COLTS NECK – No baseball team in the Shore Conference has won more games decided by one run over the last two seasons than Colts Neck has, and yet in a tie game against No. 17 seed Freehold Boro on Saturday in the Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16, the top-seeded Cougars were a little more on edge than usual, according to coach Mike Yorke.

Having already been eliminated in their first Monmouth County Tournament game, Colts Neck faced the possibility of another quick exit from a tournament. While the offense struggled to come through late in the game, the Cougars pitching delivered in clutch spots and – as has been the case so many times over the last two years – Colts Neck eventually found its big hit.

Junior Andrew Conforti hit a ground ball inside the third base bag and down the left-field line with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th to plate the winning run to propel Colts Neck past Freehold, 2-1, in an extra-inning struggle.

Colts Neck advanced to the SCT quarterfinals Wednesday, where it will host eighth-seeded Red Bank Catholic after beating the Caseys twice during the regular season in Class B North.

“We always say when we’re up in those situations that the pressure is on the pitcher,” Conforti said. “We had the bases loaded and one out, so my job was just to put the ball in play somewhere, preferably in the outfield. Once I got ahead in the count, I was able to look for a good pitch because I knew he had to throw me a strike.”

Junior Tim Cavrak moved to the mound from his starting shortstop position and earned the win with one inning of relief in just his second varsity appearance as a pitcher. Senior left-hander Mario Ferraioli relieved starter Chris Murphy with two out in the top of the sixth and retired all 10 batters he faced in 3 1/3 innings. Ferraioli struck out six of the 10 Freehold hitters who stepped to the plate against him.

“We needed to limit how much we used Ferraioli today because we have our state tournament game Monday,” Yorke said. “He was throwing the ball great and under different circumstances, we probably would have stayed with him, but we went to Timmy and he did a great job, especially for a kid in his second varsity appearance on the mound.”

Colts Neck’s leadoff man reached base in each of the final six innings and the Cougars stranded at least one runner in scoring position the first five prior to breaking through in the 10th.

Senior second baseman Sam Devitis started the winning rally by reaching on an error for the second straight plate appearance. Catcher Jeremy Slad sacrificed Devitis to second base and designated hitter Jake McTigue beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game, which gave the Cougars runners on the corners with one out.

Freehold coach Jon Block elected to walk No. 8 hitter and third baseman Brendan Clarke to load the bases for Conforti. Freehold reliever James Manos fall behind Conforti 3-and-0, and after taking one strike, Conforti ripped the ball down the third-base line to chase home Devitis and set off the celebration.

“As a junior in my first year on varsity, moments like this mean a lot,” Conforti said. “We have a good group of guys who let everyone know that they are part of the team, and I always look for any chance to help us win.”

Senior right fielder Tyler Kay went 3-for-4 with a run scored at the plate and delivered the defensive play of the game when he threw a runner out at home for the second out of the top of the fifth with the score still tied at 1. Dante Cuzzolino tried to score from second on a single by Marco Meleo, and Kay's throw led Slad directly into Cuzzolino's path. Cuzzolino barreled over Slad, but the catcher hung on to record the out.

“I knew the throw was going to get there, but I wasn’t sure it was going to be in time,” Kay said. “I saw Slad catch it and take a shot. Thank God he held on.”

Freehold third baseman Anthony Matteo preserved the tie in the bottom of the fifth with a diving stab on a one-hop shot by Cavrak that led to an inning-ending fielder's choice.

Murphy allowed just one run on five hits with eight strikeouts, but walked four and needed 130 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings.

“We gave the ball to Murph with the idea that he was going to go the whole game,'' Yorke said. "You could see when he went out for the sixth that he was losing some life on his fastball and wasn’t getting the same snap to his breaking ball."

Freehold jumped on top in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Tom Holdorf, who finished 2-for-4. Colts Neck pulled even in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by first baseman Jordan Gonzalez.

