TOMS RIVER – Junior right-handed starting pitcher Brandon Pallante and the Jackson Liberty baseball team were prepared to face an aggressive Donovan Catholic team that collectively looked to swing early in the count.

It was an early swing by Jackson Liberty, however, that sparked the Lions to a pivotal Shore Conference Class B South win Tuesday at the Whitty Road Complex.

Senior Howard Taylor jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Donovan Catholic sophomore Zach Mann with one on and two out in the top of the first inning and launched it over the center field fence for the first blow in Jackson Liberty’s 5-2 win over the Griffins. The win bumps defending champion Jackson Liberty into sole possession of first place in B South after the two teams entered the day deadlocked in the standings.

Taylor finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and was a key cog in a 14-hit attack for Jackson Liberty, one that did not walk or strike out against Donovan Catholic pitching in the game. The home run was the second by the Lions this season and the first for Taylor this season.

“Our game plan is always to look for a first-pitch fastball early and attack it,” Taylor said. “I was looking for a fastball in the middle, and I got it one. I just put a nice, easy swing on it.”

“Howard’s been swinging a good bat all season long,” Jackson Liberty coach Jim Rankin said. “We knew coming into the season he was going to be the guy we relied on, and he came out hot to start the season. He’s slowed down a little bit, but that’s to be expected when you come out on fire like he did.”

Sophomore center fielder Kyle Tavaska led off the game with the first of his three hits, an infield single on a ground ball to shortstop. He would later hit two doubles off the left-center field fence on the way to a 3-for-4 game with two runs scored.

“Kyle struggled early, but we knew eventually Kyle was going to hit his stride,” Rankin said. “Much like our team, he’s starting to figure it out. He’s starting to see the ball better and you can tell by the two balls he hit in the gap today, he’s just starting to see it better than he was before.”

Jackson Liberty built a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning while Pallante quieted the Donovan Catholic bats over the first four frames. After senior third baseman Russ Petranto led off the bottom of the first with a single, Pallante retired the next nine batters and did not allow another hit until junior center fielder Kyle Malloy led off the fifth with a double inside the third base bag and down the left-field line.

Jackson Liberty junior Brandon Pallante allowed two hits over five innings to help the Lions top Donovan Catholic on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Malloy came around to score on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Matt Puleo to break up the shutout and Pallante was finished at 60 pitches after getting through the fifth.

“We’ve got a stretch coming up where we could potentially play 10 games in 12 days, so we talked to the (pitchers) about budgeting innings and keeping everybody fresh,” Rankin said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a staff of 12 pitchers that we can dip into for a stretch like this. We have about six, and we trust them all to be able to come in and get outs. You don’t like to plan too far ahead when you are trying to win today, but that’s high school baseball, especially as you get later in the year.”

In his five innings of work, Pallante walked one, allowed two hits and did not strike out a batter. Armed with an effective changeup, Pallante induced five outs on infield pop-ups.

“I felt like my offspeed stuff was good today,” Pallante said. “My change was working pretty well. I wasn’t getting a lot of strikeouts, but it was keeping them off balance and getting weak contact.”

“Donovan has been a team in recent years that likes to sit fastball early and attack, which makes Brandon a good matchup for us,” Rankin said. “Brandon’s best pitch is his changeup, so we were looking to pitch backwards today with his offspeed stuff and use the fastball as a change of pace. Not everybody is going to have that overpowering fastball, and Brandon understands how to make his fastball better by using his other pitches.”

Junior right-hander Ryan Van Wickle relieved Pallante and surrendered a walk to Petranto before senior second baseman Charlie Dimino reached on an error to put runners on first and second with none out. After Matt Drake flied out to left field, the Griffins attempted a double steal and Jackson Liberty catcher Billy Hart threw out Petranto at third for the second out of the inning.

Senior catcher Steve Lazicki followed with an RBI single to center to score Dimino, but Hart’s throw to third to get Petranto made sure the damage in the sixth was minimal. Van Wickle retired the side in order in the seventh, including the only strikeout of the game by either team to end it.

Van Wickle also went 2-for-4 with a double at the plate, while senior second baseman Dylan Milleman was 3-for-4 in the win.

