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TOMS RIVER – The zero in the hit column on the scoreboard at Ryan Field at Toms River North began to tempt Jackson Memorial junior right-hander Brandon Janofsky at the end of the fourth inning on Saturday during his team’s NJSIAA Group IV championship game against Roxbury.

By the time the seventh inning rolled around, Janofsky knew he had a chance to cement his name in history and set off a huge celebration on the mound with one more hitless inning. He did not finish off his prospective no-hitter, but he set off a history-making celebration just the same.

Janofsky pitched a one-hit masterpiece after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and the Jaguars made two fourth-inning runs hold up to beat Roxbury, 2-0, and win their first Group championship since 1972, when they won Group III.

Jackson Memorial piles onto Brandon Janofsky following his one-hitter to clinch Jackson's first state title since 1972. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“It felt great to pitch in this game,” Janofsky said. “The coaches put it on my shoulders and they trusted me in a game like this, which is a great feeling for a pitcher.”

With Saturday’s win, Janofsky finished his first season as a pitcher with a record of 7-0 and an earned-run average of 0.89 in 47 innings. He finished Saturday’s one-hitter with three walks, a hit batter and seven strikeouts and during the NJSIAA Tournament, he went 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, 15 hits allowed, 27 strikeouts and seven walks while tossing three complete games.

“He got off to a really good start this year and then we kind of reined him in during the middle of the season,” Jackson Memorial coach Frank Malta said of Janofsky. “He hadn’t really pitched much before this year, so we wanted to be proactive about watching his innings and making sure he stayed fresh, so his appearances were much shorter, and he did some closing for us. All of that was done with this time of the year in mind and late in the year, we took the chains off and let the dogs run.”

“Once he got going, he was spotting the ball and doing whatever he wanted to,” said junior Joe DeMaio, who had a good look at Janofsky from his center field position. “When he’s on, no one can touch him.”

Jackson Memorial wins Group IV title from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

After walking two batters in the first inning and hitting the lead-off man to start the second, Janofsky got a visit from pitching coach J.M. Gold. From that point on, Janofsky set down 18 of the next 20 Roxbury batters to come to the plate and did not allow a hit until designated hitter Craig Roumes lined a 1-2 offering into left-center fielder with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Janofsky just missed off the plate away with a fastball on the previous pitch.

“It wasn’t really anything that was said,” Janofsky said. “I’ve had some slow starts to games where it takes me an inning or two to find my rhythm, and I knew I would find it eventually. It was still zero-zero, the bottom of the lineup was coming up, so I knew I just had to keep attacking.”

Second baseman John Carello momentarily kept the no-hitter alive with a charging, bare-hand play on a slow-roller to nab Roxbury relief pitcher Tim Pilrun at first base before Roumes came through with his single. With the no-hit bid gone and the potential tying runs coming to the plate, Janofsky struck out Gaels right fielder Kyle Macrae and induced third baseman Stephen Loreng to ground out to sophomore third baseman Kyle Johnson to end the game.

Despite the no-hitter hanging over his head, Janofsky did not pitch around any Roxbury hitters in the seventh. He threw 13 of his 15 pitches in the inning for strikes and finished with 68 strikes in 103 pitches.

Jackson Memorial pitching coach J.M. Gold congratulates Brandon Janofsky after the junior's one-hitter in the Group IV final. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“Around the fourth inning, I saw that they still didn’t have a hit, but really, I was just trying to put it out of my mind as best I could,” Janofsky said. “Today was about winning a championship and while it would have been cool to throw a no-hitter, I wasn’t going to put the overall goal in jeopardy trying to chase the no-hitter.”

“Knowing Brandon, he had one thing on his mind, and that was winning the game,” Malta said. “That’s why we love having him out there. All the other stuff is secondary. He just wanted to end up at the bottom of the dog pile.”

