TOMS RIVER – It’s not much of a surprise that the Central Regional baseball team had the pitching to make a run through the Ocean County Tournament, and it’s certainly not a surprise that one of the Golden Eagles pitchers threw a complete-game shutout during the run.

The only surprise was that the pitcher who threw the shutout in the championship game was not senior right-hander and University Alabama recruit Andrew DiPiazza.

Junior right-hander Anthony Arneth pitched the best game of his varsity career, turning in a four-hit shutout Tuesday night at Toms River High School East to pace Central to a 6-0 win over Barnegat for its first Ocean County Tournament championship since 1986.

“I was honored to get the ball tonight,” Arneth said. “This tournament started at Central Regional with (former coach) Al Kunzman and when Scran told me I was getting the ball, I felt honored.”

Arneth struck out six and walked three while firing 97 pitches and doing his best impersonation of Central’s staff ace, who pitched the Golden Eagles to the championship game with complete-game victories against Toms River South and Toms River North in consecutive rounds.

“He was a strike-throwing machine tonight,” DiPiazza said. “He was getting the ball and firing it, and he found a really good rhythm out there. He’s been huge for us lately and tonight he definitely had one of his better games.”

Central wins the OCT from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

On a team that was looking for pitchers to step up and fill in the rotation behind DiPiazza at the beginning of the season, Arneth has become Central’s No. 2 option and an understudy of sorts.

“I talk to (DiPiazza) after almost every inning just to see what he thinks about what I’m doing,” Arneth said. “He’s been a big help to me and the other pitchers. From day one this year, he’s kind of taken me under his wing and helped me get better.”

“With Anthony, we definitely knew the potential was there,” Central coach John Scran said. “He got a few innings as a sophomore last year, but he wasn’t quite physically mature enough to handle the full-time varsity workload. Now it’s a year later, he’s bigger and stronger, he’s added velocity to his fastball, and he’s making the most out of his frame and his athleticism.

“I’m confident we’re just starting to see what he can do. He’s a three-sport athlete who hasn’t really put a whole lot of time into baseball, and he’s a guy who could end up getting a chance to pitch somewhere in college and really take off once he’s putting his athletic focus into the game.”

Anthony Arneth K to end the 5th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

DiPiazza won tournament Most Valuable Player honors for throwing two complete games – one in a quarterfinal win over Toms River South and another in a semifinal win over Toms River North – while also going 5-for-10 at the plate with a home run and five RBI. DiPiazza served as the designated hitter on Tuesday and went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the top of the third inning to score the game’s first run.

“When I was a little kid, I always told people that I was going to be a Major League hitter,” said DiPiazza, who leads the Shore Conference with five home runs. “I used to take 500 swings every day trying to make myself a great hitter, and my first three years of high school, I was terrible. This last year, I knew this was a big offseason for me so I didn’t do any hitting and just focused on pitching. Sure enough, I’m having my best season at the plate.”

Andrew DiPiazza RBI single from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Andrew DiPiazza single to CF from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Although DiPiazza took home the individual award, he and Arneth were similarly effective on the mound in each of their two tournament starts. DiPiazza allowed three runs – two earned – on nine hits with three walks and 17 strikeouts over 14 innings during his two starts and also saved Central’s first-round win over Point Boro with a scoreless, one-hit inning with two strikeouts.

Arneth, meanwhile, also allowed three runs – two earned – on 10 hits with four walks and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings. He took a no-decision during a five-inning outing against Point Boro on May 3.

After DiPiazza gave Central a 1-0 lead with his RBI single, the Golden Eagles came back with three more runs in the fourth inning against Barnegat sophomore right-hander Jared Kacso, all of which were unearned. Junior second baseman Jake Dominguez made it 2-0 with a line-drive RBI single to left-center field and senior center fielder and leadoff hitter Rich Galati added two more to the lead with a two-run single on a ground ball to right field.

Jake Dominguez RBI single from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Rich Galati 2-run single from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Central scored two more runs in the top of the fifth on an error on a ground ball by senior left fielder Javon Hardy that allowed both right fielder Christian Bearden and courtesy runner Matt Aires to score.

Arneth never allowed Barnegat to make things interesting, as the Bengals reached second base just once all game. Barnegat did manage to put a runner on base in six of seven innings against Arneth, but the Golden Eagles junior – along with senior catcher Kenny Beyrouty – was effective out of the stretch and in limiting Barnegat’s running game, which did not produce a stolen base nor advance on a wild pitch or passed ball.