Steve Rullo pitched into the sixth inning, allowing a run on only three hits while striking out one and walking three. James Manos worked into and out of trouble throughout his 4 1/3 innings of relief for Freehold and allowed one unearned run on four hits and five walks - three of them intentional.

Manos faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the ninth with Kay at the plate. Manos struck Kay out on a 2-2 breaking ball on the outside corner and induced an inning-ending pop-up off the bat of Gonzalez. In less than five innings of work, Manos coaxed four pop-ups in the infield.

In addition to pitching his way out of trouble, Manos also helped himself by cutting the potential winning run down at home plate for the final out of the eighth inning. Devitis tried to score from second on an infield single by McTigue, but Manos alertly threw the ball home right after McTigue was called safe at first, allowing Freehold catcher Nick LaMorte to make the tag.

“There was definitely some added pressure to this game, and I guess it just comes with the number one seed,” Yorke said. “I keep telling these guys, ‘You are number one for a reason.' We need to start believing that we’re that good.”

Colts Neck increased its Shore-Conference-leading win total to 21 with Saturday’s victory, and the Cougars have been able to survive this recent run without standout first baseman Tyler Kapuscinski, who broke the hamate bone in his right hand on May 4 and could miss the remainder of the season while recovering.

“You can’t replace a Tyler Kapuscinski, but you try to do it as a group,” Yorke said. “He does so much for us, from the big hits to simply lengthening the lineup so that other guys slide into their ideal spots. Not having him definitely hurts, but we’re all about next man up around here.”

 

 

Box Score

Colts Neck 2, Freehold 1 (10 Innings)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

R

H

E

Freehold (14-12)

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

5

2

Colts Neck (21-2)

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

8

0

 

Freehold

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Frank Granato, LF

3

0

0

0

1

2

Chris Cassandra, SS

4

0

0

0

1

3

Dante Cuzzolino, 2B

3

0

0

0

2

1

Nick LaMorte, C

3

0

0

0

0

2

--Mark Costanzo, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Marco Meleo, RF

5

1

2

0

0

1

Nick Zuppe, CF

4

0

0

0

0

4

Tom Holdorf, 1B

4

0

2

1

0

0

Ryan Yee, DH

4

0

0

0

0

1

Anthony Matteo, 3B

4

0

1

0

0

1

Totals

34

1

5

1

4

15

SAC: LaMorte
SB: Meleo 2

 

Colts Neck

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Mike Antico, CF

3

0

0

0

2

0

Tim Cavrak, SS-P

4

0

0

0

1

0

Tyler Kay, RF

4

1

3

0

1

1

Jordan Gonzalez, 1B

5

0

1

1

0

0

Sam Devitis, 2B

5

1

0

0

0

0

Jeremy Slad, C

2

0

0

0

2

0

--Nick Umbro, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Jake McTigue, DH

5

0

3

0

0

0

--Chris Murphy, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Mario Ferraioli, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Nick Umbro, SS

0

0

0

0

0

0

Brendan Clarke, 3B

1

0

0

0

2

0

--Lou Rondinella, PH

0

0

0

0

0

0

Andrew Conforti, RF

3

0

1

1

0

2

Totals

32

2

8

2

8

3

2B: Gonzalez, Kay
IBB: Antico 2, Clarke
SAC: Conforti 2, Rondinella, Slad
Outfield Assist: Kay

Freehold

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Steve Rullo

5

3

1

1

3

1

0

James Manos (L)

4.1

5

1

0

5

2

0

 

Colts Neck

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Chris Murphy

5.2

5

1

1

4

8

0

Mario Ferraioli

3.1

0

0

0

0

6

0

Tim Cavrak (W, 1-0)

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

 

Rullo pitched to one batter in the sixth

HBP: Granato (by Murphy), LaMorte (by Cavrak), Clarke (by Manos)
Pitches-Strikes: Rullo 70-40, Manos 81-53, Murphy 130-75, Ferraioli 39-29, Cavrak 20-12
Groundouts-Flyouts: Rullo 6-6, Manos 5-0, Murphy 4-3, Ferraioli 1-2, Cavrak 0-1