BAYVILLE – A seven-run first inning appeared to put Toms River East National Junior League team in position to advance past Erial on Saturday and into Sunday’s championship round at Al Leiter Field against Parsippany-Troy Hills East.

As it turned out, those seven runs were barely enough to keep up with Erial’s hottest hitter.

Shortstop and No. 3 hitter Shawn Gaugler hit a three-run home run and drove in seven of Erial’s 12 runs in a 12-9 win that eliminated Toms River East National from the tournament.

Gaugler launched a three-run homer in the top of the first to stake Erial to a 3-0 lead, smashed a double off the top of the fence in left-center for a two-run double in a four-run fourth, and capped his offensive game with a two-run insurance single in the top of the seventh inning.

“I stopped him in the handshake line, asked him where he was going to high school and wrote down his name, because I have a feeling that’s a guy we might be hearing from or dealing with sometime in the next four years,” Toms River East National manager Jay Hilsdorf said of Gugler, who is set to attend Timber Creek High School. “This was one of those games where he was able to come up with runners on base and when he did, he did a lot of damage. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep the guys in front of him off base enough.”

Shawn Gaugler 2-run double from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Toms River East loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings, but could not break through against Erial reliever Brandon Monitzer. East National scored all of its runs in two innings – the seven-run first and two in the fourth on a two-run, go-ahead single by Matt Hartshorn to go up 9-8.

After Gaugler’s three-run homer that cleared the left-center field fence in the first, Toms River East answered by scoring seven in the first on five hits. Michael Wardell and Colin Mackle each hit a two-run double in the inning, with Kyle Dietze adding an RBI double and Danny Clemente and Colin Healy each chipping in an RBI single.

Starting pitcher Jared Mizrachi bottled up Erial’s potent lineup – which scored 20 runs on Friday night against Elizabethport – over the second and third innings to hold a 7-4 lead, but Erial struck for four in the fourth. After Gaugler’s two-run double cut Toms River’s lead to 7-6, Erial tied the game on a Matt Mastrogiovanni RBI double and took an 8-7 lead on a third consecutive double, the last by Logan Manuola.

Hartshorn’s go-ahead, two-run single in the bottom of the inning gave East National a 9-8 lead, which it would hold until the top of the sixth. Mastrogiovanni tied the game with an RBI single and scored on a wild pitch to put Erial on top, 10-9, in the sixth.

Matt Hartshorn go-ahead 2-run single from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

“We talked with our kids about how they were going to need to play sound baseball for seven innings every game, and while there were some lapses on the pitching and defense side over the last couple days, I think they kept playing through those mistakes and gave us their best through the last out,” Hilsdorf said.

Mastrogiovanni allowed three runs – two earned – on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings to earn the win in relief.

Matt Mastrogiovanni game-tying single, Dietze throws out runner from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Dietze finished with three hits to lead Toms River East, while Wardell, Clemente and Hartshorn each checked in with two apiece. Hartshorn also reached base in all three of his plate appearances.

Although Erial crossed the plate 12 times and hammered 12 hits, the Toms River East defense stood firm by playing errorless baseball on Saturday. They also threw out a runner on the basepaths, with Dietze throwing out a runner at third base in the seventh inning to limit the damage.

“Our defense and our pitching has been our calling card throughout these tournaments, and it just wasn’t as sharp as it has been,” Hilsdorf said. “We didn’t see lineups quite as good Parsippany or this team (Erial) and these last two games really forced us to go deep into our pitching."

Hilsdorf said six of the players on the 13-man roster were on the Toms River East National 12-year-old team, meaning those players could play again next year.

“It’s a mature group that has played a lot of big games together,” Hilsdorf said. “Another thing about them is they love to play. They got finished up here and they are ready to go play another travel tournament tomorrow. That’s the kind of kids they are.”