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Host New Jersey takes down Rhode Island, 6-2, to take gold medal in Special Olympics baseball

06/19/2014 9:50 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

The Special Olympics baseball team from New Jersey celebrates their gold medal.(Doug Williams)
TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey lobbied long and hard to have baseball added as an event for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, and after three years in waiting and a week's worth of preliminary games, it seemed like nothing was going to stop the Garden State's squad from writing a storybook ending to the inaugural event.

And in the end, nothing did.

In front of more than 1,000 fans, friends, family and fellow Special Olympians, Team New Jersey topped Team Rhode Island, 6-2, at ARM & HAMMER Park on Thursday night to win the first-ever baseball gold medal awarded in the Special Olympics USA Games.

The game did not get to go the full scheduled seven innings, as it was called after six due to the Special Olympics' two-hour game time limit, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm at all.

Earlier in the week, the two teams had played to a 2-2 deadlock in the round-robin portion of the tournament, and so a slightly worse run differential than Rhode Island in their other preliminary games made the hosts the visitors for the finale.

Just fine by them, as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first; leadoff hitter Hunter Norman singled to open the game, John DeLisa quickly followed to the basepaths after being hit by a pitch, and after the pair each advanced a base on an errant pitch, Shawn Gill drove them in with a one-out single.

Rhode Island struck back in the bottom of the frame when Steven Brunner drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk, but that would be the only scoreboard blemish New Jersey starter Jeremia Ferreira would allow over his five innings.

Both teams were scoreless in the second through fourth innings -- with a defensive gem by New Jersey first baseman Norman in the second squashing the only real scoring chance either side had -- but the Garden Staters would break the game open in the fifth.

Michael Conte, the 17th and final batter on the New Jersey side, led off with a single, and Norman and DeLisa followed with back-to-back singles to make it 3-1. Next batter Ray Ferreira would ground to third, but a throw wide of second base allowed both Norman and DeLisa (who was the attempted out at second) to score to make it 5-1; later in the inning, Jeremia made it a true Ferreira affair with a one-out single that scored his brother to make it 6-1, and that was about all she wrote.

Rhode Island would try to mount one last rally in the sixth, but New Jersey closer Yoshua Miranda would hold down the fort and allow just one run. He was helped by his defense when Casey Mercer was caught trying to go first to third on a David St. Germain single, and after an RBI groundout by Ryan Miranda (no relation) scored St. Germain, Yoshua rung up Seth Dame on a called strike three to end the tournament and send the crowd into a frenzy.

New Jersey would celebrate their gold medal by dancing with Trenton Thunder mascot Boomer before receiving their awards, and the Rhode Islanders, just as proud of their play, ended up dumping the water cooler over their manager's head prior to receiving their silvers.

And, in the end, regardless of placement, both teams ended up as history makers, as New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware -- who beat Alabama 10-3 earlier in the day in the bronze medal game -- will go down in the record books as the first three medalists in baseball in the Special Olympics USA Games.

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