PLUMSTEAD TWP. – From the beginning of this season, the Shore Regional baseball team lived and played by the motto “unfinished business” after falling one win short of an NJSIAA sectional championship in 2013.

The Blue Devils finished their first order of business Tuesday by beating defending sectional champion Middlesex to avenge last year’s loss and took care of their second – and more important – order of business on Friday against No. 5 seed New Egypt.

Shore beat New Egypt, 3-2, Friday to capture its first NJSIAA sectional title in five years. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

Senior Andrew Schulz homered, drove in all three runs and started the game-ending double play that was ruled base-runner interference, giving No. 6 Shore a 3-2 win over the Warriors for their first sectional championship since reaching the overall Group II final in 2009.

“From day one, this year has been all about unfinished business,” said Shore coach Pat O’Neill, whose team reached the sectional final in 2013 after starting the season 1-10. “We really found something with this group at the end of the year, and we came into this year with our eye on getting back to this point and finishing the job.”

With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the seventh, junior starter James Kelly – who went the distance for the win – deflected a line drive off the bat of New Egypt right fielder Bryan Atchley, and Schulz fielded it with time to turn a double play and end the game. He flipped the ball to shortstop Clayton Coffey, whose throw hit base-runner Trevor Buckalew when Buckalew did not slide. The field umpire ruled base-runner interference on Buckalew, officially ending the game.

“I saw Buckalew hit the ball and it was definitely interference,” Kelly said. “You hate to see a championship game end like that for them, and I think we had different ideas of what the last out was going to look like, but it was absolutely the right call. At the end of the day, we’ll take the win any way we get it.”

“As soon as the ball hit (Buckalew), I think we all just looked at the umpire and were thinking, ‘You’re going to call that, right?’” Schulz said. “I knew right away that it was an out and once he made the out signal, I threw my glove up.”

Kelly also induced a 6-4, inning-ending double play with runners on first and third to end the sixth inning with Shore clinging to a one-run lead. The junior right-hander finished with five strikeouts and allowed seven hits, only one of which came after the third inning.

“I came in knowing our offense was on fire, which meant I just needed to throw strikes and trust my defense,” Kelly said. “We got ourselves into some trouble with errors and we probably didn’t hit the ball quite as well as we would have liked, but our defense came up big when it had to.”

O’Neill had the option of starting either Kelly or Schulz on Friday and the third-year Blue Devils coach went with the junior with a 1-4 record and a 2.76 ERA over the 7-1 senior with the 1.62 ERA. Kelly rewarded his coach’s trust by allowing one earned run and pitching around six Blue Devils errors to record a number of key outs.

“It was a very difficult decision,” O’Neill said of choosing between Schulz and Kelly. “Schulz was been outstanding all year, he has the 7-1 record and hasn’t given up very many runs. The thing about Kelly is, yes, he was only 1-4, but those four losses came against Red Bank Catholic, Howell, Middletown North and (Christian Brothers Academy) and in all four losses, we scored one run for him.

“We did some scouting work on New Egypt and we just determined that with his arsenal, Kelly would be the tougher match-up for them. We just needed to give him some support.”

After Coffey led off the third inning with a bunt single, Schulz gave Shore a 2-1 lead with a two-run home run to left field, the first home run of his varsity career. Coffey again created a chance for Schulz when he singled to left-center to lead off fifth and stole second. Schulz then lined a 3-0 fastball to right-center field to break the 2-2 tie.

Andrew Schulz strolls home after his go-ahead two-run home run in the third inning. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

“I just went up looking for the fastball and I wasn’t going to go after anything else,” Schulz said. “I knew he wasn’t going to blow it by me. We face good pitchers every day in (Shore Conference Class) A Central.

“The ball was actually up out of the zone (on the home run). I knew (Coffey) got the steal sign and I was just looking to put the ball hard in play, and I got a pitch up. I knew I got a good piece of it and seeing the ball get out was a good feeling.”

Coffey and Schulz were at the heart of Shore’s win Friday, turning two double plays in the middle infield and combining to go 5-for-7 out of the top two spots in the batting order. In Shore’s 9-2 win at Middlesex on Tuesday, the Nos. 6 through 9 batters combined for nine of the 13 hits.

