*Photo gallery by Ray Richardson*

TOMS RIVER – Christian Brothers Academy head coach Marty Kenney said after Saturday’s NJSIAA Non-Public A final against undefeated Don Bosco that he never saw this as a “David vs. Goliath” game and did not understand why anyone would view the match-up in that light.

As it turned out, it probably was a David vs. Goliath match-up, and Goliath – wearing No. 44 for CBA – never gave David a chance.

Junior right-hander Luca Dalatri pitched a four-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and one walk against the No. 9 team in the nation, according to MaxPreps, and also belted a solo home run to lead the Colts to a convincing 7-0 win over the previously unbeaten Ironmen at Toms River East.

Photo by Matt Manley

“This was definitely the most important game I’ve ever pitched,” Dalatri said. “I’ve said all along that these are the types of games I want to pitch in. I had to focus on every pitch. That short porch out there in right, especially against a good hitting team, was always in the back of my mind, so I didn’t want to take a pitch off. I was up in the zone a little early, but I’ve been focusing on some mechanical adjustments that I was, fortunately, able to get squared away.”

The win gives CBA its fifth championship this season, making the Colts just the second Shore Conference team ever – along with the 2004 Wall team – to win all five possible championships in one season. CBA also won the Class A North co-title (with Middletown South), the Monmouth County Tournament, the Shore Conference Tournament and also the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A Tournament en route to its third ever Non-Public A title and first since 2009.

“We’ve been playing with a lot of confidence and our guys weren’t going to take a back seat to anybody,” said Kenney, whose 2008 team lost to an undefeated Don Bosco team in the Non-Public A Final, 5-4, before coming back and winning the title in 2009. “Our kids weren’t intimidated by Don Bosco. You could tell they had somewhat of an ego and you could tell by their presence, but we weren’t going to back off, that’s for sure.”

With his performance on Saturday, Dalatri improved to 20-0 over the last two years, completing his second consecutive unbeaten season for the Colts. He capped his junior season with a 9-0 record, a 0.89 earned-run average, and 122 strikeouts against just seven walks. He threw just one shutout in his previous nine starts this season, but saved his best game for his team’s biggest game.

“The thing that’s always been great about Luca, which separates him from others, is he’s always had command of his pitches at an early age,” Kenney said. “I’ve never had a freshman with that kind of command and that kind of velocity while working the inner and outer third of the plate. Rarely does he make mistakes down the middle, and that’s rare.”

Don Bosco managed one baserunner in each of the first six innings against Dalatri, but he pitched around the danger each time and never allowed a runner to reach third. He surrendered four singles, hit the lead-off batter in the bottom of the third and walked the lead-off man in the fifth. He also capped the fifth by inducing a 6-4-3 three double-play turned by the senior double-play combination of shortstop Matt D’Angelo and second baseman Andrew Buccellato.

All four hitters to single and all six to reach base against Dalatri were right-handed batters, and the three left-handed hitters in the Don Bosco lineup – No. 2 hitter Tyler Panno, No. 4 hitter Tristan Dacey and No. 7 hitter Brian Meerholz – combined to go 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts against the CBA right-hander.

Of Dalatri’s 12 strikeouts, nine of them came with the fastball as his put-away pitch, while going to the breaking ball on two of them and the changeup on the other.

“I felt like I commanded all of my pitches today and I had a good scouting report on their lineup so I was confident in what we were trying to do against them,” Dalatri said. “When I have command of everything, I’ll usually get outs, whether it’s a right-handed hitter or left-handed hitter.”

Before Dalatri even took the mound Saturday morning, his battery mate and fellow University of North Carolina Class of 2016 commit staked him to a 2-0 lead. Junior catcher Brandon Martorano belted an 0-2 fastball from Seton Hall recruit and Don Bosco left-hander Cullen Dana over the right-field fence for a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the first. Junior center fielder Cid Porter was hit by a Dana pitch to start the game and after Dana got ahead on Martorano with two fastballs, the junior catcher punched a third fastball into the air and a steady wind carried it well over the right-field fence for Martorano’s 11th home run of the season.

“He beat me with two fastballs to get up 0-2 on me and I was sitting breaking ball and it never came,” Martorano said. “He threw a fastball and I just let it get deep and got it up in the air. I saw it was high enough and it kept going. I heard (first base) coach (Joe LaRocca) yelling and I was just overcome with emotion. It was a great feeling and a great start for us, especially with Luca on the mound.”

During CBA’s 14-game winning streak to end the season, Martorano hit eight of his home runs and matched the 11 home runs hit by 2013 graduate Joe Dudek, who now plays at Martorano's future home at North Carolina.

CBA added to its lead in the top of the second when the Colts loaded the bases with one out against Dana on an infield single by junior third baseman James Miller, a bunt single by Porter with one out and a hit-by-pitch by Buccellato. Senior right fielder Will Morgan followed by drawing a four-pitch walk to force home Miller, and after Dana struck out Martorano for the second out, he hit Dalatri in the leg to force in the second run of the inning, putting CBA ahead, 4-0.

