Baseball – Bellissimo’s Shutout Propels TR North to SCT Final
RED BANK - With more than a week between his team's Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal win over Freehold Township and Thusday's SCT semifinal against third-seeded Wall, it might have been understandable if Toms River North junior pitcher Jared Bellissimo started the game amped up.
Instead, the stoic Mariners left-hander finished it that way.
Bellissimo retired the final 10 batters he faced Thursday and pitched a four-hit shutout on 110 pitches as No. 7 Toms River North took down the Crimson Knights, 5-0, to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament final on Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood.
After needing 74 pitches to navigate through the first four innings, Bellissimo locked in on catcher Justin Schaff's glove the rest of the way and threw only 36 pitches over the final three frames without allowing a baserunner. He even fell behind No. 9 hitter and sophomore shortstop Dylan Richey 3-0 leading off the bottom of the fifth and came back to strike him out.
PHOTO GALLERY: Toms River North vs. Wall by Paula Lopez
"I said to (assistant) coach (Mike) Peck that in the later innings, I thought (Bellissimo) pitched his best," Toms River North coach Andy Pagano said. "He had over a week off and he had to shake some of the rust off. They had some good hits and good contact on some pitches that were down and well-located. That's why they (Wall) were in this game too, but Jared hung in there and got some easy outs after that."
Bellissimo struck out six, walked two and allowed three of the four Wall hits in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kevin Lenneper hit a fly ball to right field that Mariners right fielder Nick Sibilio misplayed into a triple with none out, but Toms River North center fielder Alex Klalo erased him one batter later when he caught freshman Teddy Sharkey's fly ball to center field and fired a one-hop strike to the plate to cut down the potential run.
"That's the second time Alex Klalo's done that in a big position in a big game," Toms River North senior shortstop Mike Nyisztor said. "We have all the faith in the world in all of our outfielders to throw runners out and that really jump-started us and got our bats going a little bit more."
Sophomore catcher David Howarth followed with the first of his two singles and sophomore third baseman Grant Shulman added a two-out single to set Wall up with runners on first and third, but Bellissimo included an inning-ending pop-up.
Bellissimo also helped his cause at the plate by going 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the fifth. His courtesy runner, Sean Aguiar, also scored a run on senior third baseman Austin Feigin's RBI single to right after Bellissimo ripped a two-out, ground-rule double in the top of the third.
Feigin led the offense by going 3-for-4 and scored the first run of the game after he led off the top of the second inning with a double to right-center field.
Schaff followed Feigin's double with an unusual double on a bunt. Schaff's sacrifice attempted was a firm bunt over the head of Wall pitcher Ryan Napolitano and after the middle infield converged on the ball in the middle of the diamond, Schaff sprinted safely to an unoccupied second base.
Junior Brendan Mullins followed with an RBI single to right field that scored Feigin and courtesy runner John Giordano scored when Sibilia hit into a 4-6-3 double play to make it 2-0.
The Mariners added two runs in the fifth when Nyisztor smashed an RBI triple to right-center field to chase home junior Craig Larsen and scored on Bellissimo's RBI single to center.
In addition to the second-inning threat, Wall put runners on first and third against Bellissimo in the fourth after a two-out single by Howarth, but Bellissimo got out of trouble when Shulman smoked a line drive right to Nyisztor at shortstop.
Toms River North lost to sectional finalist Lenape in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoffs on May 23, so after the Mariners beat Freehold Township the following day, it opened up the next seven days on their calendar.
Wall faced the same challenge after losing to Neptune on May 23 and defeated Christian Brothers Academy the following day to earn a game against Toms River North.
"We were all really hungry and I think it just helped us because today we got on the field and really brought our all," Nyisztor said. "Obviously, we wish we could still be in the state tournament, but we're happy to be in this tournament still and we get to play in the final on Sunday."
Toms River North will shoot for its second SCT title in the last five seasons on Sunday when it faces the winner of Thursday night's game between No. 1 Toms River South and No. 4 Red Bank Catholic.
"This tournament is awesome," Pagano said. "You look at the teams in the state who are still playing and (it seems like) half of them are from the Shore. It's a loaded area, so to be this far in this tournament is a great accomplishment."
Toms River North 5, Wall 0
|TR North (19-7)||0||2||1||0||2||0||0||5||10||0|
|Jared Bellissimo (W, 6-1)||7||4||0||0||2||6||110|
|Ryan Napolitano (L, 6-2)||4.1||8||5||5||2||1||72|
|TR North||Game Stats|
|Austin Feigin||3-4, 2B, R, RBI|
|Jared Bellissimo||2-4, 2B, RBI|
|Mike Nyisztor||1-4, 3B, R, RBI|
|Brendan Mullins||1-3, RBI|
|Craig Larsen||2-3, BB, R|
|Justin Schaff||1-3, 2B, R|
|Kevin Lenneper||1-2, 3B, BB|