NORTHFIELD - Ocean City's offense got untracked in time to win its first District 16 Little League baseball championship in program history Tuesday night.
Ocean City scored eight runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to earn an 11-4 victory over Northfield before a loud and enthusiastic crowd at Birch Grove Park.
"We've never done this before, but we felt like we had a chance this year," Ocean City manager Harry Vanderslice said. "This team is special. The players have been talking about this since the beginning of the season. To actually accomplish it is awesome."
With the win, Ocean City advanced to the Section 4 tournament for 11- and 12-year-old players. It will play its first-round game Sunday at Hammonton against an opponent to be determined.
Northfield, which came out of the loser's bracket, seemed destined to force another game in the district tourney final when it grabbed a 4-0 lead, but Ocean City steadily climbed back into contention before putting the game away in the fifth.
Ocean City sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth. Gannon Brady began and ended the comeback.
He led off the inning with a double down the left-field line and scored on Dan Noonan's double to tie the game at 4-4.
Jesse Schemizer provided the go-ahead run with another double to right that drove in Noonan and gave Ocean City its first lead at 5-4.
Sam Olivo kept the rally going with a two-run single, then Brady blasted a two-run home run over the right-field fence while Ocean City's fans cheered from the first-base bleachers.
"I think I had about 10 home runs this season," Brady said. "I was looking for a fastball, but I adjusted to a curve and hit it out."
Northfield, which lost to Ocean City 4-3 on July 2, looked headed for a lopsided victory when they jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings.
They used patience at the plate and some timely hitting to go ahead 2-0 in the top of the first. They loaded the bases on Joe Bonczek's leadoff walk, Devin Sharkey's infield single and Mike Atohi's blooper to right.
Joe Mossini drew a walk to force in a run, then Sharkey raced home on a two-out, two-strike wild pitch.
Northfield, which was seeking its first district title since 2010, padded the lead to 4-0 in its next at-bat when Jayson Hoopes led off by smacking an opposite-field home run over the right-field fence. Bonczek drew another walk and later scored on a wild pitch.
"We were a little worried when we fell behind so quickly," Vanderslice said with a smile. "But we say a special prayer before and after every game and that worked for us tonight. We knew if we could just keep it close, we'd be OK."
Ocean City scored its first run in the third on Brady's RBI single to left that scored Sam Olivo, then closed to within a run at 4-3 in the fourth. Noonan doubled and later scored on an error, then Dominic Payne lined an RBI single to left.
"We didn't get too down on ourselves when we fell behind," Brady said. "We just had a feeling that once we scored that first run that we were going to win."
Reliever Cole Vanderslice also came through with a big effort.
The right-hander took over after Hoopes' home run and held Northfield scoreless through 4 innings with a fastball and curve.
"It can be tough coming into a game cold like that," Cole Vanderslice said. "Especially against a great-hitting team like Northfield. But I was prepared to come in and do my job."
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