The Colts tacked on one run each in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, beginning with a mammoth home run to right-center field by Dalatri to lead off the fifth and knock Dana out of the game. Prior to Saturday, Dana entered play with a 9-0 record and a 0.23 ERA, but CBA touched him up for five runs and seven of the 10 Colts hits. The home run was Dalatri’s ninth of the year, the second-leading total in the Shore Conference behind his catcher.

Porter blasted a one-out triple to the warning track in left-center and scored on a sharp single to left by Buccellato to stretch the CBA lead to 6-0 in the sixth. The Colts capped the scoring in the seventh, when senior left fielder Shane Turk doubled to the wall in right-center and scored on an RBI single by senior designated hitter Trey Nelson.

“The great thing about today was how we played for seven innings,” said Porter, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored. “We got those early runs, and we didn’t let up. We kept adding a run and adding another and another and that’s how we wanted to play today. It was a total team win and Luca was great, as always.”

Dalatri never threw more than 15 pitches nor fewer than 13 in any inning until the seventh, when he retired the side in order for the first time all day on seven pitches. He coaxed a fly out to right field to start the inning, induced a pop up to Miller at third for the second out, then struck out catcher Frank Nigro looking on a fastball to set off the CBA celebration.

“We’ve been focusing on the next game for the last month or so, so it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Martorano said. “In a little while, it will sink in what we’ve accomplished. We’ll enjoy it, and then it’s on to summer ball.”

Both Dalatri and Martorano gave the Colts a scare in the bottom of the third. Dalatri lost his footing while throwing away a pick-off attempt to first and limped around the mound for several minutes before throwing three warm-up pitches and going back to work. Three pitches later, Martorano took a foul ball off the mask that called for attention from the trainer, but he would also stay in the game.

By conquering a nationally-ranked Ironmen team, Dalatri put his team in the discussion for the best Shore Conference team ever while also cementing his own legacy as one of the Shore Conference’s best high school players. He already owns CBA’s all-time wins record (25) and will have a chance to break the Shore Conference record for career wins, held by former Toms River East standout and current Rutgers pitching coach Casey Gaynor, who racked up 34 wins with the Raiders. In his three seasons with the Colts, Dalatri is now 25-2 with a 0.77 ERA, 252 strikeouts, 32 walks and 107 hits allowed in 182 2/3 innings.

The CBA dugout greets Luca Dalatri after his solo home run in the fifth Saturday against Don Bosco. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

“I said from the time he got here that he was the best I’ve ever had at his age,” Kenney said. “He might not have been the best player overall as a freshman, but he was the best for his age when he was a 15-year-old.

“The sky’s the limit. I don’t know where he’s going to go from here. I hate to say he is going to be a pro baseball player but he will probably pitch professionally. At what level, who knows? You’ve got to continue to get better, which is what he’s done.”

“It’s a great feeling and I’ll enjoy it for a few days,” Dalatri said. “After that, I’ll get back to work and start preparing to do it again next year.”

 

Box Score

CBA 7, Don Bosco 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

CBA (27-5)

2

2

0

0

1

1

1

7

10

1

Don Bosco (29-1)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

4

 

CBA

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Cid Porter, CF

4

3

3

0

0

0

Andrew Buccellato, 2B

4

0

1

1

0

2

Will Morgan, RF

3

0

0

1

1

2

Brandon Martorano, C

4

1

2

2

0

2

Luca Dalatri, P

3

1

1

2

0

0

Shane Turk, LF

3

1

1

0

1

1

Matt D'Angelo, SS

4

0

0

0

0

1

Trey Nelson, DH

4

0

1

1

0

1

--Kenny Campbell, 1B

0

0

0

0

0

0

James Miller, 3B

4

1

1

0

0

1

Totals

33

7

10

7

2

10

2B: Turk
3B: Porter
HR: Martorano (1st inning off Dana, 1 on, 2 out), Dalatri (5th inning off Dana, none on, none out)
SB: Shaw, Turk, D’Angelo

 

Don Bosco

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Alex Santos, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

1

Tyler Panno, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

3

Josh Shaw, SS

3

0

2

0

0

0

Tristan Dacey, DH

3

0

0

0

0

2

Sean Buckhaut, RF

3

0

1

0

0

0

Nick Berger, CF

3

0

1

0

0

1

Brian Meerholz, LF

3

0

0

0

0

2

Frank Nigro, C

2

0

0

0

1

2

Riley Iafrate, 2B

1

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

24

0

4

0

1

12

GIDP: Santos

 

CBA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Luca Dalatri (W, 9-0)

7

4

0

0

1

12

0

 

Don Bosco

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Cullen Dana (L, 9-1)

4

4

5

5

2

7

2

Vitale Jangols

2.1

6

2

2

0

2

0

Alex Mastando

0.1

0

0

0

0

1

0

 

Dana pitched to one batter in the fifth

HBP: Porter (by Dana), Buccellato (by Dana), Dalatri (by Dana), Iafrate (by Dalatri)
Pitches-Strikes: Dalatri 89-66, Dana 82-51, Jangols 42-30, Mastando 4-3
Groundouts-Flyouts: Dalatri 3-2, Dana 0-2, Jangols 3-2, Mastando 0-0