Baseball – Toms River South Mashes Past Toms River North
TOMS RIVER - It's no surprise to junior T.J. Scuderi and his Toms River South baseball teammates that the Indians have started the season on a five-game winning streak, not many of the players - Scuderi included - envisioned the top-to-bottom offensive machine that Toms River South has been at the start of this season.
For the fourth consecutive game, Toms River South - the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - overwhelmed the opposition at the plate when the Indians rapped 17 hits Monday in a resounding 11-2 win over No. 4 Toms River North.
"I don't think we cared too much about the rankings," Scuderi said. "We just wanted to show that people should be scared of our lineup. Even the bottom of our lineup is picking us up right now. It's just fun. It's a lot of fun."
The Mariners handed the ball to Penn State commit Brendan Mullins Monday and hoped the junior right-hander could turn in a performance similar to the one he authored in the Ocean County Tournament championship game, which Toms River North won, 2-1. This, however, was a different Toms River South lineup - many of the names were the same but the Indians offered a more relentless lineup that attacked at every opportunity.
"I'll be honest: we did not expect the bottom of our lineup to do (what they've been doing)," Scuderi said. "We expected them to eat up some pitches and get into deep counts, but they're all raking right now. Having that and then having the top of the lineup come up and drive in runs has been insane and if we keep doing that, we're going to keep putting up nine runs every single game."
Scuderi led the way by going 5-for-5 at the plate, including the second of back-to-back triples that started a five-run fifth inning that staked the Indians to a 7-1 lead. Senior third baseman Ben Montenegro lined a triple to the gap in right-centerfield to lead off the top of the fifth and trotted home when Scuderi launched an elevated 3-2 fastball from Mullins to the wall in dead centerfield to extend Toms River South's lead to 3-1.
After Toms River south starting pitcher Justin Fall walked, senior shortstop Tom Campo bounced a single through the left side to plate Scuderi, which ended Mullins's day. Senior left fielder Jared Kwicinski drew a walk against junior right-hander Anthony Sasso and Indians senior first baseman Matt Fitzpatrick broke the game open with a bases-clearing, three-run double over the head of center fielder Alex Klalo to make the score 7-1.
Montenegro finished the game 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI and also reached on an error as a result of a rope to the right side that normally-sure-handed Mariners first baseman Jared Bellissimo could not handle.
Monday marked the fourth straight game in which the Indians have scored at least nine runs and the third with double-digit scoring. After Fall shut down Jackson Memorial in a 2-0 win on opening day, the Indians have scored 48 runs over the next four games. They hammered Barnegat 15-4, Toms River East 13-2 and Southern 9-1 before doing the same to a Toms River North team that opened the season as the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
"Kwincinski, (Connor) Leatherman and (Dylan) Danelson, all three of them had hits today," Toms River South coach Ken Frank said. "It's tough right now. Mullins is a good pitcher and he's going to be back. Whoever he pitches against next, I'm sure he'll do a good job, but the lineup we have, if we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to be pretty hard to slow down."
Toms River North threatened to jump back into the game in the bottom of the inning by loading the bases against Fall with nobody out, but the 6-foot-5 senior left-hander struck out Ian Mindas with a breaking ball low and in, induced a sacrifice fly by Sasso and, after a walk to load the bases, retired Klalo on a lineout to right field.
The fifth-inning escape was the second time Fall stranded the bases loaded. He escaped the second unscathed thanks to an outfield assist by Scuderi, who fired a one-hop strike from right field to third base to nab courtesy runner Jonathan Giordano trying to go first-to-third on a single by Mindas. A single by Mullins and a walk loaded the bases, but Fall induced a ground out to end the threat.
Monday was not one of Fall's sharper outings as the St. John's recruit walked six and needed the maximum 110 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings. He did, however, execute several pitches with runners on base and run his three-year varsity record to 13-1, including 3-0 this season. Fall allowed six hits, one earned run and struck out six before giving way to senior Matt Shiffer.
"I have to limit my walks in the future," Fall said. "Of course we played in the rain and it was tough to get any footing early on, but it's on me to figure that out. I got in jams and worked out of it. It was important to keep us it because eventually we came around with the bats."
In addition to grinding out a win on the mound, Fall opened the scoring with his fourth extra-base hit of the season - a two-run double in the top of the third inning. Fall saw just a smattering of at-bats as a junior last season, but came to camp this season showing eye-opening pop, enough to convince Frank to slot him in the cleanup spot in the order.
"He's been big," Frank said of Fall in the lineup. "He's really come on and done the job."
"I don't really think about the other pitcher when I'm hitting," Fall said. "I'm more just 'See the ball and hit the ball.' That's pretty much all I think about."
In each of Toms River South's last four games, Fall has logged an extra-base hit. He tripled in the win over Barnegat, doubled to help his cause in a win over Toms River East and slammed a three-run homer in the in over Southern.
Toms River South tacked on two runs in both the six and seventh innings, with Campo slamming an RBI double to left field to score Scuderi before coming in to score on the back end of a double steal.
Montenegro and Scuderi capped the scoring with consecutive RBI singles in the seventh, which began with the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters reaching. Senior catcher Connor Leatherman singled to lead off the frame and senior center fielder Dylan Danelson doubled to left to set Toms River South up with runners on second and third and none out.
The length in Toms River South's lineup - which could go even deeper as promising sophomore Colin Mackle gets healthy and up to speed - has made the difference for an Indians team that boasted a balanced, talented pitching staff last year but did most of its offensive damage against the middle and back of opponents' rotations. In these last three games, however, the Indians have beaten the returning No. 1 starter for each team - Nick DeGennaro of Toms River East, Nick Simone of Southern and Mullins on Monday.
"Doing what we did this week against (DeGennaro), then against Southern and now against North - it was a lot of fun," Scuderi said. "I think a lot of people underestimated us."
No. 1 Toms River South 11, No. 4 Toms River North 2
|TR South (5-0, 4-0)||0||0||2||0||5||2||2||11||17||1|
|TR North (3-2, 2-2)||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||2||7||1|
|Justin Fall (W, 3-0)||5.2||6||2||1||6||6||110|
|Brendan Mullins (L, 1-1)||4||9||6||5||1||2||78|
|TR South||Game Stats|
|T.J. Scuderi||5-5, 3B, 3 R, 2 RBI|
|Ben Montenegro||3-5, 3B, 2 R, RBI|
|Matt Fitzpatrick||2-4, 2B, 3 RBI|
|Justin Fall||2-4, 2B, 2 RBI|
|Tom Campo||2-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB|
|Dylan Danelson||1-4, 2B, R|
|TR North||Game Stats|
|Craig Larsen||2-3, R|
|Jordan Schaff||1-3, BB, R|
|Nick Sibilia||2-2, 2 BB|