Baseball – SBCA All-Star Game: Monmouth and Ocean Settle for Tie, Wondrack Steals Show in HR Derby
*Scroll Down for Home Run Derby Video*
LAKEWOOD - After Wall slugger Dan Wondrack put on a memorable power display in the home run derby prior to Tuesday's main event, pitching, defense and speed ruled the Shore Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game at FirstEnergy Park, even if neither the Ocean County nor Monmouth County All-Stars did.
Monmouth scored both of its runs thanks to aggressive baserunning, Ocean scored the tying run on a wild pitch and both teams got a game-saving defensive play to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring as the two rival counties finished in a 2-2 tie in nine innings.
Ocean County loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out, but Monmouth prevented what could have been a walk-off ending for the second straight year in this all-star game. Monmouth County scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 4-3, last year.
Holmdel left-hander Ashwin Jain struck out Toms River South infielder Austin Gonella for the second out of the ninth and another Indians infielder - Anthony Carfora - strolled to the plate with a chance to pick his teammate up and give Ocean County the win. Carfora hit a sharp ground ball that Colts Neck shortstop Sam Devitis did not field cleanly, but the Cougars infielder picked the ball up and fired a back-handed flip to Freehold's Dante Cuzzolino at second for the game-ending out.
Monmouth County had a chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth when Rumson-Fair Haven senior Morgan Maguire singled to start the inning. After Toms River North right-hander Doug Molnar got a strikeout and a fly out for the first two outs of the inning, Monmouth Regional outfielder Marc Marcincak dropped a single in down the right-field line.
Moving on contact, Maguire attempted to score all the way from first, but Point Boro right fielder Sean Connor initiated a relay to nail Maguire, with Brick first baseman Nick Moglia firing to Barnegat catcher Nick Fraim, who applied the tag to Maguire to end the inning.
"With two outs, I was crashing, trying to get to the ball as quickly as I could and get it in," Connor said. "I know (Maguire) is going on contact, but I wasn't thinking about throwing the ball home. I just got it into the infield and (Moglia) had plenty of time to get him. He made a good throw and we had him by a mile."
Ocean County had pulled even with a run in the bottom of the seventh. Toms River North outfielder Joe Venditto singled to start lead off the inning and Middletown North left-hander T.J. Vivian loaded the bases with two out before uncorking a wild pitch that allowed Venditto to score from third.
Monmouth scored a run each in the fifth and sixth innings to grab a 2-1 lead. Red Bank first baseman Drew Cook drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and stole second base to get things started before moving to third on a single by Howell catcher Rob Napolitano. Keyport catcher Rob Hila then followed with a fly ball to center field that plated Cook, tying the game at 1.
Speed sparked another run-scoring inning for Monmouth in the sixth, this time with St. John Vianney outfielder Nick Gugliara getting the rally started. Gugliara slapped an infield single to the left side of the infield, stole second base and moved to third on a fly out to right-center field by Devitis. Gugliara ran on contact when Shore Regional outfielder Justin Halper hit a comebacker to the mound and slid in safely when Lacey pitcher Ray Hughes' throw to the plate sailed high.
"I don't have the power that some of these other guys here do, so I wanted to put the ball in play and use my speed," Gugliara said. "When I got to third (CBA assistant Marty Kenney, Jr.) told me that if there was a ball on the infield, I was going to try to score and draw a bad throw and that's what happened."
Gugliara then made a sliding catch along the right-field line to rob Donovan Catholic shortstop Matt Drake of a hit with a runner on first in the bottom of the sixth.
That speed that Gugliara displayed on Tuesday was instrumental in helping St. John Vianney beat both Gloucester Catholic and St. Joseph of Montvale as the Lancers won the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship last year. This season, as one of the few seniors in the starting lineup, Gugliara helped the Lancers win the Class A Central division title for the second straight year.
"This year was frustrating at times because we lost so many guys, but we fought hard," Gugliara said. "Last year was something none of us will ever forget, and to get a chance to come here and compete against a group of players like this in a minor-league stadium is a great way to go out."
Ocean County grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-out RBI single by Point Pleasant Boro outfielder Quin Hornish to plate Toms River East shortstop Jon Meola, who reached on a wild pitch on a strikeout and advanced to second on a passed ball.
