run deficit and mounted a sixth-inning rally, but Clark's fast start was too much to overcome as Jackson suffered its first loss this summer, 10-7, on Thursday night.

Since Jackson reached Thursday's potential Section-clinching game out of the winner's bracket, it will have another chance to win the Section and advance to next week's state finals by beating Clark on Friday at 8 p.m. at Clark Stadium. Friday's game is a winner-take-all game between the two teams to settle one of the four spots in the state finals.

"I really liked the way we battled back and chipped away after falling behind early," said Jackson manager Evan Glaser, whose team outscored opponents 194-11 in its 10 games leading up to Thursday. "Our kids haven't faced that kind of adversity this summer, and I thought they responded well. We kept chipping away every inning and we almost came all the way back."

Clark scored seven runs in the first inning and led 10-2 going into the fifth before Jackson rallied to cut the deficit to three and brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Clark starting pitcher Max Carmino reached the Little League-mandated 85-pitch limit upon retiring Jackson starting right fielder and relief pitcher Tyler Beck for the second out of the sixth and reliever Pat Grady came on to pitch with no one on base and one out his team leading, 10-5.

Jackson shortstop Sean Slusak reached on an error to keep the game alive and starting pitcher Tommy Cartnick worked a walk one batter later. First baseman Jake Wendall then ripped a double to the right-center gap to score both runners and advanced to third on a wild pitch before third baseman Matt Potak walked to bring the tying run to the plate.

Catcher Jared Caruso lifted a high fly ball to center field, but he was just underneath it as it carried to Clark center fielder Shane Mulroy for the final out.

Wendall finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored in defeat, while Slusak was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

Carmino starred on the mound and at the plate for Clark, allowing two earned runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and no walks. He also helped his cause by finishing 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk, two runs scored and two RBI. Carmino belted a solo home run that cleared the fence in right-center field to give Clark an 8-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth - part of a three-run frame that stretched Clark's lead from 7-2 to 10-2.

Jackson had not played for two days while Clark had to scratch its way to the final through the loser bracket and made it with a resounding 11-1 win over Lincroft on Wednesday.

After sending Cartnick to the mound Thursday after the right-hander won his first three decisions this postseason, Jackson will turn to Wendall - who is also 3-0 - on Friday.