“Last game, it was the bottom of the order and today, it was the top,” O’Neill said. “Good teams need to be able to get contributions from a lot of different people and when one guy doesn’t get it done, you know someone else will.”

New Egypt tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the third when Buckalew doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a throwing error on a bunt single by Atchley. Atchley also drove in New Egypt's first run with an RBI bloop single in the bottom of the first.

Shore senior center fielder Matt Cosentino saved Kelly a run in the bottom of the second inning when he threw out New Egypt baser-runner Shane Galant at the plate. Galant was attempting to score on a two-out single by first baseman Dan Fernicola, but Cosentino's one-hop rocket to the plate beat him by several steps for the last out of the second. He later made a diving catch while coming in on a line drive off the bat of Warriors third baseman Gino Tortoniello to end the fifth.

“It’s an outfielder’s dream to see the runner chugging around third when the ball’s in your hand,” said Cosentino, who pitched a three-hitter against Middlesex on Tuesday to lift Shore into the sectional final. “I was still feeling pretty sore after pitching on Tuesday, so I was kind of hoping to avoid having to let one go, but the adrenaline took over.”

Cosentino missed a little more than half the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, and his return to the lineup was a large part of Shore’s transformation from also-ran to championship contender. The senior left-hander will be available to take the ball on the mound against South Jersey Group I champion Pennsville on Tuesday in the Group I semifinals at Monmouth University.

“I know some people don’t believe in carryover from one year to the next, but last year’s run absolutely carried over into this year,” Cosentino said. “We came together going into the state tournament, and we saw it as an opportunity to prove what we could do when we had a full team.

“I just feel like we’ve been getting better and better, and now, I’m starting to feel like I’ve found something on the mound. My control has really come around, and I’m loaded with confidence right now.”

Shore beat New Egypt in last year’s Central Jersey Group I semifinal and faced a sophomore starter in Chris Tereszczyn, who had not started since May 6, a perceived mental edge for a team that averaged nine runs per game over the first three rounds. Tereszczyn, however, shut down the lineup after Coffey and Cosentino and nearly helped New Egypt pay Shore back just as Shore paid back Middlesex on Tuesday.

“I thought we came out and hit the ball well. We just didn’t score,” O’Neill said. “Then they hit a couple balls drop in and they have the lead. That’s the way baseball is sometimes. The team that plays the best doesn’t always win. But good teams find a way to win, even when things are going against them, and these guys believe we’re a good team and we’re going to find a way.”

 

Box Score

Shore 3, New Egypt 2

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Shore (17-9)

0

0

2

0

1

0

0

3

6

6

New Egypt (14-10)

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

7

1

 

Shore

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Clayton Coffey, SS

3

2

2

0

1

0

Andrew Schulz, 2B

4

1

3

3

0

1

Matt Cosentino, CF

3

0

0

0

1

0

James Kelly, P

4

0

0

0

0

0

Nick Blaney, C

3

0

0

0

0

0

Dylan Vosk, 3B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Justin Halpern, LF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Matt McCarthy, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

0

Sam Parrino, RF

3

0

1

0

0

0

Totals

29

3

7

3

2

2

HR: Schulz (3rd inning, 1 on, 0 out)
Outfield Assist: Cosentino
SB: Coffey, Schulz

New Egypt

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Quentin Hatt, SS

3

1

1

0

1

1

Austin Lindsay, 2B

4

0

0

0

0

2

Dan Fernicola, 1B

4

0

1

0

0

0

Trevor Buckalew, DH-P

4

1

2

0

0

1

Bryan Atchley, RF

4

0

2

1

0

0

Gino Tortonello, 3B

3

0

0

0

0

0

Chris Simms, LF

3

0

0

0

0

0

Shane Galant, C

3

0

0

0

0

0

Nate Peacock, CF

3

0

1

0

0

1

Totals

31

2

7

1

1

5

2B: Buckalew
GIDP: Hatt, Atchley
SB: Hatt

Shore

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

James Kelly, W (2-4)

7.0

7

2

1

1

5

0

 

New Egypt

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Chris Tereszczyn, L (3-1)

6.0

6

3

3

1

1

1

Trevor Buckalew

1.0

1

0

0

1

1

0