TOMS RIVER – The last time Jackson Memorial senior Brandon Janofsky pitched in a high school game that counted, he threw a one-hitter to beat Roxbury in the 2014 NJSIAA Group IV championship last June at Ryan Field on the campus of Toms River High School North.

Janofsky returned to that very mound at Toms River North on Thursday for his first game as a pitcher in 2015, and despite not pitching during the first three weeks of the regular season due to shoulder stiffness, Janofsky looked like he never left.

The Stony Brook University recruit threw a two-hit shutout in a 3-0 Jaguars win over the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, a near carbon copy of the one-hitter he threw on the same mound in last year’s Group IV final.

Jackson Memorial senior Brandon Janofsky pitched a two-hitter with nine strikeouts to baffle No. 1 Toms River North Thursday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Janofsky retired the first 14 batters he faced on Thursday and struck out nine Mariners while walking just one on a total of 95 pitches.

“Seeing this game on the schedule was big and obviously, the last time I pitched on this mound was a great feeling winning a state championship,” Janofsky said. “Overall, it felt good just to be out there again. I haven’t been on the mound in a while, and it felt good to feel like the game was in my hands again.”

After struggling with a stiff shoulder late in the preseason and limiting his use to playing shortstop and hitting, the senior said he anticipated throwing 75 pitches in his first start of the season. He went into the sixth inning with only 52 pitches, and even after enduring a 28-pitch sixth, coach Frank Malta left it up to his pitcher to make the call about whether or not he would take the mound for the seventh.

“This is the fifth time he’s thrown (since feeling the stiffness),” Malta said. “He’s thrown a bunch on the side so he’s been working his way up. Each time he throws, we’ve just been seeing how he feels, and with the way he worked up, this just happened to be the time of week when he’d be ready to throw in a game, and we happened to be here today. But he does look pretty comfortable on this mound.”

“My coaches trust me to be honest with them,” said Janofsky, who also said he threw off the Toms River North mound with pitching coach J.M. Gold on Sunday, a bullpen session that reinforced that he would be ready to pitch this week. “They are very careful when it comes to my arm, so I always try to be as honest as I can be. If I didn’t feel right finishing the game, I would have told them, but I honestly felt great. Everything was working well, so when I came off the field, there really wasn’t much of a discussion. I just told them I was good.”

Toms River North concocted its only threat in the bottom of the sixth with the aid of a one-out error that enabled Mariners sophomore shortstop and No. 9 hitter Mike Nyisztor to reach. Nyisztor moved to second on a passed ball, but Janofsky induced a comebacker to the mound by senior center fielder Kevin Blum for the second out while keeping Nyisztor at second.

Another passed ball allowed Nyisztor to advance to third with two out, and Janofsky walked pinch-hitter David Cordoma to bring up junior third baseman and Oklahoma State University recruit Joey Rose as the tying run. After falling behind 0-2, Rose battled back to 2-2 but on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Janofsky got him to swing and miss with a breaking ball off the plate for strike three.

“I’ve played with Joey over the years, I know him personally and when it comes to an at-bat like that, you can’t give in to him,” Janofsky said. “He was having a hell of an at-bat, just battling and fighting off pitches. I just had to keep battling and executing pitches, and fortunately I got him to chase one.”

“Brandon hung a breaking ball that Rose just missed, so we came back with three straight fastballs that he fought off before we decided to go back to the breaking ball,” Malta said. “In this type of game against them, that’s a fun at-bat to just sit back and watch.”

Janofsky worked around a one-out single by junior right fielder Jeff Ciervo in the bottom of the seventh to retire the final two batters and secure his second straight shutout at Ryan Field.

In those last two starts at Toms River North, Janofsky has allowed a combined three hits and four walks while striking out 16. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against a hot Roxbury offense last June and took a perfect game into the fifth Thursday against a Toms River North team that entered averaging better than eight runs per game.

Ciervo broke up the perfect game bid with a clean single to center field with one out in the fifth, the first of his two hits against Janofsky. The hit also ended an 11-inning hitless streak for the Mariners, who were no-hit by Lacey sophomore Anthony Elefante in a 2-0 win on Wednesday.

Janofsky needed eight fewer pitches to shut out the Mariners than he did to beat Roxbury, and perhaps the most striking similarity between the two games was that he threw 68 of his 95 pitches for strikes, the same number of strikes he threw last June.

“I thought he looked really good the couple times he got on the mound in March,” Malta said. “He’s a little bigger and stronger than he was a year ago, and we thought all along, whenever we got him on mound, he was going to have a little more on his fastball and be able to maintain his effectiveness late into games just because of the shape he is in.”

Another similarity for Janofsky between last June and Thursday was the effectiveness of his curveball, which he was breaking off and locating from the first inning all the way through the final inning. Of the nine strikeouts he racked up on Thursday, eight of them ended with the breaking ball, which had enough horizontal break to resemble a slider on many of them.

