LAKEWOOD - Prior to the start of a season, longtime Christian Brothers Academy head baseball coach Marty Kenney and the members of his coaching staff will routinely meet with individual members of the team and discuss the expectations the staff has for the player.

Luca Dalatri was the lone starting pitcher returning from last year's Shore Conference Class A North championship team, and since Dalatri is only a sophomore, Kenney kept the message simple.

"The message was to just dominate," Dalatri said.

The simplest of messages would have been the tallest order for many, but Kenney's request was not founded in fantasy. Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, the sophomore standout dominated one last time.

Dalatri became the first CBA pitcher since current Boston Red Sox prospect Pat Light in 2008 to finish a season 11-0 by shutting out Barnegat, 2-0, Sunday night in the Shore Conference Tournament final, giving the Colts their fifth overall SCT championship and first since 2002.

CBA won its first SCT title since 2002 by beating Barnegat, 2-0, on Sunday night at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Pitching on three days' rest, Dalatri allowed a season-high seven hits, but stranded eight Barnegat base-runners thanks to nine strikeouts, only one walk and a CBA defense that did not commit an error. Just four days earlier, Dalatri turned in an eight-inning complete game on a season-high 113 pitches in a 2-1, extra-inning win over Red Bank Catholic. On Sunday, he fired 76 of his 103 pitches for strikes.

"When I was out coaching third base, the third-base umpire said to me, 'I guess he's not as sharp today,'" said Kenney, who capped his 40th season at CBA with a title. "That just goes to show you how crazy the expectations have become. He was throwing two or three strikes for every ball, which is what he's been doing all year, and it's something I've never had. Their guys were battling and getting their bats on the ball, but there wasn't a lot of great contact and by the middle of the game, he was as good as we've seen him."

Barnegat had at least one baserunner in six of the seven innings and put runners on first and second with none out in the fifth, but Dalatri struck out the Bengals' three top hitters by batting average and slugging percentage - Nik Fraim, Jared Kacso and Ed Rogan - to end the threat with the tying runs on second and third.

"Their two-hitter and four-hitter had some good swings on me earlier in the game, so I knew what I wanted to stay away from in those at-bats," Dalatri said. "(Fraim) hit a fastball the first time, so I knew I couldn't go back to that unless I threw it harder. I got him to two strikes and I threw a curveball in the dirt, which isn't where I wanted it, but fortunately, he chased it.

"Against the next two guys, I felt confident I could get a well-located fastball by them, so that's what we went with there."

While Dalatri said he had all four pitches - fastball, curveball, slider and changeup - working Sunday after struggling with his breaking ball on Wednesday, his fastball was the go-to pitch in inning-ending strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings. With regard to his velocity, Dalatri appeared to show no ill-affects of pitching on short rest, which he did once this year, but only between a relief appearance and a start, not two starts.

Dalatri K seals SCT championship from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

"I didn't throw a bullpen between starts, which was challenging," Dalatri said. "I wasn't all that pleased with my curveball in the last game and not having a day to work on it off the mound was a little unsettling, but my coaches told me I had to cut it (the bullpen session) out to save some of my strength and it worked. I had all four pitches working for me today."

"We were having some good at-bats against him early on, but in that fifth inning, it looked like he took it to another level there, no question," said Barnegat coach Dan McCoy, who knows what "another level" looks like considering his sophomore ace - Jason Groome - has had a year similar to Dalatri (0.57 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings) and his son, Mark, currently pitches for Wake Forest University.

Dalatri huge strikeout ends the 5th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Dalatri finished off his ninth complete game of the season in grand fashion, striking out Ryan Ulrich and Fraim on three pitches each and closing out the game with a swinging strike on a slider to the Barnegat catcher.

"It's definitely a special feeling to be out there on the mound when you clinch a championship," Dalatri said. "I wasn't out there for the Monmouth County (championship) game, but it was still a good feeling. To get the last out of the game like that and to have the team run to the mound, it's pretty special."

