Jacona shuts down Newark bats, sends Milton back to Bristol

MILFORD – Milton Little League has punched its ticket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament for the third consecutive year.

With a 9-1 victory over Newark National Thursday night at Milford Little League, Milton earned its third straight Major League Delaware State Championship.

The win marks Milton’s eighth straight state tournament victory, with the team’s last loss dating back to the first game of the 2016 tourney.

Tyler Jacona allowed just one run on five hits, striking out five in Milton’s state title win (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Milton will open play at the Mid-Atlantic Regionals against the state champions from Maryland Sunday, Aug. 5 at 4 p.m.

“It’s a special team,” said Milton manager Paris Mitchell. “I don’t know what expectations were way back before districts, but these kids left no doubt who was the best team in the state this year and it’s just a humbling thing to coach those guys. They’re not just great ballplayers, they’re great kids too. They are a lot of fun in the dugout, they’re always upbeat.”

Milton cruised through the District III tournament with a perfect 4-0 record. The team’s success carried over to the state tournament as Mitchell’s squad picked up three more wins over a four-day span to earn the state title.

Over those seven games, Milton out-scored opponents 55-9 and recorded a pair of shutouts.

“We’ve seen good pitching, we’ve seen some good lineups that hit the ball, but what I think really sets this team apart right here is our defense,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have any weaknesses. We’re not going to walk you, we’re not going to give you any errors, you’re going to have to out-hit us on the field.”

Tyler Jacona pitched a complete game with five strikeouts, allowing just five hits to Newark’s lineup. The lone run surrendered came on a third inning RBI double by Newark National’s Nathan McBride.

Gage Joseph, shown here jogging to his shortstop position, led the game off with a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“I was just trying to work my curveball a lot more and make it work and it did,” Jacona said of his approach on the mound.

Offensively, Milton collected 13 hits from 10 different hitters, including two-hit games from Jacona, Gage Jospeh and Nolan Barry.

Joseph set the tone for the night early, sending a Riley DeLuca pitch over the outfield wall for a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning.

“I felt great because it was the first inning and all the other games my first at-bat I hadn’t done so well and this at-bat I finally hit a home run,” Joseph said of his first-inning blast.

“He’s definitely our horse. I feel like Gage Joseph is the best 12-year-old in the state, so when he’s hitting on all cylinders it takes all the pressure off all the other kids and they can just be role players – they don’t have to go out and win the game for us,” Mitchell said.

The lead was extended to 2-0 in the bottom of the second as Frank Fuscellaro scored on an error by Newark’s second baseman.

McBride’s RBI double in the third inning cut the lead in half, but a Jase Mitchell RBI double in the bottom of the third and a four-run fourth inning broke the game wide open for Milton.

Barry drove in Joseph with a single and Noah Wells drove in two more runs with a double to make it a 7-1 ball game in the fourth.

Jacona capped the scoring with a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth before going back out to the mound and shutting the Newark hitters down in order in the top of the sixth to earn the regional tournament bid.

With a deep pitching staff and a strong defensive unit, Mitchell believes this team can make some noise once they arrive in Bristol.

“There’s plenty in the stable and when you go to a tournament like Bristol, you definitely need that,” he said. “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t look at the bracket, you do have to win a few games in rapid fashion, and we think we can do that.

“The key for us is hitting the ball. We know we have good pitching, we know we have good defense, but if we’re going to score nine runs a night we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.