Baseball – No. 14 Matawan Upsets Manasquan to Advance to CJ Group II Semifinals
By Patrick Hennessy - Shore Sports Network contributor
MANASQUAN - When Matawan senior Nick Smith stepped onto the mound Friday afternoon against sixth-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals, he knew it could be his final time on the diamond.
Smith responded with his best performance of the season. In five innings of work, he allowed only only hits and one run to help the 14th-seeded Huskies pull off a 5-1 upset and advance to the semifinals, where they will travel to second-seeded Governor Livingston on Tuesday.
"Our mindset coming into today's game was just to play fundamental baseball in all three aspects of the game - hitting, fielding and pitching," Smith said."We knew we had a good shot of winning if we executed those three aspects correctly."
Smith took care of the pitching aspect, while Matawan got key contributions from senior Kyle Chapman and juniors Adam Elliott and Chris Vetter. Elliott knocked in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the third inning, and shortly after, Smith helped his own cause by knocking in senior Matt Esposito with a single for a 2-0 lead.
Manasquan then got one run off of an RBI sacrifice fly from University of Virginia football commit Tanner Cowley, but that's all that the Warriors would be able to get. Junior Colin Thompson pitched one scoreless inning in relief, and Matawan added three more runs in the seventh off a single from Chapman, a hit by pitch by Billy Rodriguez that scored a run with the bases loaded, and a ground out off the bat of Vetter that brought home a run.
Head coach Bobby Carnovsky then sent in junior closer Richard Joa, who fanned two and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to seal the win as the Huskies finished off their second straight upset after taking down third-seeded A.L. Johnson in the first round. Like many state playoff teams over the years, Matawan also has a good luck charm that has helped fuel its underdog run - a lucky cantaloupe they have nicknamed Dieter Johnson after the name of Dieter Johnson Field, the Huskies' home park.
The team has had the lucky cantaloupe for its two state playoff games, both of which have been on the road, and they hope Dieter can be good luck again on Tuesday when they head up north against bracket favorite Governor Livingston.