Dalatri finishes his breakout sophomore season with 11 wins in 11 appearances, including complete games in nine of his 10 starts. In 72 1/3 innings this season, Dalatri allowed 37 hits, walked 12, struck out 90 and logged an earned-run average of 0.39 - the second best single-season ERA in CBA's illustrious history behind former Philadelphia Phillies' draft pick Kyle Slate's 0.38 ERA in 2007.

"I thought we'd have a pretty good offensive team coming into the season, and he was our only pitcher coming back so we were going to be asking a lot of him," Kenney said. "We were asking him to take the ball every start and shut teams down and realistically, I was expecting 10 wins out of him. I knew he could do it because he did it whenever we gave him the ball last year. He lost two games when we didn't score more than a run for him, so it was just a matter of him maturing a little bit and getting a little bit more support behind him."

Dalatri huge strikeout ends the 5th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

The perfect season from its ace was the catalyst in a return to glory for CBA, which won its first Monmouth County Tournament championship in six years and then won its first SCT title since 2002, which was the third of three straight titles. Dalatri accounted for two of CBA's Monmouth County wins and won all four of its SCT games, including a win in relief in an 11-1 victory over Shore Regional in the round of 16. He later pitched a six-inning shutout in an 11-0 win over Wall - his hometown team - before his eight-inning gem against Red Bank Catholic.

Without Dalatri on the mound, the Colts maintained a 7-8 record and were able to win an extra-inning game against St. Rose in the MCT round of 16 and also beat Colts Neck, 9-5 in the MCT final.

"It's such an awesome feeling knowing he's out there," senior center fielder Ryan Ramiz said. "We scored two runs today and two runs when he's on the mound feels like ten. There's a comfort level when he's on the mound, and any time we can score runs early knowing the other team has to score off him, it's a huge boost."

Ramiz and fellow senior Pete Papcun were both key parts to a strong returning lineup from last year's Class A North championship team, but neither had been a part of a tournament champion in their first years at CBA, nor was the talented 2013 senior class - which included three current Atlantic Coast Conference players - they had to replace.

"Winning A North is nice, it was a great accomplishment for our team last year, but CBA baseball is about winning championships," Ramiz said. "To do that this year, to bring back CBA baseball and put it back on the map, it feels really good.

"When I'm back at CBA five years from now, when I see those two balls on the outfield wall with '2014' on them, it's going to feel pretty special."

CBA junior right fielder Will Morgan drove in Ramiz for both runs in the game, the first in the bottom of the first and the second in the third. Ramiz led off the game with a double down the left-field line and scored on Morgan's double to deep right field to open the scoring.

Ryan Ramiz leadoff double from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Will Morgan RBI double in the 1st from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Ramiz was hit by Barnegat starter John Corbett to lead off the fourth, moved to second on a wild pitch, tagged up and took third on a pop-up to shallow right field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Morgan to right field.

Corbett (6-2) allowed two runs on only four hits while walking only one and striking out three in just his second loss of the season. He was the winning pitcher in three of Barnegat's first four SCT wins over Keansburg, Toms River East and Wall.

John Corbett strikeout in the 1st from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

For the early part of the game, the Bengals made life difficult on Dalatri by making consistent contact throughout the lineup and putting men on base against the right-hander. Fraim started Barnegat's offense with a long double to the warning track in left field with one out in the first inning and Rogan later sent Ramiz back near the track in left-center with a long fly out in the fourth.

Other than those two swings however, Dalatri was able to keep the damage to a minimum. Senior center fielder Joe Letinski ripped a clean single through the middle in the second and freshman Aaron McLaughlin lined a single to left to lead off the seventh, but the other four Barnegat hits were a combination of infield singles and softly hit balls in the air that found the outfield grass. No. 9 hitter and sophomore right fielder Collin O'Conner went 2-for-3 against Dalatri with an infield single and a shallow line drive into right.

Nik Fraim 2B in the 1st from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

"We hit two balls against him early on that would have been home runs at any high school field," McCoy said. "So we came out and swung the bats well but when it came to pressure situations, he got real tough and made pitches against us."