“The curve was really working today and when it’s working like that, it just gives me more options in more counts,” Janofsky said. “Sometimes, it won’t be breaking the way I want it and I’ll have to rely more on the fastball, but today it was working. I also thought I was able to spot my fastball, which helped.”

Janofsky gave himself a 1-0 lead before he ever took the mound with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Junior shortstop Kyle Johnson led the game off with a double to left-center, moved to third on an infield single by third baseman Matt Castronuova and scored on Janofsky’s fly ball to left field. Johnson doubled in each of his first two trips to the plate, slamming a Doug Molnar changeup to the wall on one hop in his second plate appearance.

Molnar was consistently in the strike zone, throwing 50 of his 66 pitches for strikes in a complete-game effort.

“We did a good job going up to the plate looking for a pitch to hit and attacking it when we got it,” said Johnson, the starting third baseman on most days who started at shortstop for the first time this season with Janofsky finally on the mound. “I was looking for something middle-in and I got the fastball the first time and the next time I got the changeup and stayed on it.”

Senior left fielder Rich Rountree continued his hot hitting for Jackson Memorial in the bottom half of the lineup by going 3-for-3, including a two-run single in the top of the fourth inning to stretch the Jaguars’ lead to 3-0. Senior right fielder Matt Crispe singled to center field and senior center fielder Joe DeMaio doubled to deep left-center to set Rountree up with runners on second and third, and he lined a two-run single to right-center.

“Most pitchers like to throw the ball away and my approach this year has just been to take it the other way,” Rountree said. “Last year, I felt like I was pulling off the ball a lot, and I came to realize my power is to center and right-center and if I stay on the ball longer, I’ll be able to drive it more consistently.”

With his two RBI, Rountree now has 16 for the season and is also hitting .485 (16-for-33) with three home runs.

“We’ve talked a lot about lengthening the lineup and even though Rich has been hot, enough guys have hit at the top of the order that we didn’t want to move him out of the spot he’s hitting,” Malta said. “He’s been so locked in, and it might be nice to have him a couple spots higher, but we figured, ‘Why mess with it if we don’t have to?’”

The Jaguars have won five straight since starting the season 1-4, which included an 8-7 loss to Toms River North. Jackson Memorial also recently welcomed junior Chris Hawryluk back to action on the mound after Hawryluk missed the first seven games with shoulder issues of his own, according to Malta. With their two starters rounding into form and the offense averaging 7.1 runs per game, the Jaguars (6-4, 5-3) appear ready to mount a Group IV title defense, if not run down Toms River North (7-2, 7-1) in the Class A South divisional race.

“We weren’t good in those first five games in a lot of areas,” Malta said. “The ironic thing is the guys we asked to step in and pitch for those injured guys did fairly well when given those opportunities. We just let ourselves down defensively and missed a lot of opportunities offensively in those games. But they’re kids, so all that other stuff could have been in their heads. You just don’t know sometimes.”

“We feel like we’ve grown a lot through the early struggles,” Johnson said. “Now we have all of our pitchers back, and we’ve been hitting amazing.”

 

Box Score

Jackson Memorial 3, Toms River North 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Jackson Memorial (6-4, 5-3)

1

0

0

2

0

0

0

3

8

1

Toms River North (7-2, 7-1)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

 

Jackson Memorial

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Kyle Johnson, SS

3

1

2

0

0

0

Matt Castronuova, 3B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Brandon Janofsky, P

2

0

0

1

0

0

Chris Hawryluk, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

1

Matt Crispe, RF

3

1

1

0

0

0

Joe DeMaio, CF

3

1

1

0

0

1

Rich Rountree, LF

3

0

3

2

0

0

Nick Rocco, DH

3

0

0

0

0

0

--Ryan Boyle, 2B

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kyle Lona, C

3

0

0

0

0

2

Totals

26

3

8

3

0

4

2B: Johnson 2, DeMaio
SF: Janofsky
GIDP: Rocco
SB: Rountree
CS: Rountree

Toms River North

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Kevin Blum, CF

3

0

0

0

0

0

Joe Venditto, DH

2

0

0

0

0

2

--David Cordoma, DH

0

0

0

0

1

0

Joe Rose, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

1

Mike Tiplady, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

1

Jeff Ciervo, RF

3

0

2

0

0

0

Brandon Fischer, 2B

1

0

0

0

0

1

--Jake Loffredo, 2B

2

0

0

0

0

1

Ryan Larsen, DH

3

0

0

0

0

1

Owen Sulfrain, C

2

0

0

0

0

1

Mike Nyisztor, SS

2

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

24

0

2

0

1

9

 

 

Jackson Memorial

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Brandon Janofsky (W, 1-0)

7

2

0

0

1

9

0

 

Toms River North

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Doug Molnar (L, 2-1)

7

8

3

3

0

4

0

 

Pitches-Strikes: Janofsky 95-68, Molnar 66-50
Groundouts-Flyouts: Janofsky 8-2, Molnar 6-3