Janofsky’s rough first two innings continued a trend he established over his first two postseason starts. During the NJSIAA Tournament, Janofsky gave up all three of his earned runs in the first inning and allowed eight of his 15 hits and three of his seven walks during the first two innings of his starts. During innings 2-7 during the state tournament, Janofsky posted a 0.00 ERA and allowed only seven hits and four walks over 15 innings.

“There are always discussions before the game about what we’re going to do in different scenarios, but as far as during the game, (a pitching change) never came up,” said Malta, who had senior left-hander Matt Guarino available on three-days' rest after a complete-game victory against Eastern on Tuesday. “Brandon has been so good, and he’s had a tendency to struggle out of the gate a little bit, so once he got through that first inning, we felt like he was going to take off. Regardless of what happened, this was his game, all the way.”

Before assisting the final out, Johnson ignited a two-run rally in the top of the fourth inning that would yield Jackson both of its runs. Roxbury starter Nick Busby (8-1) retired the first 10 men he faced, but fell behind 3-1 to Johnson, who hammered a double into right-center for the game's first hit.

Johnson was the first to apply a team-wide adjustment by the lineup, which collectively decided to sit on Busby’s curveball the second time through the order.

“He was slowing up his delivery when he went off-speed, so on 3-1, I knew I was getting a fastball,” Johnson said. “He was doing a good job keeping us off balance, so we needed to be aggressive, and I think just getting that first hit got us fired up a little bit.”

After Guarino flew out to shallow left for the second out of the inning, senior left fielder Mike Petrizzo jumped on a first-pitch curveball for a line-drive double down the left-field line for a two-out RBI, scoring Johnson with the game's first run. DeMaio capped the scoring when he belted a triple to the wall in right-center to chase home Petrizzo.

“When we came back to the dugout before that fourth inning, our coaches got us together and told us to really focus on hitting his curveball,” Petrizzo said. “He was throwing a lot of off-speed pitches and throwing them in any count, so we just simplified things the second time through the order.”

Kyle Johnson 2B in the 4th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Mike Petrizzo RBI double in the 4th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Joe DeMaio RBI triple in the 4th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Jackson Memorial’s championship run seemed unlikely as recently as May 14, when the Jaguars lost a first-round home game to Monmouth Regional in the Shore Conference Tournament. That loss was the third in a row for Jackson Memorial at the time and dropped the Jaguars to 3-4 during the month of May.

That 3-4 record also coincided with a hamstring injury to senior center fielder and Seton Hall recruit Nick Dabrio, who played through the injury before being shut down for the Monmouth loss. Despite the injury, Dabrio still led the team in average (.392), on-base percentage (.459) and triples (three).

“We came into the season with a ton of guys hurt and it just seemed like it was going to hold us back,” DeMaio said. “Then, Nick got hurt and we all thought that was it, but our coaches kept us motivated and kept us believing that we could still get it done.”

The loss to Monmouth was the last Jackson Memorial would suffer the rest of the season. The Jaguars beat Toms River East in their regular-season finale on May 15 to clinch a share of the Class A South championship with the Raiders and then began their run through the Central Jersey Group IV field by beating Brick Memorial in the opening round.

“When we lost in the Shore Conference Tournament, we pretty much had no choice but to turn our attention to winning in the state tournament,” Guarino said. “I think it almost helped us to lose in those tournaments, because we just focused all of our energy on getting ready to make a run in the state tournament. We had some really good practices and whether it was me or Brandon, we always knew we were going to have a chance to win.”

Janofsky and Guarino accounted for all of Jackson Memorial’s innings on the mound during the tournament, with each going 3-0. Guarino posted a 3.31 ERA during the tournament while benefiting from an average of 9.3 runs per game from the offense in those three starts.

“It really was like we were feeding off of one another,” Guarino said. “One of us would go out and throw a good game and the other would want to go out and top it the next time out. Having two or three guys in the rotation who work together and complement one another like that makes all the difference in the world.”

