OAKHURST – When Freehold Township senior right-hander Kyle Fenton finally got his chance to start a varsity game on the mound on April 18 against Central Regional, it took all of one inning for him to give up a run.

As it turned out, that first run surrendered was not an indicator of struggles to come but rather an outlier within a three-game stretch of dominance.

Wednesday against Ocean in the Monmouth County Tournament round of 16, Fenton fired his second straight shutout and second two-hitter in three starts to help the 12th-seeded Patriots top the No. 5 Spartans, 6-0. The Patriots will host No. 12 Wall – winners of seven straight – in Saturday’s MCT quarterfinals, with Freehold Township looking to reach the semifinals for the second straight year and the third time in seven years after winning the tournament in both 2009 and 2012.

Freehold Township senior Kyle Fenton threw a two-hit shutout Wednesday against Ocean in the Monmouth County Tournament, his second straight shutout of the tournament. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Fenton did not walk a batter, struck out seven and surrendered two singles to the same batter – Ocean starting pitcher and No. 3 hitter Anthony Bartolomei. One batter reached on an error against him, but he still faced just two batters more than the minimum, with senior catcher Joe Silvestrone throwing out a potential base-stealer in the fourth inning. Ocean did not have more than one runner on base against Fenton at any point on Wednesday.

“My curveball wasn’t on like it usually is so I focused on location - really hitting the outside corner and then, when I needed to, come inside,” Fenton said.

“He got ahead of most batters and when Kyle gets ahead of a batter, it’s very hard for them to make good contact,” Silvestrone said. “His curveball wasn’t great today, but his fastball was still enough to get the job done, especially with the location he had. He was displaying really good control in the first inning and kept it going for seven innings.”

Since allowing a run in the first inning against Central, Fenton has now thrown 20 straight scoreless innings, which included a six-hit shutout of Holmdel in the opening round of the Monmouth County Tournament on Saturday.

“He came back on three days' rest, and this is the first time he’s done it,” Freehold Township coach Todd Smith said of Fenton. “This is his third straight start where he’s thrown a complete game. He’s rounding into form and really becoming a pitcher. He didn’t have a great breaking ball today, but he located his fastball well and the defense played well behind him so he just kept pumping strikes in there.”

Fenton has combined with sophomore Ralph Gambino to form a one-two punch that has been hard for opponents to score on. Gambino has a 14 1/3 innings scoreless streak of his own, meaning it has been nearly five full games since a team has scored on either of the Freehold Township right-handers.

“In Ralph’s case, he’s a little ahead of where I thought he’d be because he’s only a sophomore,” Smith said “In Kyle’s case, this is what I expected from him. I did expect it from him a little earlier since he’s a senior, but the bottom line is we’re fighting to get into tournaments and we’re advancing in tournaments like this one, which makes it a great time for these guys to get going.”

The Patriots' battery not only navigated their way through the Spartans' lineup unscathed, but also combined to break a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning. Silvestrone – the Shore Conference leader with six home runs – launched a long fly ball to the wall in center field and legged out a triple with one out in the fifth.

“(Bartolomei) stays on the outer half a lot, but on that one he came in on me,” Silvestrone said. “I got jammed a little bit, but still got it out there. For the most part, pitchers have stayed away, which has been fine because I feel like I have power out that way so I just try to go with what they give me.”

Fenton then followed by hitting a shallow fly ball to center field on the first pitch from Bartolomei, which was deep enough to score Silvestrone from third with the game’s first run.

“All of our games are like this for us,” Fenton said. “We’ve had trouble scoring for most of the year, so it was good to keep it at zero and give us a chance to come back, score some runs and have it be enough to make a difference.”

Freehold Township added a run in the top of the sixth when junior third baseman Brian Oliver drew a one-out walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a single to right field by Gambino, who played shortstop on Wednesday. Oliver then scored on a sacrifice fly by senior second baseman Rob Eriksen, who smacked a low line shot to left-center that Ocean center fielder Sam Maxwell tracked down.

The Patriots put the game out of reach in the seventh, when they put up four runs while chasing Bartolomei after running his pitch count up to 122. Junior first baseman John Carroll doubled home a run on a hard ground ball that rolled into the right-center gap, while junior right fielder Matt Gorman added an RBI infield single to cap the scoring.

Carroll finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI despite leaving the game in the second inning after being hit on the knee by a sharp ground ball by Ocean first baseman Brian Olesen in the first inning. Carroll recovered to retrieve the ball and flip it to Fenton for the last out of the first and singled the following inning in his first at-bat. After running the bases, however, he exited the game to tend to his knee and re-entered in the fifth.

