LAKEWOOD - An injury of any kind coupled with only three days of rest between starts might have prevented most pitchers from pitching under the circumstances that Christian Brothers Academy senior Luca Dalatri performed under Wednesday night at FirstEnergy Park in the Monmouth County Tournament final.

Not only did Dalatri take the ball against second-seeded Red Bank Catholic; he demanded it and he dominated.

Dalatri authored a one-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts and no walks on three days of rest and the top-seeded Colts beat the Caseys to win their third straight MCT title and eighth overall. CBA is the first team to win three consecutive Monmouth County titles.

Photo by Matt Manley.

"Maybe with some guys, they worry about sticking to five or six days rest and you have a tendency to think selfish and worry about yourself more than others," said Dalatri, a University of North Carolina recruit who is also on the radar of MLB scouts. "I knew these guys really wanted it and so did I, especially with this week when we're playing almost every day."

After suffering a hamstring injury on April 24, Dalatri did not pitch until Saturday, when he pitched a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no walks against Middletown South in the MCT semfinal. It took Dalatri 96 pitches to complete Wednesday's one-hitter, 70 of which were strikes. He went to one three-ball count all game long, which ended with Pat Leonard's single - the lone RBC hit of the game. He stranded both RBC baserunners on second base to end the third and seventh innings.

"He showed tremendous poise and he had that from day one," CBA coach Marty Kenney said. "That's his personality. It's not something he's developed in the last two, three or four years. It's his makeup.

"Pitch count is never a problem with him because he doesn't walk many guys and he doesn't hit anybody, so as long as we play good defense, so the pitch count isn't what it would be for other people. He threw 85 pitches last game, he threw a couple of bullpens while he was out, so he kept his arm in shape, plus he knows he's not going to have to pitch for a while after tonight."

With another dominant outing Wednesday night, Dalatri has now won 26 consecutive decisions dating back to the start of his sophomore year. In 41 innings this season, Dalatri has allowed one earned run (0.17 ERA) on 16 hits and just two walks while striking out 78. Five of his six wins have been shutouts.

"I think that's the thing that separates some guys from others is being able to go out on a big stage and perform like they do in normal games," Dalatri said. "Not that I'm floating my own boat or anything like that, but it's still the game of baseball and you've got to go out there like you always do."

Dalatri allowed just two baserunners in the game - one on a hit by the No. 9 hitter Leonard in the top of the third and the other on an error with two out in the seventh. RBC third baseman Aaron Ahn blasted a long foul ball with more than enough distance for a solo home run in the fourth, but the ball hooked foul. Dalatri struck Ahn out with a fastball on the next pitch.

"I couldn't have cared less about it," Dalatri said of Ahn's towering foul ball. "When I first saw it off the bat, I thought, 'Oh damn,' but once it went foul I came back and struck him out on the next pitch - I think it was a fastball away. I'm sure it looked good on video, but in the books it was a strikeout."

Dalatri also tripled home a run in the bottom of the sixth and finished the game 2-for-2. Nick Hohenstein doubled home the first CBA run in the bottom of the second after RBC starter John Poccia hit Dalatri to lead off the inning.

CBA went up 2-0 when Cid Porter singled on a hit-and-run with two out in the fifth and Luke Chece scored from first when the ball got past right fielder Mike Spinelli. Kenny Campbell capped the scoring with an RBI single to right field in the sixth.

"We always want to push the action early, especially when Luca's pitching," Campbell said. "With him on the mound, it only takes a run or two and we like to get on the other team early and make them have to hit knowing they have to score on Luca to beat us. It definitely gives us an edge and we're really confident when we go out there knowing we have him on the mound."

The Colts lost the three games that immediately preceeded their Monmouth County Tournament opener and rallied to beat Middletown North and Freehold Boro - two of the teams that beat them during the skid - in the MCT double-header on April 30. That double-header came in the midst of Dalatri's absence, which not only left CBA without its top pitcher but also its cleanup hitter.

"I've told the guys from day one, you win championships as a team," Kenney said. "Luca's pitched big in championship games, but we needed other guys to step up to get there. You need everyone contributing at this time of the season and we're starting to see it a little bit more lately."

In Dalatri's absence, Campbell stepped forward and delivered a no-hitter against Middletown North in a 3-0 win and Nick Hohenstein quited Freehold Boro in a 4-2 CBA win. Dalatri then closed the tournament out with his two one-hit shutouts, which came against the other two teams ranked in the top three in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.

"After those two big wins without Luca, we really came together as a team," Campbell said. "Then when he came back, it made us even stronger."

RBC entered play as the Shore's fourth-best scoring team on a per-game basis and sported two players hitting .400 or better with Ahn entering hitting just below .400. Evan Madigan entered the week hitting over .500 while Doug Facendo also entered play above .400, but Dalatri held Ahn, Madigan and Facendo hitless in nine combined at-bats with six strikeouts between them.

Luca Dalatri added another signature performance to his stellar high school career Wednesday night. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Dalatri is now 4-0 in tournament championship games and three of those performances have come on short rest. He beat Barnegat, 2-0, on three days rest as a sophomore in the Shore Conference Tournament final and pitched on two days of rest in last year's NJSIAA Non-Public A final after pitching two innings in the sectional final three days earlier.

Overall, Dalatri is 31-2 for his career and is three wins from tying Toms River East and Rutgers University alum Casey Gaynor for the Shore Conference career wins record. In his four varsity seasons, he has amassed 223 2/3 innings with 330 strikeouts and just 34 walks while pitching to a career ERA of 0.66.

With all of his accomplishments, Kenney sees his ace getting even better.

"As a freshman, he was primarily fastball with a curveball and then he added a changeup and it became a very good changeup his sophomore and junior year," Kenney said. "Now he's added the slider and he's got a legitimate slider. When he's got the velocity he has, that's a very difficult pitch at the high school level, so I think that's where he's jumped it up another level."

 

Box Score

CBA 4, Red Bank Catholic 0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
RBC (18-3) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
CBA (16-6) 0 1 0 0 1 2 X 4 7 2

Pitching

RBC IP H R ER BB SO
John Poccia (L, 6-2) 5.1 7 4 3 0 4
Jack Ipsen 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
CBA IP H R ER BB SO
Luca Dalatri (W, 6-0) 7 1 0 0 0 15

Top Hitters

RBC Game Stats
Pat Leonard 1-3
CBA Game Stats
Luca Dalatri 2-2, 3B, HBP, RBI
Nick Hohensten 1-3, 2B, RBI
Kenny Campbell 1-3, RBI
Luke Chece 1-3, R
Brandon Martorano 1-3, R
Cid Porter 1-2, HBP