Baseball – St. Rose Blanks Mater Dei to Clinch B Central Title
FARMINGDALE - A walk-off loss toward the end of its divisional scheduled doomed St. Rose in its chase for the 2015 Shore Conference Class B Central championship and Monday's loss had the potential to do the same this year.
The Purple Roses, however, had an immediate chance at redemption Thursday afternoon and, fittingly enough, it came against the Mater Dei Prep team that beat St. Rose for the division last season.
St. Rose showed no ill-effects of Monday's walk-off, extra-inning loss to Keyport, erupting for five first inning runs and letting junior right-hander Brandon Mology do the rest in an 8-0 win that clinched the Purple Roses the outright Class B Central championship.
"Coming in with a couple of losses on our back made us want this even more," said Mology, whose team also lost to Howell Saturday in the Monmouth County Tournament in a one-run game, 5-4. "We've been preparing for this game since we started this season since we lost to them last year. That gave us extra motivation to bounce back, especially with the division on the line."
Mology tossed a two-hit shutout after taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in the division-clinching win. The right-hander did not record a strikeout over his first five innings, but after stranding a runner in scoring position in the fifth, he recorded three of the final six outs via the strikeout - including the last two hitters.
"When we're sitting there knowing he's getting the ball for us, you just have a good feeling about yourself," St. Rose coach Chris LeMore said. "You know he's going to throw two pitches for strikes and he feels good about what he's doing out there. He's had a couple tough breaks against Brick and Howell, so it was good to see him go out today and do the things that he did today."
After Mology worked around a two-out error in the first inning, his team quickly spotted him five runs in the home first. The top of the order set up the inning with a bunt single by senior right fielder Mike Gowen a sacrifice bunt in which Mology reached on a throwing error and a jam-shot single to right by shortstop Joe Volpe to load the bases with none out.
Junior center fielder Brendan Hueth followed with a solid line drive to center field for a two-run single and after a fly out by sophomore catcher Brody Maypother for the first out, second baseman Will Gannon belted a two-run triple to fence in right field.
Riley Maypother capped the first-inning scoring by dropping in an RBI single. St. Rose sent 10 men to the plate in the inning and needed to see only 21 pitches to score those five runs. By contrast, they saw 25 pitches the following inning in half as many plate appearances.
"After a tough weekend and a tough game on Monday and not being able to get any practices in, I couldn't be any happier with the way they came out in the first inning," LeMore said. "It's really the matra we want to have all the time: everybody in there with an aggressive mindset and trying to hit the ball hard up the middle. It was really nice to see.
Brody Maypother later added an RBI double in the second and an RBI single in the fourth to round out a 2-for-3 game at the plate. As a first-year starter at catcher Maypother leads the Purple Roses with three home runs and a .863 slugging percentage and is coming off a week in which he went 8-for-12 with two doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI in four games.
"Mostly, I've just been looking for a fastball to hit and leaving the curveballs along when they are out of the zone," Maypother said.
"He's been a huge addition from the first day he walked into the facility in March to this point right now," said LeMore, who is also a former catcher. "Whether it's his hitting or behind the plate, he's really growing into the position and it's really nice to see. I'm a loud guy and he's starting to take on that personality and show the characteristics of being the leader of the entire team."
Hueth finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI and has now driven in a team-best 27 runs.
St. Rose's defense committed two errors Thursday, but also faced 21 balls in play. The infield turned two double plays, including a four-six-three variety by Gannon and Volpe up the middle to get Mology out of the fifth after Mater Dei's two hits.
"The most important thing I wanted to do today was throw strikes and give our defense a chance," Mology said. "They have some good hitters so I definitely wanted to try to mix it up and keep them off balance but the key was making sure I gave us a chance by throwing strikes."
Designated hitter Kevin Olausen and left fielder Mike Dunne each singled for Mater Dei in that fifth inning. Vinny Stanziale - who started last year's division-clinching win over St. Rose last year - fell victim to a bunt single, an error and two soft singles to the outfield in the five-run first before allowing four hits over his last three innings of work.
Mater Dei beat St. Rose on a walk-off single with two out in the bottom of the seventh last season to clinch a share of the division title and went on to clinch the outright title with a win over Ranney the next game. That outright title was Mater Dei's first since 2002 and this year, St. Rose set out to return to dominance with Gowen as the only senior in the starting lineup.
"I pulled the guys together before the game and I told them, 'Today is an opportunity to check off a box,'" said LeMore, who won his first division title as a head coach after previous stops at Marlboro and Red Bank and a stint as an assistant at Christian Brothers Academy immediately before accepting the St. Rose job last season. "Today was an opportunity to really own up to something that we talked about doing in February and it was really nice that they came out and did what they did in the first inning."