RED BANK - The players on the Middletown South baseball team had nearly a full week to let a bitter NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III quarterfinal loss to Wall linger. It may have stuck with them up until game time Wednesday against Toms River South in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals at Count Basie Park but once the game started, the Eagles looked like their usual, dominant selves.

Zach Schild highlighted a six-run fifth inning with a bases-clearing double and senior left-hander Ian Scheuer pitched a five-hit shutout to lead Middletown South - the No. 2 seed in the SCT and the Class A North regular-season champions - to an 8-0 win over the No. 6 Indians.

"Honestly, it hurt a lot losing in the states," Schild said. "We would have been the home team the rest of the way and it just sucks to lose that way, with two outs in the seventh thinking we had it. It's a big statement for this team to show our resiliency. A lot of teams could have folded but we came back and put up an eight-spot against a very good team."

Scheuer walked two, struck out four and allowed three of Toms River South's five hits on infield singles. Pitching on a full week of rest since pitching 5 2/3 innings in a 7-5 win over Colts Neck in the SCT quarterfinals, Scheuer finished the game in 86 pitches, 53 of which he threw for strikes.

Middletown South catcher Zach Schild pulls into second base after his fifth-inning double cleared the bases. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"It felt good that coach trusted me with the ball today but I feel that any of our starters could have taken it and done just as well," said Scheuer, who improved to 8-1 with the win. "It may be my last start as a senior and I'm just really happy about it, to finish off the season on a good note and maybe get back on the mound in the championship in relief or to start."

"He's a senior and he's been great for us all year," Middletown South coach Ryan Spillane said. "It was him or Martin or Markmann today and it was pretty much his turn. I had a little bit of Sunday in mind. I think Markmann's a good matchup Sunday for either CBA or RBC and Martin threw well against CBA. We also scrimmaged (Toms River South) in the preseason and Ian threw great, so that worked into the equation. I have more than a ton of confidence in any of the guys I throw out there, so I'm fortunate in that situation."

Toms River South right-hander Trevor Wagner kept his team close for most of the game after surrendering a run in the first inning, but the Eagles gave Scheuer a cushion in the fifth. Wagner walked three straight batters to start the inning, then hit shortstop Johnny Zega to force in Middletown South's second run.

Sophomore T.J. Scuderi took over and struck out cleanup hitter Austin Markmann on three pitches for the first out of the inning, but followed by walking designated hitter Jon Martin to put Middletown South ahead 3-0.

Schild then stepped in a laced a 1-1 offering from Scuderi to the gap in left-center field and cleared the bases with a three-run double. Junior left fielder Ryan Ruziecki added a ground-rule double to score another run and give the Eagles a 7-0 lead after batting around in the fifth.

"I noticed he came in throwing curveballs," Schild said of his three-run double. "I just wanted to try to hit something hard. They had the infield in and the ball rolls hard here at Count Basie."

Markmann tacked on a run in the sixth with an RBI double to center field to score Zega from first - the second RBI of the game for Markmann. The senior second baseman also hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning and finished the game 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI.

Wednesday's win helped the Eagles wash out the bad taste left over from its state tournament loss last week. Middletown South took a 2-1 lead into the top of the seventh inning Thursday against Wall and was one out away from putting the game away when the Crimson Knights pieced together consecutive hits to tie the game and scored the go-ahead run on a two-out error.

Entering the game, Middletown South had won eight straight and had lost three of its four games all year to Christian Brothers Academy. Markmann pitched the first six innings and left in line for the win.

"We had a good talk on Sunday when we met back up," Spillane said. "I talked to them about what this year has meant to me and how much I think of them as a team and as individuals.

I had a good talk with Austin (Markmann) and basically I took the blame for that game. If I had a chance to go back, I would have at least had a conversation with Austin instead of managing by the numbers like I did. Not that I don't have confidence in Martin, but it was hard for me, it was hard for them and we had to turn the page."

To make the loss sting even more, Steinert - the top seed in the section - lost to Brick that day as well, meaning Middletown South missed an opportunity to potentially play the rest of the sectional playoffs at home.

"We were able to clear our heads over the weekend and come out today and get back to playing our brand of baseball," Markmann said. "We haven't won the Shore Conference Tournament since 1996 so we've got that we're still playing for and we want to be the number one team in the Shore."

After Wednesday's bounceback win against Toms River South, Middletown South now has its sights set on its first Shore Conference Tournament title since 1996. The Eagles will play either No. 4 Red Bank Catholic or top-seeded CBA - the team that has beaten Middletown South in all three of the meetings between the two teams.

 

Box Score

Middetown South 8, Toms River South 0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
TR South (22-9) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
Midd South (23-5) 1 0 0 0 6 1 x 8 9 1

Pitching

TR South IP H R ER BB SO
Trevor Wagner (L, 6-4)  4 4 5 5 5 0
T.J. Scuderi 0.2  2 2 2 1 1
Nick Scrudato 1.1 3 1 1 0 2
Midd South IP H R ER BB SO
Ian Scheuer (W, 8-1) 7 5 0 0 2 4

Top Hitters

TR South Game Stats
Trevor Wagner 2-3
Tom Campo 2-3
Midd South Game Stats
Austin Markmann 2-3, 2 2B, 2 RBI
Zach Schild 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI
Ryan Ruziecki 2-3, 2B, RBI
Tom Gannon 2-3, 2 R
Johnny Zega 1-3, 2 R, RBI
Jeremy Joyce 0-1, 3 BB, R