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Garcia’s double lifts New Jersey

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Elizabeth, New Jersey’s Justin Labrador dives for the plate as Salem, Oregon’s catcher goes for the tag during Friday’s game at Lamade Stadium.

A closer look at the Elizabeth, New Jersey’s 6-2 win over Salem, Oregon, on Friday at Lamade Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Sal Garcia’s fifth-inning double — Oregon led New Jersey, 2-1, and was five outs from victory when Garcia started changing the game’s complexion and ignited a big rally with his one-out double down the left-field line. Garcia was the first of six straight hitters who reached base as New Jersey turned a one-run deficit into a five-run lead and had its army of fans rocking. His double provided just the spark the Mid-Atlantic champions desperately needed.

OREGON PLAYER OF THE GAME: Sullivan Puckett – The talented right fielder played good defense and also reached base in each of his three at-bats. Puckett went 1 for 1 with an RBI and two walks. His second-inning RBI single tied the game, 1-1.

NEW JERSEY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Derek Escobar — Yadi Mateo was outstanding, earning the win on the mound, but Escobar went 2 for 2 with a double, walk and two runs. Escobar scored a second-inning run and has reached base seven straight times in his last two games, going 3 for 3 with four walks.

BIG INNING: New Jersey fifth — Garcia’s double lit a fuse and New Jersey poured gasoline on that, batting around, scoring six times and building a 6-2 lead. New Jersey scored five runs and Jayden Capindica provided the big blow, hitting a go-ahead, two-run single a pitch after Mateo was intentionally walked. Justin Labrador added an RBI single and six straight one-out runners reached base.

BEST EFFORT: New Jersey’s defense – Oregon had several chances to pad its one-run lead from the second through fourth innings, but the Mid-Atlantic champions used two double plays and a pickoff to prevent it from doing so. Had Oregon scored a run or two in those situations, the game could have dramatically been altered, but the New Jersey defense came up big, allowing its offense the shot at a comeback.

FLASHING LEATHER: New Jersey loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but was limited to one run because of some heads-up Oregon defense. Following a strikeout, catcher Gavin Price induced a grounder to the mound, held the runner at third and threw to first for the second out. The runner on second had broken to third and was caught in a rundown before shortstop Andrew Mhoon alertly threw home and catcher Riley Wilson applied the tag for the inning-ending double play. New Jersey left fielder Emmanuel Nunez turned a crucial double play in the bottom of the inning, snaring a flyball and doubling a runner off third base. After Oregon took a 2-1 lead and had the bases loaded with no outs, Nunez’s heads-up play minimized the damage and kept it a one-run game. Many of the 17,194 in attendance cheered loud when they thought Yadi Mateo might have hit a third-inning home run, but Oregon right fielder Sullivan Puckett sprinted into the gap and made a diving catch on the warning track, keeping the lead runner on first base. New Jersey catcher J.R. Rosado showed off his cannon-like arm in the bottom of the third, picking a runner off second base from his knees. New Jersey kept coming up big defensively in the fourth inning when first baseman Jayden Capindica made a super diving catch on a popout before doubling the runner off second and squashing another potential rally.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “The energy in our city and our state and our region to come out and support us like that was like Friday Night Lights,” New Jersey manager Jairo Labrador said. “It reminded me of Monday Night Football or a Super Bowl atmosphere. It was really special to be a part of that on opening night.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “That (crowd) brings us up,” Garcia said. “Once the fans start cheering, we get up and if we get up the fans start cheering (more). It’s just an awesome atmosphere to be in.”

WHAT IT MEANS: New Jersey advances to Sunday’s winner’s bracket semifinals and will meet Hawaii with the winner moving within a victory of reaching the U.S. championship game. Oregon will try staying alive tonight when it plays Louisiana in an elimination game.

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