A Pair of Rare Sights Highlight Week in Shore Baseball
A pair of rare sights highlighted last week in Shore Conference baseball - one a positive milestone and the other resulting in two teams being disqualified from state tournament participation.
On Thursday, Christian Brothers Academy head coach Marty Kenney became just the fourth baseball coach in New Jersey history to reach 700 career wins when the Colts edged Middletown South 1-0 in a Class A North game. Toms River South coach Ken Frank, the all-time leader in wins at 782 and counting, is the only other living coach with 700-plus wins. The other two are the late Tony Ferrainolo of Memorial (West New York) with 754 and the late Harry Shatel of Morristown, with 752.
“It makes you think of all the players who have played for you over the many years and all of the coaches that you have coached with,” Kenney said of the achievement. “Not just on the varsity level either – the jayvee and freshman coaches as well. It’s a combination of luck and surrounding yourself with a lot of good people.”
Wake Forest-bound senior John McCarren continued a brilliant season to help Kenney get his milestone victory, as he tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts on only 88 pitches to improve to 3-0. The win also kept the Colts in sole possession of first place in Class A North.
While Kenney’s victory was a rare sight on the positive side, the week ended with a negative one when a game between Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven was terminated by the umpires in the sixth inning after a wild, bench-clearing brawl. A total of 35 players were ejected following the fight that erupted after a collision at home plate on a squeeze play. A Rumson parent was also charged with assault by the Little Silver Police Department for allegedly coming on the field and hitting a Red Bank player.
All of the players ejected, which was essentially every player at the game, have to serve mandatory two-game suspensions. On Monday, the NJSIAA ruled that both teams are ineligible for the of the state playoffs for violating the NJSIAA rule of too many disqualifications (3 or more) in the course of one season.
In the midst of those highs and lows last week, several teams took big steps toward locking up division titles, while the Monmouth County Tournament got underway with first-round action.
No. 2 Jackson Memorial remained undefeated against Shore Conference competition with several thrilling wins that all but wrapped up the Class A South title for the Jaguars. Junior first baseman Matt Guarino had a big week as he had a two-run single in a 3-2 win over Jackson Memorial and followed that with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning of a wild 8-7 win over Toms River North. The Jaguars were down 7-4 with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the seventh and rallied for four runs, highlighted by RBI singles from Kyle Johnson and Guarino, and aided by a pair of errors by the Mariners. Guarino also had an RBI double for the game’s lone run in a 1-0 win over Lacey.
No. 1 Red Bank Catholic appears to be well on its way to the Class A Central title after knocking off second-place St. John Vianney last week for a season sweep of the Lancers. The Caseys, who are unbeaten against Shore Conference competition, picked up a 5-0 win over Rumson-Fair Haven and followed it with a 9-5 win over St. John Vianney to end the Lancers’ eight-game winning streak. Senior ace Mike Rescigno struck out seven in five shutout innings and also had a pair of doubles and three runs scored in the win. The Caseys now have a three-game lead on the rest of the division with four divisional games to go.
St. Rose, which is one of only six undefeated teams left in New Jersey, also took a crucial step in locking down a division title by beating Mater Dei Prep 4-3 in its first comeback win of the season. The Purple Roses trailed for the first time all year when the Seraphs went up 3-2 in the top of the fifth inning, but scored a run apiece in their next two innings to take the win. Senior ace Brad Currao allowed one earned run in a complete-game victory, and shortstop Brendan Lynch finished 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch, three stolen bases and two runs scored. St. Rose has a two-game lead with four divisional games remaining.
One of the best division races has turned out to be in Class B South, where a stellar group of pitchers has made life tough on the whole division. Jackson Liberty briefly had first place all to itself after a 5-4 win over Monsignor Donovan thanks to a complete-game win by St. Joseph’s recruit Tyler Pallante, but fell back into a tie with the Griffins a day later after losing 3-2 to Central and undefeated ace Andrew DiPiazza. The 6-foot-7 junior righty improved to 4-0 with a complete-game two-hitter, striking out eight and walking five, to allow Monsignor Donovan to get right back into the hunt for the title.
Jackson Liberty rebounded by beating a Manchester team whose own excellent pitching staff, led by Jeremy Carney and Ed White, had the Hawks on a roll. The Lions beat Manchester 5-1 on Friday thanks to a complete-game six-hitter by junior James Sofield.
Two teams starting to gain momentum at the right time are Freehold, last year’s NJSIAA Group III runner-up, and Manalapan, the defending Group IV champion. Behind the 1-2 punch of senior standouts Mike Bolton and Jake Yanez on the mound, the Colonials are gaining steam after a slow start. Bolton threw a complete-game four-hitter in a 5-3 win over first-place Wall in Class B North that avenged a 13-1 loss to the Crimson Knights in their first meeting, and Yanez followed with a complete game in which he only allowed one earned run in a 7-6 win over a Matawan team that sits in second place in the division.
The Colonials capped the week by beating Manasquan 9-2 on Saturday in the first round of the MCT thanks to another complete-game four-hitter by Bolton, who also hit a two-run double in the win.
Manalapan enters the week having won five of its last six games to get back to the .500 mark. Senior ace Matt Simonetti threw a complete-game three-hitter to beat Middletown South 8-2, and the Braves capped the week with a pair of wins on Saturday. They beat Barnegat 5-2 in a nondivisional game and then topped a depleted Red Bank squad 7-3 to advance to the second round of the MCT.
The two biggest upsets of the week belonged to Shore Regional and Long Branch. The Blue Devils ended a 10-game losing streak by surprising a top 10 team, Howell, in a 10-5 win at FirstEnergy Park on Friday night, behind a combined four hits and three RBI from Chris Vaccaro and Mike Blaney.
Long Branch scored the biggest upset of the first round of the MCT, entering as the No. 23 seed in a 24-team tournament and beating No. 10 Mater Dei Prep, 6-5, on Saturday. Senior Ashwin Mudiraj pitched a complete game, allowing three earned runs on six hits, striking out nine, walking seven and hitting two batters, while also delivering the decisive blow with a two-out, two-run double that capped the six-run third inning. All of the other higher-seeded home teams advanced to the next round, which has to be played by May 11.
A pitching staff that had a strong week was Brick, which posted three shutout victories. Trevor Mastria pitched five scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over Southern, then combined with Evan Lobato for a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over rival Brick Memorial and Mustangs’ ace Brian Cottrell, and then Brian Henry fired a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over Brick on Saturday. The only blemish was a 4-3 loss in the bottom of the seventh inning to Toms River East on Tyler DeFilippo’s two-run double, which gave Raiders head coach Bill Frank his 496th career victory. Frank is third all-time in wins among Shore Conference coaches, behind only his brother and Kenney.