MIDDLETOWN – The Middletown South baseball team entered play Monday on an 11-game winning streak, but the Eagles still went out on Woods Field with something to prove against a pitcher who shut them out earlier in the season from the only team ahead of them in the Shore Conference Class A North standings and the last team to beat them.

The Eagles jumped on Christian Brothers Academy junior right-hander Kenny Campbell early and did not let up in a 9-5 win over the Colts that pulled Middletown South into a first-place tie in A North with CBA. Middletown South has now won 12 straight and 14 out of 15, with its latest victory the latest example of how far the Eagles have come since an 0-4 start.

“When coach (Ryan Spillane) sat us down and talked to us about the team we had, he told us he put this team together this way for a certain reason,” senior center fielder Nolan Pereless said. “He knew the talent we had could get us to championship games and these big situations, and we’ve definitely proven ourselves.”

Middletown South junior Johnny Zega shined on the mound and at the plate Monday as the Eagles beat CBA for their 12th straight win and 14th in 15 games. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Junior right-hander Johnny Zega allowed two runs on three hits over five innings and went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI to help lead the effort on the mound and at the plate. Middletown South pitching did not allow a walk and the offense rapped 12 hits – 10 of which came off Campbell, who threw six shutout innings in a 1-0 CBA win over Middletown South on April 15 that marked the last time an opponent got the better of the Eagles.

“Hitting is contagious and once a few guys started to get hot, then everybody shows up believing they’re going to get a hit,” Spillane said. “It’s great when you can be confident you’re going to get a hit one through nine in your lineup.”

In addition to the 12 hits, Middletown South batters did not strike out after the first inning and drew three walks as opposed to only two strikeouts.

“We were chasing and swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone early in the season, so we started really emphasizing looking for pitches in the strike zone and being able to lay off pitches out of the zone,” Spillane said. “Since then, the walks have been up and our hitter’s counts have been up. When we know we’re getting fastballs, we’re pretty good at hitting them hard.”

Last season, with many of the same players, the Eagles had a cumulative slugging percentage of .272. After Monday’s game, the team slugging percentage crossed above the .400 plateau.

“I think last year with a lot of these guys getting experience, it certainly helped seeing varsity pitching, and now all the work we did in the offseason getting ourselves as strong as the other teams or stronger, it certainly has paid off because we are hitting the ball with authority,” Spillane said.

Zega is the most extreme example of the uptick in power, increasing his slugging percentage from .258 as a sophomore to a robust .722 after Monday’s game. His only extra-base hits last year were three doubles, but this year, Zega already has six doubles, two triples and three home runs.

“The biggest thing is we’re swinging at first-pitch strikes now,” Zega said. “In the beginning of the season, we were letting them go and swinging at pitcher’s pitches out of the zone.”

Pereless was 2-for-2 Monday with two runs scored and two RBI on a two-run single in the fifth inning that stretched Middletown South's lead to 9-2. Freddie Yahn was 2-for-4 with two RBI. and Austin Markmann went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the win. Markmann has also seen a power spike this season, with two homers, three doubles and a slugging percentage over .500.

Middletown South jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two runs in the first inning. Junior catcher Zach Schild hit a two-out RBI single through the middle and Campbell hit junior first baseman Ian Scheuer to force in a second run.

The Eagles tacked on a run each in the second and third innings and turned a leadoff baserunner into a run in each of the first three innings. Right fielder Dave Mangarelli also led off the fourth by reaching on an error, but Campbell pitched out of the inning without giving up a run.

Zega hammered his RBI triple with two out in the bottom of the second to plate Pereless, and Yahn picked up the first of his two RBI with an infield single that scored Markmann from second, with the junior infielder sliding around the tag of CBA catcher Brandon Martorano.

Zega coasted through the first three innings on the mound, retiring nine straight batters after hitting Cid Porter to lead off the game. He made it 10 in a row when he struck out second baseman Andrew Buccellatto for one of his two punchouts, but Will Morgan and Martorano followed with back-to-back singles for CBA’s first two hits.

