BARNEGAT – The Barnegat baseball team had a 2014 season characterized both by its unprecedented success and postseason heartbreak, but for all of the disappointment that comes with losing three tournament championship games like they did last year, the experience also left Barnegat with a 2015 team full of seasoned postseason veterans.

The Bengals displayed their postseason cool Saturday by rallying from a four-run deficit with a nine-run sixth inning that turned away Pinelands in the Ocean County Tournament Round of 16, 9-5. The eighth-seeded Bengals will host No. 16 Southern, which upset top-seeded Toms River North on Saturday night, on Sunday at noon.

“We pitch the ball very well program-wise, but the hitting has been a little light for us,” Barnegat coach Dan McCoy said. “We need some key guys to get going who are starting to show signs of life. Hopefully the offense continues to get better and if it does, with the way we pitch, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Barnegat started the bottom of the inning with seven straight hits, the last of which was an RBI single by sophomore second baseman Anthony Lani that chased home center fielder Max Ritner with the go-ahead run, putting the Bengals ahead, 5-4.

Junior Jared Kacso hit an RBI single and an RBI double in the inning, knocking in sophomore shortstop and leadoff hitter Aaron McLaughlin – who started the rally with an infield single – with an RBI single though the left side. Senior catcher Nik Fraim set up runners on second and third with a double to the left-center field gap.

“We always know we’re going to throw a quality pitcher, and we’ve scored nine runs in (each of) the last two games so we’re starting to get our bats going, too,'' McCoy said. "The defense wasn’t as sharp today, but we’re starting to play well in every phase of the game and when you’re confident as a group, it definitely makes you think you’re never out of a game.”

Kacso's RBI single cut the deficit to 4-1, first baseman Ed Rogan came through with a two-run double to slice the Pinelands lead to 4-3, and pinch-hitter John Corbett tied the game with an RBI single.

“I think we swung at some pitches out of the zone the first couple times up against (Pinelands left-hander Chad Astemborski), and we just needed to be patient and look for a mistake,” said the left-hand-hitting Rogan, whose team lost to Astemborski and Pinelands on opening day. “He was throwing me a lot of curveballs in the first couple at-bats, and I just tried to stay ready for the fastball and I finally got it.”

Justin Diefenbach added an RBI single in the inning and Kacso capped the scoring with an RBI double off the left-center field fence. Center fielder Max Ritner also had an infield hit in the rally, the third hit of his 3-for-3 day.

Barnegat junior John Harashinski earned his first career win by allowing one earned run in a complete-game effort against Pinelands Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Pinelands scored four unearned runs in the sixth off Barnegat junior left-hander John Harashinski to break a scoreless tie. Brad O'Brien came through with a two-run single to make the score 4-0 and Sage Sysol helped spark the rally with a line-drive double down the left-field line to set the Wildcats up with runners on second and third base and one out.

Harashinski allowed only one earned run on seven hits while striking out four to earn his first varsity win in his first varsity start.

Astemborski tamed the Bengals during the first two trips through the batting order, during which he allowed only two hits and kept Barnegat’s hitters off balance with his curveball and changeup.

"He definitely likes to pitch backwards," McCoy said. "He really had us off balance early in the game throwing his curveball as much as he did, and our guys just had to adjust and start laying off some of the offspeed stuff out of the zone and waiting for their pitch."

During the third trip through the order, he opted for the fastball more often and the Bengals were ready.

McCoy said he plans on throwing Tyler Hubley in Sunday’s game, which he announced prior to Southern winning the game. He said he plans to use senior right-hander Seamus Brazill and Corbett for the week of division games, particularly against Class B South division leader Jackson Liberty. The Lions and Bengals will meet on both Monday and Wednesday of the coming week with Jackson Liberty holding a two-game lead on Barnegat in the standings.

“We’re going for the division with our big guys, but we have some kids we think will pitch well,” McCoy said. “We have some underclassmen who are pretty solid, but we haven’t had to use them yet.”

After losing junior left-hander and Vanderbilt recruit Jason Groome to a transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this season, the Bengals have tried to develop the notion of the next player in line producing when given a new opportunity. In Groome, the Bengals lost a dominant high school pitcher (77 strikeouts and a 0.98 ERA in 43 innings for IMG) and a projected high-first-round pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but have still run out pitching that they believe will give them an equally good chance to win tournaments like the OCT.

“Our philosophy is next man up,” Rogan said. “It was a difficult situation coming into the year, but we knew there was still a lot of talent here and even more guys have been stepping up recently.”

 

Box Score

Barnegat 9, Pinelands 5

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Pinelands (8-8)

0

0

0

0

0

4

1

5

7

3

Barnegat (9-6)

0

0

0

0

0

9

x

9

11

4

 

Pinelands

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Mitch Merrill, 1B

4

0

1

0

0

0

R.J. Rodriguez, CF

4

2

1

0

0

0

Sage Sysol, 3B

4

1

1

0

0

0

Dave DeFeo, DH

2

1

1

0

1

0

Jared Strang, LF

3

1

1

1

1

0

Patrick Spagnola, 2B

3

0

0

1

1

2

Dave Lunn, RF

3

0

0

0

0

2

Brad O'Brien, C

3

0

2

2

0

0

Curtis Burke, SS

3

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

29

5

7

4

3

4

2B: Sysol, Strang
IBB: DeFeo
GIDP: Lunn, Merrill

 

Barnegat

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Aaron McLaughlin, SS

4

2

1

0

0

0

Nick Fraim, C

4

0

1

0

0

1

--Evan Albanese, CR

0

1

0

0

0

0

Jared Kacso, DH

4

1

2

2

0

0

Ed Rogan, 1B

3

1

1

2

1

0

Max Ritner, CF

3

1

3

0

0

0

Tyler Hubley, LF

2

0

0

0

0

1

--John Corbett, PH

1

1

1

1

0

0

Anthony Lani, 2B

2

1

1

1

1

0

Eric Becker, RF

2

0

0

0

0

2

Justin Diefenbach, 3B

3

1

1

1

0

2

Totals

28

9

11

7

2

6

2B: Fraim, Rogan, Kacso
SAC: Becker
GIDP: Hubley
SB: Diefenbach, McLaughlin

 

Pinelands

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Chad Astemborski (L, 1-2)

6

11

9

6

2

6

0

 

Barnegat

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

John Harashinski (W, 1-0)

7

7

5

1

3

4

0

 

Hit by Pitch: DeFeo (by Harashinski)
Pitches-Strikes: Astemborski 108-73, Harashinski 96-58
Groundouts-Flyouts: Astemborski 8-0, Harashinski 10-3