Brandon Janofsky fires on of his 103 pitches from Saturday's one-hitter in the Group IV final. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Janofsky and Guarino were the difference for Jackson Memorial during the championship run, the program’s first in 42 years. The Jaguars have boasted a number of high-level Division I players, many of whom played on the 2010 team that reached the Group IV final in 2010 and lost to Randolph.

They lost in the sectional quarterfinals as a No. 1 seed to No. 8 Hillsborough in 2009 with two standout pitchers – Kevin Needham and Pete Kelich – while juggling the state, Shore Conference and Ocean County tournaments. In 2011 and 2012, Jackson Memorial lost to Manalapan, which went on to win consecutive Group IV titles in those two seasons. Last year, the Jaguars fell to Brick Memorial in the sectional semifinals with Mustangs ace and All-Shore first-teamer Brian Cottrell baffling the Jaguars' line-up.

During that five-year stretch from 2009 to 2013, Jackson Memorial won two Shore Conference championships (2009 and 2012), one Ocean County Tournament championship (2012), four Class A South division championships and a Central Jersey Group IV championship in 2010.

“This has been the goal since I got here and after coming so close for four years, to finally get one…wow,” said Guarino, a four-year varsity player. “Our coaches always told us how hard this tournament was to win, and they were absolutely right. It wasn’t easy, but that’s what makes this so sweet.”

While those past teams stumbled against hot teams during the NJSIAA tournament, this year’s team played all four of its Central Jersey Group IV games at home despite drawing the No. 5 seed. After five years of misfortune in the bracket, the Jaguars finally got some breaks and took full advantage.

“A few people were saying that to me and to J.M., telling us we were due to get some breaks, and I just never looked at it like that,” Malta said. “My outlook has always been, ‘You play good baseball, you get rewarded,’ and there were some times we played good baseball and we just got beat by a team that played better. I know people might say we finally got some breaks this year, and maybe we did, but I just think our guys answered the challenge and played great baseball for the last three weeks.”

 

 

Box Score

Jackson Memorial 2, Roxbury 0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Jackson Memorial (20-7)

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

2

4

0

Roxbury (25-8-1)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

 

Jackson Memorial

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Brandon Janofsky, P

3

0

0

0

0

1

Kyle Johnson, 3B

3

1

1

0

0

0

Matt Guarino, 1B

2

0

0

0

1

1

-- Ty Babin, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Mike Petrizzo, LF

3

1

1

1

0

0

Joe DeMaio, CF

3

0

1

1

0

0

Nick Babin, C

3

0

0

0

0

0

Rich Rountree, DH

3

0

1

0

0

2

-- John Carello, 2B

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kyle Lona, RF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Mike Schmidt, SS

2

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

25

2

4

2

1

5

2B: Johnson, Petrizzo
3B: DeMaio
SB: Rountree

Roxbury

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Shawn Leydon, SS

2

0

0

0

1

0

Matt Dachowski, 2B

2

0

0

0

0

0

Joe Magueri, CF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Andrew Baltz, C

2

0

0

0

1

2

-- Timmy Pilrun, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Nick Busby, P

2

0

0

0

0

2

-- Timmy Pilrun, P

1

0

0

0

0

0

Craig Roumes, DH

2

0

1

0

0

0

-- Rob Roddy, 1B

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kyle Macrae, RF

3

0

0

0

0

2

Stephen Loreng, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

0

Kevin Hernadnez, LF

1

0

0

0

1

0

Totals

21

0

1

0

3

7

SAC: Dachowski

Jackson Memorial

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Brandon Janofsky, W (7-0)

7.0

1

0

0

3

7

0

 

Roxbury

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Nick Busby, L (8-1)

5.0

3

2

2

0

5

0

Timmy Pilrun

2.0

1

0

0

1

0

0

HBP: Roumes (by Janofsky)
Pitches-Strikes: Janofsky 103-68, Busby 60-42, Pilrun 35-21
Groundouts-Flyouts: Janofsky 10-4, Busby 3-5, Pilrun 3-3