Eagles left fielder Jeff Lewandowski made a diving catch on a line drive by Matt D’Angelo for the second out, which allowed Morgan to trot in from third with the Colts’ first run.

Luca Dalatri blasted a solo home run in the top of the fifth to cut the Middletown South lead to 4-2 against Zega, who exited after five innings despite throwing only 58 pitches and allowing just three hits with no walks. According to Spillane, Zega complained of shoulder tightness in the form of a “knot” in his lat muscle.

“He was great,” Spillane said. “He was really throwing hard early, and he had total control of the game. In the fourth he came off and said his shoulder tightened up a little bit. Nothing to be concerned about, but you could see that he wasn’t throwing with the same velocity as earlier.”

Both Middletown South and CBA can do no worse than a co-championship with wins in their last two division games and either could win the outright title if the other loses. CBA plays Howell on Wednesday and Manalapan on Thursday, while Middletown South plays Freehold Boro on Wednesday and will take on Howell Friday knowing what will be at stake based on CBA’s game against Manalapan.

Manalapan and Howell are also still mathematically alive to win an outright division title.

“There was no doubt in our minds that we weren’t going to sit down for the rest of the season,” Pereless said. “After our Marlboro loss early in the season where we were up 5-0 (in the game), we definitely knew that we had to turn it around, step back for a second a figure out how to get going. Team chemistry has definitely been a big part of it.”

 

Box Score

Middletown South 9, CBA 5

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

CBA (13-5, 8-4)

0

0

0

1

1

0

3

5

7

4

Middletown South (14-5, 8-4)

2

1

1

0

3

2

x

9

13

2

 

CBA

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Cid Porter, CF

3

0

1

1

0

0

Andrew Buccellatto, 2B

4

0

0

0

0

2

Will Morgan, RF

3

1

2

0

0

0

Brandon Martorano, C

3

0

1

0

0

0

Matt D'Angelo, SS

2

1

1

1

0

0

Luca Dalatri, 1B

2

1

1

1

0

0

--Brendan Shaw, PR

0

1

0

0

0

0

Sean Galvin, DH

3

0

0

0

0

0

Shane Turk, LF

3

1

1

1

0

1

James Miller, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

26

5

7

4

0

3

HR: Dalatri (5th inning, none on, none out)
SF: D’Angelo
Outfield Assist: Turk
CS: Shaw

 

Middletown South

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Dave Mangarelli, RF

3

1

0

0

0

0

Nolan Pereless, CF

2

2

2

2

0

0

Johnny Zega, P-SS

3

1

2

1

1

0

Ben Porpora, 3B

3

0

0

0

1

1

Austin Markmann, SS-2B

3

2

2

0

0

1

Zach Schild, C

3

0

2

1

1

0

--Jeremy Joyce, CR

0

1

0

0

0

0

Ian Scheuer, 1B-P

2

1

1

2

0

0

Freddie Yahn, DH

4

1

2

2

0

0

--Zac deRocco, 1B

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Bobby Gyurindak, P

0

0

0

0

0

0

Jeff Lewandowski, LF

3

0

1

0

0

0

Totals

27

9

12

8

3

2

3B: Zega
SAC: Pereless 2, Scheuer, Markmann
LIDP: Mangarelli
SB: Joyce, Porpora

 

CBA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Kenny Campbell (L)

4.1

10

7

5

0

2

0

Evan Menendez

1

1

2

2

3

0

0

Mason O’Mara

0.2

1

0

0

0

0

0

 

Middletown South

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Johnny Zega, (W, 3-0)

5

3

2

2

0

2

1

Bobby Gyurindak

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

Ian Scheuer

1

3

3

3

0

0

0

 

Hit By Pitch: Porter (by Zega), Dalatri (by Scheuer), Scheuer (by Campbell), Mangarelli (by Menendez)
Pitches-Strikes: Campbell 71-51, Menendez 23-10, O’Mara 7-5, Zega 58-37, Gyurindak 14-11, Scheuer 21-14
Groundouts-Flyouts: Campbell 4-4, Menendez 1-1, O’Mara 0-0