Central has dominated Barnegat this season, beating the Bengals in all three meetings between the Class B South rivals. The Bengals were making their first ever OCT championship game appearance and did so with a 5-0 record in games outside of Class B South division play, including wins over Toms River North, Jackson Memorial and St. John Vianney.

“I don’t think we had an edge coming into today, in fact I thought the opposite,” Scran said. “It’s very hard to beat a team three times in a season, especially when you’re talking about a quality team like Barnegat.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Ocean County Tournament championship returns to its place of origin after a long stay with the larger schools of Ocean County, namely the Toms River teams and, more recently, Jackson Memorial. Legendary Golden Eagles coach Al Kunzman, for whom Central’s home field is named, started the tournament in 1972 and led Central to a championship in the inaugural tournament while also dominating it during the 1970s and early 80s.

“This tournament means a lot to all of the teams in Ocean County, but it holds a special significance for our program,” Scran said. “Al Kunzman started this tournament, he won the first tournament and for a stretch of about a decade, his teams dominated this tournament. There is a great legacy of championships that goes back to that period and we wanted to experience that as well, not just for ourselves but to pay tribute coach Kunzman. I’d like to think he’s smiling down on his old team tonight.”

In the seven seasons since Scran took over the program, Central has been to the semifinals of at least one tournament – county, conference or NJSIAA sectional – in six of those seasons. Tuesday marks the first win during those seven years for Scran and with two pitchers on top of their respective games, the Golden Eagles are hoping this is only the beginning.

“It’s been our goal ever since I’ve been here and even when my older brother (James) was here to win a tournament championship,” DiPiazza said. “Our coaches have told us every year that it was a possibility, but I don’t think we ever really worked hard enough because we didn’t really understand how possible it was. Now that we’ve done it, it’s kind of scary because we actually understand what it takes to win this kind of tournament, and I think we’re going to be hungry to do it again.”

 

Box Score

Central 6, Barnegat 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Central (13-6)

0

0

1

3

2

0

0

6

7

0

Barnegat (12-8)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

5

 

Central

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Rich Galati, CF

4

0

1

2

0

1

Frank Rose, 3B

1

0

0

0

0

0

-- Dan Viscel, 3B

3

0

2

0

0

0

Andrew DiPiazza, DH

4

0

2

1

0

0

-- Joe Firetto, SS

0

0

0

0

0

0

Christian Bearden, RF

3

1

0

0

0

0

Kenny Beyrouty, C

4

0

0

0

0

0

-- Matt Aires, CR

0

1

0

0

0

0

Javon Hardy, LF

3

1

0

1

0

0

John Forrester, 1B

3

1

0

0

0

1

Jake Dominguez, 2B

2

1

1

1

1

0

Anthony Arneth, P

2

0

1

0

0

1

-- Chris Kowalski, CR

0

1

0

0

0

0

-- Ryan Paul, PH

1

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

30

6

7

5

1

4

SAC: Hardy
GIDP: Hardy
SB: Hardy 2, Dominguez

Barnegat

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Ryan Ulrich, LF

4

0

0

0

0

1

Nik Fraim, C

2

0

1

0

1

0

Jared Kacso, P-RF

2

0

0

0

1

1

-- Justin Geduldick, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Ed Rogan, 1B

3

0

1

0

0

1

Matt Owens, 3B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Conner Hoeler, 2B

2

0

0

0

0

1

-- Jason Groome, PH

1

0

0

0

0

0

Joe Letinski, CF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Aaron McLaughlin, SS

2

0

1

0

1

0

Marcus Nasce, DH

3

0

0

0

0

1

-- Collin O'Conner, RF

0

0

0

0

0

0

-- Seamus Brazil, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

25

0

4

0

3

6

 

Central

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Anthony Arneth, W (5-2)

7.0

4

0

0

3

6

0

 

Barnegat

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Jared Kacso, L (2-2)

4.0

5

4

1

0

1

0

Seamus Brazil

3.0

2

2

0

1

3

0

Hit By Pitch: Bearden (by Kacson)
Pitches-Strikes: Arneth 97-63, Kacso 57-40, Brazil 49-26
Groundouts-Flyouts: Arneth 9-5, Kacso 2-4, Brazil 3-0