“You had a guy like Joe in the middle of the lineup who hits that triple to get us going,” Smith said. “Then you have John Carroll coming back in after getting banged in the knee early with another big hit and Fenton with the sac fly. We need guys to step up at the opportune times, which sometimes we’ve had and sometimes we haven’t, and today we did.”

Gambino and Eriksen drew consecutive bases-loaded walks to force home runs and make it 5-0 in favor of Freehold Township. Patriots hitters drew nine walks against Ocean pitching, which came one day after Ocean issued eight walks in a 12-3 loss to Wall on Tuesday. Bartolomei struck out eight, but also walked seven and along with right-handed reliever Jon Zimmerman, the two combined to throw 74 of 144 pitches for strikes (51 percent).

“Offensively right now, we’re not really doing a lot,” Ocean coach Cip Apicelli said. “You can’t ask a pitcher to go out and make pressure pitch after pressure pitch for seven straight innings.

“Right now, maybe that’s the problem. Pitchers are going out there and feeling the pressure for 21 outs instead of being able to go out there and relax. Right now, if I was pitching for us, I’d think I’d have to throw a shutout. We have to do a better job of competing at the plate and today we didn’t.”

Freehold Township missed out on scoring opportunities in four innings, stranding at least one runner in scoring position in each inning. Bartolomei struck out the side in the first after a leadoff walk by Gorman, who stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch only to be stranded.

Bartolomei escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the second and stranded runners at second base in both the third and fourth innings. The senior right-hander struck out six over the first three innings.

"(Bartolomei) is good, but when he gave us pitches to hit, we had to make the most of them," Smith said. "Early in the game, we were swinging at pitches out of the zone and letting the good ones go by. We kind of fixed our approach as the game went on and started swinging at pitches in the zone and that was the key."

Silvestrone is the lone returning starter from last year’s team, which lost to eventual champion Christian Brothers Academy in the semifinals. He has been pleasantly surprised by this year’s team.

“Our record doesn’t display how talented we are,” Silvestrone said. “We have a lot of young guys who have really grown into their roles, and I feel like in this last third of the season, they’re going to come up big because they are starting to get it.

“I can’t say I saw this coming. I didn’t really know how we would be. The first two games (wins over South Plainfield and Middletown South) were definitely an eye-opener. We saw how good we could be.”

 

Box Score

Freehold Twp. 6, Ocean 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Freehold Twp. (8-9)

0

0

0

0

1

1

4

6

8

1

Ocean (11-5)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

 

Freehold Twp.

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Matt Gorman, RF

4

0

1

1

1

1

Brandon Roth, CF

5

0

0

0

0

2

Joe Silvestrone, C

3

2

2

0

1

1

Kyle Fenton, P

2

0

1

1

1

1

--Kevin Gordon, CR

0

1

0

0

0

0

John Carroll, 1B

3

1

2

1

0

0

--Austin Ramos, LF

1

0

0

0

0

1

Mike Pirrotta, DH-1B

1

0

0

0

1

1

--Justin Spieler, LF

1

1

0

0

1

1

Brian Oliver, 3B

2

1

1

0

1

1

Ralph Gambino, SS

2

0

1

1

1

1

Rob Eriksen, 2B

1

0

0

2

2

0

Totals

25

6

8

6

9

10

2B: Carroll
3B: Silvestrone
SAC: Oliver, Gambino
SF: Fenton, Eriksen
SB: Gorman, Oliver, Gambino

 

Ocean

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Sam Maxwell, CF

3

0

0

0

0

0

Brian Kochenash, SS

3

0

0

0

0

2

Anthony Bartolomei, P

3

0

2

0

0

0

--Bo Britton, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Jon Zimmerman, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

Brian Olesen, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

1

Marc Chernin, C

3

0

0

0

0

2

Frank Henry, 2B

2

0

0

0

0

0

Tyler Rossback, 3B

2

0

0

0

0

1

Kenny Pickett, LF

2

0

0

0

0

0

Jake Talarico, RF

2

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

23

0

2

0

0

7

CS: Britton

 

Freehold Twp.

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Kyle Fenton (W, 3-2)

7

2

0

0

0

7

0

 

Ocean

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Anthony Bartolomei (L, 2-2)

6.1

7

6

6

7

8

0

Jon Zimmerman

0.2

1

0

0

2

2

0

 

Pitches-Strikes: Fenton 84-55, Bartolomei 122-64, Zimmerman 22-10
Groundouts-Flyouts: Fenton 4-6, Bartolomei 4-4, Zimmerman 0-0