Baseball – SCT Final Preview
Shore Conference Tournament Final
Sunday, June 1, 8 p.m.
At FirstEnergy Park, Lakewood
No. 4 Christian Brothers Academy (17-8) vs. No. 7 Barnegat (20-9)
As several Christian Brothers Academy players have articulated, their season is “all about putting balls on the wall,” which is to say that the season is measured by the team’s ability to earn at least one championship banner – in the shape and design of a baseball – to hang among the many that already litter the outfielder fence on their home field.
The Colts have already earned one of those this season by winning the Monmouth County Tournament, and Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, they will look to earn another in the Shore Conference Tournament final against a team that will get one last crack at hanging a banner during a banner season.
While CBA is looking to go 2-for-2 in championship games this year, Barnegat is still looking for the first tournament championship in the eight-year history of the varsity program after already coming up short in its first two attempts to win one. The Bengals are coming off a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Buena in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group I final on Friday, which followed a 6-0 loss to Central Regional in the Ocean County Tournament final.
Before Barnegat can win its first tournament championship game on its third try this year, it will have to first score a run in a championship game. After being blanked by Central’s Anthony Arneth on a career night in the OCT final and two-hit by 9-0 Buena ace Denny Brady, now Barnegat must face, arguably, its toughest task yet in CBA sophomore Luca Dalatri.
Dalatri will start on three days' rest for the first time in his high-school career Sunday after pitching an 8-inning complete game in a thrilling 2-1 win over Red Bank Catholic on Wednesday. With that win, Dalatri improved to 10-0 in 10 appearances that include 81 strikeouts, 11 walks, 30 hits allowed and a 0.43 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. Dalatri has a chance to not only pitch CBA to its second championship, but also cap a perfect season with double-digit wins, last accomplished by current Boston Red Sox farmhand Pat Light in 2007, when Light was 11-0 as a junior.
Bengals coach Dan McCoy suggested after his team’s 2-0 win over Wall on Saturday that he will give the ball back to junior right-hander John Corbett, who pitched a five-hit shutout against the Crimson Knights for his second win of the tournament. Corbett is 6-1 this season with a 1.53 ERA with 38 strikeouts, 40 hits and 16 walks allowed in 50 1/3 innings.
McCoy will also have a fresh junior right-hander Seamus Brazill available. Brazill has not pitched since pitching a five-inning shutout against Pleasantville in a 12-0 NJSIAA South Jersey Group II first-round win. For the season, Brazill is 4-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 40 1/3 innings with a 31-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
While Barnegat is coming off consecutive games without scoring an earned run – both runs against Wall were unearned – CBA’s offense has shown some life lately. Although the Colts managed only two hits against hard-throwing Al Molina in the win over RBC, the Colts scored nine runs against St. John Vianney on Thursday in a 13-9 loss to the Lancers in the South Non-Public A semifinals. Dalatri cracked his first career home run in that one as the second of back-to-back home runs with senior third baseman Pete Papcun. Juniors John Moschella, Will Morgan and Andrew Buccellato are also swinging hot bats, as has sophomore catcher Brandon Martorano.
The last two rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament have been ruled by teams still juggling two tournaments at once, and both of the finalists on Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park won their respective semifinal games while also preparing to play an NJSIAA Tournament game two days later. During both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, each game pit a team still playing in the state tournament vs. a team that was eliminated from the state tournament and the team still playing in two tournaments won all six match-ups.
Another sub-plot to consider is the Shore Conference Pitcher of the Year award, for which Dalatri, Barnegat sophomore Jason Groome (unavailable after striking out 17 and allowing one unearned run in a two-hit loss to Buena), and Central right-hander and University of Alabama recruit Andrew DiPiazza are the major contenders. If Barnegat can hand Dalatri his first loss, Groome’s candidacy becomes even stronger considering his solid 6-2 record is complemented by eye-popping numbers: 107 strikeouts, 14 walks, 24 hits allowed and a 0.57 ERA in 61 1/3 innings.
More than the comparison of sophomore phenoms who will not face each other on the mound, Sunday night will be about a traditional Shore Conference power looking to hang a second banner on its already-crowded wall vs. a still-developing program in the midst of its first 20-win season. For CBA, Sunday is about living up to a culture of winning championships. For Barnegat, it’s about creating one.
Probable Starting Pitchers