Barnegat ends its season with a school-record 20 wins and was the only team in the Shore Conference to appear in three tournament championship games - the Ocean County Tournament final, the Shore Conference Tournament final and the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II final. Those were the first three championship games Barnegat has ever played in during its eight seasons as a varsity program, but the accomplishment is bittersweet because all three appearances ended in defeat.

"This is championship baseball," McCoy said. "We played in three championship games and had three pitchers shut us down. You're going to face pitchers like that, and we had pitching performances like that in these last two (championship) games but the other team found a way to score and that's the difference in the game. It's something you have to learn from experience, and I think we will. It's a tough way to learn a lesson, but we'll be back."

Aaron McLaughlin single in the 7th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

With a single season that ranks among the best of all-time in the rich history of the CBA program, Dalatri has now put himself in position to rewrite CBA's record book with two more healthy high school seasons. In fact, he is off to such a fast start to his high school career that he may need only one more season to break every career record in the book at CBA.

Heading into his junior season, Dalatri will be within striking distance of every school career record for pitchers. He is 71 1/3 innings shy of the career mark (183 by Blaine Cordes), 42 away from the strikeout record (172 by Mike Sclafani), 6 away from the wins record (21 by Sclafani and Kevin Lillis) and currently running away with the career ERA mark. After this season, Dalatri's career ERA stands at 0.68, well below Slate, the current record-holder. He also is in striking distance of the Shore Conference career record for wins (34) set by former Toms River East star and current Rutgers University assistant Casey Gaynor.

Kenney and Dalatri know not to take anything for granted after watching 2013 graduate John McCarren get off to a torrid start last season only to suffer a season-ending ankle injury near the end of April. With that said, Kenney knows exactly what he has on his hands as long as Dalatri is regularly taking the ball.

"He's definitely right up there with those guys," Kenney said. "He's dominated every time he's been on the mound. I guess the big difference with him is the guys who have had similar seasons have done it as juniors and seniors, while he's done it as a sophomore. I guess that puts him ahead of those guys, but it also means he's going to have a lot more pressure on him because people are going to expect it from him.

"He's handled it so far and the sky's the limit with his potential, there's no doubt about that. He's certainly done all we could have hoped he'd do so far."

All he'd hoped from him and all his coach ever asked from him: just dominate.

 

 

Box Score

CBA 2, Barnegat 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Barnegat (20-10)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

1

CBA (18-8)

1

0

1

0

0

0

x

2

4

0

 

Barnegat

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Ryan Ulrich, LF

4

0

1

0

0

1

Nik Fraim, C

4

0

1

0

0

2

-- Max Rittner, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Jared Kacso, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

2

Ed Rogan, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

2

Matt Owens, DH

3

0

0

0

0

0

Conner Hoeler, 2B

3

0

1

0

0

1

Joe Letinski, CF

2

0

1

0

1

0

Aaron McLaughlin, SS

3

0

1

0

0

1

Collin O'Conner, RF

3

0

2

0

0

0

-- Justin Geduldick, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

-- Marcus Nasce, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

28

0

7

0

1

9

2B: Fraim

 

CBA

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Ryan Ramiz, CF

2

2

1

0

0

0

Brandon Martorano, C

3

0

0

0

0

0

Will Morgan, RF

2

0

1

2

0

0

John Moschella, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

2

Pete Papcun, 3B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Luca Dalatri, P

2

0

0

0

1

0

-- Brendan Shaw, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Griffin Arnott, LF

2

0

0

0

0

1

Andrew Buccellato, 2B

2

0

1

0

0

0

Trey Nelson, DH

2

0

0

0

0

0

-- Mark Mancuso, SS

0

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

21

2

4

2

1

3

2B: Ramiz, Morgan
SAC: Nelson
SF: Morgan
GIDP: Arnott

 

Barnegat

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

John Corbett, L (6-2)

6.0

4

2

2

1

3

0

 

CBA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Luca Dalatri, W (11-0)

7.0

7

0

0

1

9

0

 

HBP: Ramiz (by Corbett)
Pitches-Strikes: Corbett 69-42, Dalatri 103-76
Groundouts-Flyouts: Corbett 8-5, Dalatri 6-4