"One thing the coaches talked about before the game is opportunities and trying to make the most of them when they present themselves," Hornish said. "Fortunately, I got a chance to drive in a run, and I was able to stay on a pitch and hit it into right field."
With Hornish giving his Ocean County team a run and Connor saving his team a run by starting the relay in the eighth, the two senior Panthers made a significant impact Tuesday after playing the season on a junior-heavy team.
"It's special for me because I've been playing with Quin since I was a little kid and his dad was coaching us in Little League," Connor said. "Getting a chance to come and play here together was a pretty great way to end the year."
Jackson Memorial's Brandon Janofsky accounted for the game's lone extra-base hit - a triple to left-center with two out in the bottom of the first inning. Central infielders Frank Rose and Jake Dominguez also added a single apiece to round out Ocean's five-hit game.
CBA infielder Andrew Buccellato and Mater Dei Prep outfielder Vincenzo Mezzacappa each added a hit for Monmouth, which collected six hits altogether.
Barnegat right-hander Seamus Brazil and Toms River East left-hander Kevin Brown each threw a clean inning for Ocean, which used one pitcher each inning. Southern left-hander Zach Mason and Barnegat right-hander John Corbett each struck out two batters in their inning.
Cuzzolino pitched the only clean inning for Monmouth County - a 15-pitch fourth inning that included two strikeouts. Manalapan right-hander Nick Serra pitched the first two innings, struck out two and allowed one unearned run on two hits and no walks. Jain also struck out two batters in his inning of work.
Wondrack Wins Derby
Although the All-Star game itself did not feature much offense, there was plenty of power in the pre-game home run derby thanks to Wondrack. After slugging two home runs in a 10-out first round, Wondrack erupted for seven longballs in a five-out second round and needed only three outs to launch the necessary two home runs in the final round.
Wondrack finshed with 11 home runs in 18 outs and defeated Toms River South senior outfielder Jake Ryan in the final, 2-1, to make good on his standing as the unofficial favorite among the other players in attendance.
"I had a bunch of people in school tell me not to come to school tomorrow if I didn't win," Wondrack joked.
Only Wondrack, Toms River North third baseman Joe Rose and Toms River South infielder Ray Liguori hit the ball over the wall at FirstEnergy Park in the 10-out first round - with Rose and Liguori each hitting one. Wondrack hit two towering shots in that first round, the first of which bounced to the back fence of the stadium. Rose's home run also one-hopped the billboard structure well beyond the left-field wall.
Wondrack stole the show in the second round, when he cranked seven homers in just five outs - including an opposite field bomb to right-center that cleared the elevated wall and landed on the picnic perch. He also hit two home runs over the high wall in left-center and onto that picnic area.
"I didn't think there was any chance of me taking one out opposite field," said Wondrack, who said all of his high school home runs have been hit to the pull side. "I spend a lot of time in the cage working on taking the ball the other way and I think I've gotten better over the last year at being able to take pitches to right-center."
Wondrack, a College of Charleston recruit, also hit a 400-plus-foot shot foul that went for one of his five outs in that round.
Ryan belted two homers in his second round to advance to the finals and ripped a missile over the right-field wall in the final to give Wondrack something to match, which the Wall catcher did on his first swing of the final round. After making three outs, Wondrack hit his second shot to the left-center picnic area to clinch the victory.
"I'm always working out in the offseason, and even during the season, I'm working hard to stay on the field and stay healthy," Wondrack said. "Just being able to come out here and see the ball travel, it's a lot of fun."
Christian Brothers Academy junior Luca Dalatri also hit two home runs in the second round.
Wondrack finished tied for second in the Shore Conference with nine, matched by Dalatri and Freehold Township catcher Joe Silvestrone. CBA catcher Brandon Martorano led the Shore with 11 home runs, but did not hit one in the competition on Tuesday.
After finishing second to Central Regional's Andrew DiPiazza in last year's derby, Wondrack was head-and-shoulders above the competition this year.
"Last year, I came up short and I was a little upset, but it was all fun and games so it didn't bother me too much," Wondrack said. "This year, a couple days ago, I was talking to some of the guys on both teams and there was a pretty big competition going between all of us."