Monmouth County Tournament Bracket

MIDDLETOWN – Prior to Saturday’s game, Middletown South coach Ryan Spillane told Howie Brey – his former ace and current Rutgers University pitcher who once pitched a shutout in a 1-0 win over Middletown North under the lights at Woods Field – to expect the same performance from his newfound sophomore standout.

That might have been a bold prediction by the Eagles skipper had that same sophomore standout not pitched a one-hit shutout exactly one week earlier in the MCT first round.

Sophomore right-hander Austin Markmann pitched his second 1-0 shutout of the MCT Saturday, this time firing a two-hitter in seventh-seeded Middletown South’s 1-0 win over the No. 15 Lions. Markmann threw a one-hitter in a 1-0 Eagles win over St. John Vianney on April 26.

Sophomore Austin Markmann pitched his second straight shutout in the Monmouth County Tournament Saturday against Middletown North.

“I had a feeling once we scored, Austin was going to make it hold up,” Spillane said. “He’s really been coming into his own lately, and I think pitching as well as he did against a good hitting team like Vianney just gave him even more confidence. You can see he’s throwing his pitches with even more conviction and carrying himself with a lot of confidence out there.”

Markmann struck out a career-high 10 batters while walking two and hitting two, the second of which came in the top of the seventh when he hit Lions catcher Ryan Goscinski to lead off the inning. Courtesy runner Anthony Vetrano reached second base, but was caught stealing by catcher Zach Schild for the second out. Markmann struck out Jake Bailey to end the game, at which point his teammates mobbed him on the field.

“The guys really like playing behind him, which is no surprise,” Spillane said. “Any time you have a guy throwing strikes and pitching with that competitive fire that he has, guys will want to play behind him.”

“I’m very confident in my ability on the mound, and I want my teammates and coaches to have that same confidence in me when I’m out there,” Markmann said. “I think every pitcher wants to get the ball in a game like this, so I’m happy to take it whenever I can.”

Over 14 innings during the MCT, Markmann has allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out 14. He is now 4-1 overall, with the lone loss coming in a complete-game effort on April 9 against Colts Neck – Middletown South’s upcoming MCT semifinal opponent on May 12 at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. All that in just his second full year as a pitcher after Spillane and his staff moved him to the mound as a freshman last year.

“I saw it immediately with him,” Spillane said. “He’s a natural competitor, and he just gets it. He’s still learning, still improving, but after working with him last year and leading up to this year, I felt pretty good about what we had.”

Middletown North put early pressure on Markmann when right fielder Connor Youncofski doubled to right-center with one out in the first inning. He escaped trouble with a ground out and strikeout and faced three more jams with runners in scoring position, including a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth that ended with a strikeout and a tapper back to the mound.

“I lost my command for a short stretch, but that’s going to happen and when it does, you just battle through it,” Markmann said. “That’s what I did.”

The Eagles got their lone run in the bottom of the first without a hit against Lions starter Mike Zibrin, who threw a one-hitter on Saturday. Zibrin walked leadoff hitter Joe Timmins and hit Tom Mariello to start his night, then induced Kyle Brey into a fielder’s choice ground out to shortstop that put runners on the corners with one out. Zibrin then made a low throw on a pickoff attempt to first, allowing Timmins to score from third.

Zibrin faced just two over the minimum the rest of the way and finished with two strikeouts and three walks in his six-inning one-hitter.

Middletown South will look to solve Colts Neck a week from Monday after losing two one-run games to the Cougars during the season.

Markmann may or may not get the ball for that game, especially with Middletown North coming back to play the Eagles under the lights in a Class A North game on Friday. Either way, the Eagles appear to have found another No. 1 pitcher for the rest of this season and beyond.

“He’s cut from the same mold as the pitchers like Howie Brey and (Will Siegfried),” Spillane said. “The good thing is he’s still only a sophomore. We’ve got him for two more years after this, and he’s just starting to figure it out.”