RED BANK - Beyond trying to pitch his team to its third consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championship game, Christian Brothers Academy senior right-hander Luca Dalatri set out Wednesday to tie a Shore Conference record in an individual statistical category that often reflects the efforts of the team.

Dalatri entered Wednesday's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against Red Bank Catholic one win shy of matching former Toms River East standout Casey Gaynor's Shore Conference record for career wins and while CBA's ace did almost all of the heavy lifting to earn the first 33 of those wins, No. 34 was a team win.

Red Bank Catholic put the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first base in the top of the seventh inning, but shortstop Sal Rinaldi completed the game-ending play on a chopper up the middle to seal Dalatri's Shore-Conference-record 34th career win and send CBA to its third straight SCT final with a 5-3 victory over the Caseys.

CBA senior Luca Dalatri tied the Shore Conference record for career wins Wednesday night. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

"Tying is tying. I want to break it," Dalatri said of reaching the career milestone. "If I can't, then I can't. My health is more important to me."

After tying Gaynor on Wednesday night, Dalatri could have a chance to break the record on Sunday night, when the top-seeded Colts play No. 2 Middletown South at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. Dalatri threw 102 pitches Wednesday night and labored in the seventh inning, which gave CBA coach Marty Kenney some reservation about fully committing to giving his ace the ball on three days rest - at least until he sees how Dalatri is feeling on Friday.

"I'm going to have to talk to him (before Sunday)," Kenney said. "As soon as he starts to lose command, that's an indication to me that he's laboring. There were a number of hitters that got to two or three balls and some of those balls missed by a lot, which he normally doesn't do at all."

"The record is important, but my health is more important," Dalatri said. "I'm not going to push it if I know I'm not feeling it. I'm not going to go out there and pitch four innings just to (get a win). My future is more important to me than 35 wins, but I'm going to do everything I can to get prepared for it and get my arm ready. It's not only me, but coach has got to let me go. We've got a lot of good pitchers on this team that can get us a win."

Dalatri has pitched twice on three days rest this season and was sharp in both instances. He pitched the Monmouth County Tournament championship game on short rest against Red Bank Catholic and pitched a one-hitter with 15 strikeouts and no walks in a 4-0 CBA win. He also pitched five shutout innings against Middletown North a week before Wednesday's start, striking out six, walking none and allowing three hits.

If not for some timely hitting and a bang-bang play made by Rinaldi to end the game, Dalatri might not have any chance at all to break Gaynor's record on Sunday night. Senior first baseman Kenny Campbell led the offensive effort with a two-out, three-run triple in the bottom of the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the sixth to cap a four-RBI night.

"We weren't try to hype up the record too much, but we all knew about it," Campbell said. "So we wanted to come out here and do the best job that we could to give (Dalatri) and opportunity by getting runners on bases and just putting the ball in play. When he has runs, he's dominant. I know he got tired a little bit, but he's the man. I wouldn't want anyone else out there in that situation."

Kenny Campbell dives into third on his bases-clearing triple in the fourth. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

Junior designated hitter Brian Golden was a perfect 2-for-2 and delivered the other CBA RBI with an RBI single in the sixth. Golden also scored from first on Campbell's fourth-inning triple.

With a 5-1 lead and 75 pitches heading out to the mound to start the seventh, Dalatri quickly stepped into hot water in trying to close out his record-tying win. RBC first baseman Mike Veit started the inning by hammering the first pitch inside the third-base bag for a single - Veit's third hit in three trips against Dalatri Wednesday night. Senior right fielder Mike Spinelli followed with a ground ball through the middle for another single.

Dalatri responded by striking out pinch hitter Suli Abas but lost left fielder and No. 9 hitter Pat Leonard with ball four on a 3-2 pitch. The walk was just the third of the season issued by Dalatri and the first since an 11-0 win over Marlboro on April 20.

Senior shortstop Evan Madigan delivered sharp ground ball past a diving Campbell and into right field to plate two runs and cut CBA's lead to 5-3 with one out. The two-run single was the second run-scoring single of the game for Madigan, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBI off Dalatri.

After the single by Madigan, Dalatri threw four straight pitches out of the zone to junior center fielder Dom Caraballo to re-load the bases with one out. At that point, Kenney visited Dalatri on the mound and solicited feedback from his pitcher, who just walked as many in the last three batters (two) as he had in 59 prior innings this season.

Dalatri responded by striking out junior second baseman Aaron Ahn on three pitches and jumped ahead of senior catcher Doug Facendo in the count, 0-2. After Dalatri missed away with a pair of fastballs, Facendo fouled off a pitch and took another to work the count full.

On the seventh pitch of the at bat, the Caseys catcher hit a bouncing ball off the artificial turf and toward the hole up the middle. Rinaldi fielded the ball on the moved, double-clutched to gain control of it, and fired a chest-high strike to Campbell to end the game as Caraballo was churning around third and toward home with the potential winning run.