Jackson Liberty made the score 3-0 in the second when junior right fielder Ken Pommerencke singled to left to allow designated hitter Mike Zak to score from second on a fielding error on the hit.

The Lions scored another unearned run against Mann in the fourth when Pommerencke reached on an error, went to third on the first of Tavaska’s two doubles and scored on a sacrifice fly by senior left fielder Matt Pinto. Tavaska then scored on an RBI single to center by Taylor.

Pinto had the quietest offensive day of Jackson Liberty’s top three hitters in the lineup, but he entered Tuesday hitting comfortably above .500 after going 4-for-4 in a win over Lakewood on Monday. Pinto also had the team’s lone home run prior to Taylor’s first-inning blast, which Pinto hit against rival Jackson Memorial on April 18.

“The kid absolutely flies,” Rankin said of Pinto, who beat out a ground ball to second base for his lone hit Tuesday. “And he plays to his strengths. He doesn’t try to put the ball in the gaps. He knows if he puts the ball on the ground, he gives himself a good shot.”

Since that loss to their crosstown rivals on April 18, the Lions have won four straight and have shot past both Barnegat and Donovan Catholic for the Class B South lead. Jackson Liberty and Donovan Catholic will play one another again on Wednesday in a rare back-to-back meeting, and Jackson Liberty will also play Barnegat twice in four days beginning with a trip to Barnegat on Monday.

“We’re playing well and we’re still hungry,” Taylor said. “We play these guys again tomorrow, and we want to get after it and get another win.”

 

Box Score

Jackson Liberty 5, Donovan Catholic 2

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Jackson Liberty (7-4, 7-2)

2

1

0

2

0

0

0

5

14

1

Donovan Catholic (9-5, 6-3)

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

2

3

3

 

Jackson Liberty

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Kyle Tavaska, CF

4

2

3

0

0

0

Matt Pinto, LF

3

0

1

1

0

0

Howard Taylor, 1B-3B

4

1

2

3

0

0

Ryan Van Wickle, 3B-P

4

0

2

0

0

0

Dylan Milleman, 2B

4

0

3

0

0

0

Brandon Pallante, P-1B

4

0

1

0

0

0

--Jon Gonzalez, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Mike Zak, DH

4

1

1

0

0

0

--Billy Hart, C

0

0

0

0

0

0

Sean Galvin, SS

2

0

0

0

0

0

Ken Pommerencke, RF

3

1

1

0

0

0

Totals

32

5

14

4

0

0

2B: Tavaska 2, Van Wickle
SF: Pinto
SAC: Galvin
GIDP: Pallante
FIDP: Taylor
CS: Milleman

 

Donovan Catholic

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Russ Petranto, 3B

2

0

1

0

1

0

Charlie Dimino, 2B

2

1

0

0

1

0

Matt Drake, SS

3

0

0

0

0

0

Steve Lazicki, C

3

0

1

1

0

0

--Alex Loffredo, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Mike Marron, LF

3

0

0

0

0

0

Kyle Malloy, CF

3

1

1

0

0

0

Nick Povoa, DH

3

0

0

0

0

0

--Aaron Holowienka, RF

0

0

0

0

0

0

Mike Dimino, 1B

2

0

0

0

0

1

--Matt Puleo, PH

0

0

0

1

0

0

Zach Mann, P

2

0

0

0

0

0

--Andrew Jarvis, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

23

2

3

2

2

1

2B: Malloy
SF: Puleo
Outfield Assist: Holowienka
SB: Drake, C. Dimino
CS: Petranto

 

Jackson Liberty

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Brandon Pallante (W, 2-0)

5

2

1

1

1

0

0

Ryan Van Wickle

2

1

1

0

1

1

0

 

Donovan Catholic

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Zach Mann (L, 1-3)

6

12

5

3

0

0

1

Andrew Jarvis

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

 

Pitches-Strikes: Pallante 60-36, Van Wickle 32-18, Mann 93-56, Jarvis 14-9
Groundouts-Flyouts: Pallante 4-6, Van Wickle 3-1, Mann 6-4, Jarvis 1-1