TOMS RIVER – The entire Point Pleasant Boro American Legion team made the trip to Toms River East High School Friday evening hoping to play two games and no one in the Point Boro dugout wanted see his team win its way to a second game than Josiah Gliddon.

With his team needing to beat Mystic Island Post 493 – the Post represented by Pinelands High School players – in the first game Friday night in order to earn a winner-take-all Ocean County American Legion championship game, Gliddon watched as the Panthers avoided elimination with a 6-4 win and took it from there.

Gliddon, who just completed his sophomore year at Point Boro, fired a three-hit shutout in the second game of the double-header to lead Point Boro to a 3-0 win over Mystic Island to clinch its first Ocean County American Legion championship since 1994.

In his seven shutout innings, Gliddon struck out 10 and walked four on his way to earning championship game Most Valuable Player honors.

“I was just hoping to get a chance to pitch,” Gliddon said. “I felt really good. That was the best I’ve pitched all summer. I felt like I had a good fastball and my secondary pitches were working.”

“He started his first varsity game against Donovan Catholic during the high school season and he has consistently gotten better and better with each outing,” Point Boro coach Dave Drew said of the 6-foot-4 right-hander, who pitched to a 3.07 ERA in 43 1/3 innings as a sophomore for Point Boro this past spring. “You can see him becoming more confident on the mound and more sure of himself. He’s had a live fastball and now teams are starting to have to respect his curve.”

Mystic Island twice loaded the bases against Gliddon, including with no one out in the top of the fourth inning. Gliddon then induced a line-out to shallow center field, followed by a strikeout for the first two outs of the inning. Catcher Sebastian Severio got his pitcher out of the inning by throwing behind the runner at first for an inning-ending pickoff.

Catcher Brad O’Brien singled to lead off the seventh and shortstop Chris Burke followed with a walk to start Mystic Island off in the top of the seventh before Gliddon responded by striking out consecutive pinch-hitters for the first two outs of the inning. Third baseman Anthony Diaz reached on a two-out error to load the bases, but leadoff hitter Jared Strang flew out to David Lunn in center field to end the game.

Point Boro center fielder Frank Graziano went 2-for-4 with a triple, double and a run scored out of the leadoff spot and third baseman Mark Leyble walked twice and scored a run in game two after going 2-for-4 with a home run in the first game.

First baseman Mike Falconetti pushed home the first run of the second game with a sacrifice fly to center to chase home Leyble in the bottom of the fourth. Point Boro added a run each in the fifth and sixth, with Graziano doubling and scoring on a wild pitch and Ryan Carne scoring on an outfield error on a single by Kyle Lauria.

Point Boro forced a second game behind a complete-game effort by Tim Rossi and five runs over the first four innings from the offense. Pinelands had won its way to the championship in the double-elimination tournament – including an earlier win over Point Boro – while Point Boro navigated its way through the loser’s bracket.

Leyble hit a three-run home run in the top of the first inning to set the early tone for the champions.

“Once we got the early lead, we just kind of knew it was the start of something good,” Leyble said. “We came in very relaxed and weren’t thinking too much about needing to win two games. We were ready to play but there wasn’t any pressure.”

Josiah Gliddon tossed a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts to lead Point Boro past Mystic Island (Pinelands) and to the Ocean County American Legion title Friday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Severio was 2-for-3 with a double in game one and 1-for-2 in game two. As a junior this past season, Severio was an All-B South selection by the division’s coaches after leading the team in on-base percentage (.511) and RBI (18).

“I always thought he would be a great hitter, but he is starting to drive the ball more than I envisioned,” Drew said of Severio. “All of our kids put in so much time improving on their game, and he works as hard as anybody. He’s grown into his frame over the past year, and I think that’s why he’s seen that kind of improvement in his game.”

Post 493 right-hander Joey Ventresca allowed three runs in a complete-game loss in game two. Ventresca – who will be a freshman at Pinelands this fall – also went 2-for-4 in the first game.

Friday’s win is a potential launching point for a Point Boro team that will return a large portion of its talent from this past year – most of which will be senior talent.

“We expected to have a better season this year with the talent we had, but we had some injuries and some tough losses,” said Drew, whose team lost Graziano as a pitcher to an arm injury in the first game of the season. “Now, most of these guys are going to be seniors and they know this is their year to win something, so this is a good way to start.”

“Since we’ve been playing together, we’ve won at every level,” Leyble said. “We won in middle school, we won as freshmen, and we’re starting to put it together as a varsity team. Now, we have a championship playing against a lot of the competition we’re going to see during the high school season, so we feel like we can keep it going.”