CBA shortstop Sal Rinaldi's play for the game's final out sealed Luca Dalatri's record-tying win. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

"Sal's got a pretty good arm and Dougie is not the fastest kid on their team, so I was just hoping he was going to throw it and give me a chance to catch it," Campbell said. "He put it right on my chest. It was a bang-bang play but it was a big-time play for Sal and I'm happy he came through in that situation."

Rinaldi's play concluded a 27-pitch inning for Dalatri that turned what was a relatively smooth outing into perhaps the hardest-earned of his 34 wins.

Dalatri started CBA's two-out rally in the fourth when RBC coach Buddy Hausmann elected to intentionally walk him with the bases empty. To that point, Caseys junior left-hander Justin Liggett had faced the minimum number of batters thanks to two inning-ending double plays, but Liggett followed the free pass by hitting right fielder Nick Hohenstein and walking Golden.

Liggett retired Campbell on a first-pitch breaking ball in his first at-bat and tried to get ahead with the same pitch in the fourth. Campbell was ready for it again and this time crushed the pitch to dead center field, over the head of Caraballo to clear the bases.

Dalatri also started the run-scoring rally in the sixth by drawing a conventional walk and Hohenstein followed with a double on a line drive to right field. Golden then followed with a line drive single to right field to push across courtesy runner Jack Harnisch with CBA's fourth run and Campbell followed with a fly out to deep left-center to score Hohenstein.

The two insurance runs in the sixth answered RBC's fifth-inning tally, which was just the second run Dalatri had surrendered all season long and the first since Middletown South scored on a wild pitch in the sixth inning of CBA's 3-1 extra-inning win on April 13. Veit started that rally as well with a single deep into the shortstop-third-base hole and Dalatri hit Spinelli - which was the first batter Dalatri has hit all season.

Dalatri then struck out third baseman Aiden Supp and induced Leonard into a fielder's choice ground out to second, although CBA was unable to complete the inning-ending double play. That brought up Madigan with two out and the Caseys shortstop and leadoff hitter made them pay with a line drive single to right to plate Veit. Madigan's single was the first run-scoring hit against Dalatri this season.

Before surrendering runs in the fifth and seventh innings, Dalatri stranded a runner on third in the fourth inning. Caraballo led off the frame with a bunt single up the third-base line and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw from Dalatri. He then advanced to third on a ground out to second base that marked the second out of the inning and Dalatri struck out designated hitter Anthony DeRosa for the final out, stranding Caraballo at third.

RBC has been no stranger to drama this week after winning in walkoff fashion Tuesday in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals against Notre Dame in nine innings. Off Tuesday's near-miss, the Caseys will host Camden Catholic in the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinal with a spot in Tuesday's sectional final on the line.

Dalatri, meanwhile, escaped Wednesday with a win behind a line that would be standout for most pitchers but sub-par in his case. He finished allowing three earned runs on seven hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out 10. After Wednesday's performance, Dalatri is now 9-0 on the season with 108 strikeouts and four walks with 28 hits allowed in 60 innings. His season ERA jumped from 0.13 to 0.47.

"I've felt pretty good all year and I don't mean to elevate myself too much, but I feel like I've been pretty hard to hit," Dalatri said. "Today wasn't the case and I had to dig deep. The first six innings, I felt pretty good and I just hit a wall the last inning and those guys (RBC) did a good job adjusting."

Whether he pitches or not, Dalatri will have a chance to end his career as a three-time Shore Conference Tournament champion as CBA goes for its third straight conference title. Dalatri shut out Barnegat, 2-0, two years ago in the SCT final on three days rest and did not pitch in last year's final - a 4-0 CBA win over RBC.

CBA has defeated Middletown South all three times the teams have met this season and Dalatri was the starter in two of them. In two starts, he has allowed one run on four hits with one walk and 30 strikeouts in 15 innings. He struck out a career-high 19 in an eight-inning complete game on April 13 and pitched a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the Monmouth County Tournament semifinals on May 7.

"We've played Middletown South prior to this when I haven't pitched and we beat them," Dalatri said. "It's going to be a good game and a good battle. If I go out or if I don't pitch, I don't think anything is going to change."


Box Score

CBA 5, Red Bank Catholic 3

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
RBC (22-7) 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 3 7 0
CBA (20-9) 0 0 0 3 0 2 x 5 6 1


Justin Liggett (L, 4-4)  6 6 5 5 4 6
Luca Dalatri (W, 9-0) 7 7 3 3 2 10

Top Hitters

RBC Game Stats
Mike Veit 3-3, R
Evan Madigan 2-4, 3 RBI
Mike Spinelli 1-2, HBP, R
Dom Caraballo 1-3, BB
CBA Game Stats
Kenny Campbell 1-2, 3B, 4 RBI
Brian Golden 2-2, R, RBI
Nick Hohenstein 1-2, 2B, HBP, 2 R
Brandon Martorano 1-3
Cid Porter 1-3