Baseball – Wall, TRE Advance in SCT
WALL - If double plays are a pitcher’s best friend, then Wall senior right-hander Tyler Swiggart was surrounded by friends during Sunday’s Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals against Toms River North. And if double plays are a pitcher’s best friend, then the triple play Wall turned for their senior ace must be his baseball soul mate.
The Crimson Knights' defense overcame six errors by turning three double plays and a third-inning triple play that helped Swiggart out of a number of jams and aided the Crimson Knights in a 5-4 win over the defending SCT champions. Wall will host No. 19 Brick in the quarterfinals on Monday.
Wall answered three Toms River North runs in the top of the first with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning and took the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to go up, 5-4. Junior left fielder Brendan Barcas tied the game with an infield single with the bases loaded and senior center fielder Tim Willey plated the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“Our defense hasn’t been quite as sharp as it usually is but when things are tense, there is nobody better than Swiggart,” Willey said. “Usually I’ll say something to the pitcher in games like this, but with him, you just let him do his thing. We knew he’d keep pitching great and eventually we’d make some plays for him and score him some runs.”
Wall (18-4) turned double plays in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and with runners on first and second and none out in the top of the third, the Crimson Knights bailed Swiggart out of the inning with an 8-6-1 triple play to end the inning. With both Toms River North runners moving on the play, Mariners sophomore Jeff Ciervo lined the ball to shallow center field, where Willey came in and caught it.
“I heard a lot of yelling, so I figured the runners were going on the play,” Willey said. “I’ve got to admit, when I threw the ball to second, I totally forgot there was a runner on first, so when I saw their guy running back to first, I thought I messed up. Then I realized we had a shot at a triple play.”
With designated hitter Mike Tiplady already at third base, Willey flipped the ball to shortstop Chis Barcas at the second base bag to secure the double play. Barcas then gathered himself and tossed the ball to first base, where Swiggart covered for first baseman Jack Gifford, who was trailing Toms River North baserunner Joe Venditto. Swiggart momentarily struggled to locate the bag with his feet, but tapped the base in time to finish off the rare triple play.
“I saw it developing and I kind of motioned toward first before I realized Gifford was trailing the runner and nobody was on the bag,” Swiggart said. “I got over there as quick as I could and fortunately, I found the bag.”
All four runs allowed by Swiggart were unearned thanks to the six Wall errors, beginning with the three Mariners runs in the top of the first inning. Sophomore shortstop Joey Rose reached on an error to begin the inning and after an infield single by Julian Feliz and a walk to Anthony Ferlise, Tiplady hit a ground ball to shortstop to push home the first run, and another scored after Tiplady safely reached on a throwing error. Left fielder Joe Venditto grounded to second to score the third run of the inning.
The Crimson Knights got those three runs back in a hurry by tie the game in the bottom of the third. Chris Barcas led off the rally with a double to shallow right and scored on an RBI single by senior second baseman Branden Biegert. Brendan Barcas plated the next two runs with an RBI fielder’s choice ground out that turned into two runs on a throwing error on the double-play turn.
Toms River North (14-8) regained the lead with another unearned run off Swiggart in the second. Kevin Blum was hit by a pitch with one out and when Swiggart mishandled a comebacker to the mound by Julian Feliz, he threw the ball away to allow Blum to score all the way from first.
“We’ve had some games like this lately where we get burned on some balls that don’t leave the infield and then on the other side, we hit the ball hard right at guys,” Wall coach Todd Schmitt said. “That’s going to happen from time to time and today was good because we didn’t stay down after that first inning and the guys found a way to get it done.”
Sunday’s win for Swiggart snaps a two-game losing streak for the Wall ace, who did not lose his first game last year until the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III final and began this season 6-0. His struggles to win also coincided with some overall struggles by the team in the field and at the plate, struggles that Wall’s experienced roster is looking to put behind it for another long postseason run.
“We’ve coddled them. We’ve yelled at them. We’ve run them. We’ve rested them. At some point, we just told them, ‘It’s on you guys now,’” Schmitt said. “‘You guys are seniors and if you’re going to get straightened out and make a run, it’s got to be you guys who do it. We’ve done all we can do and now it’s time for the seniors to be seniors and for experience to take over.”
Toms River East 2, Ocean 0
Senior right-hander Jeff Cannova threw a five-hit shutout with no walks and three strikeouts and Toms River East mustered enough offense to beat Ocean and advance to the SCT quarterfinals Wednesday against No. 7 Barnegat.
The Raiders scored a run each in the second and third innings to support their senior starter. Senior third baseman Charlie Mulé singled and scored on an RBI double by junior right fielder Josh Sommerer to open the scoring in the second. Senior center fielder Max Lasky then led off the third with a walk and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by senior designated hitter C.J. Hirschy.
Ocean junior starter Blake DeMeter was on his game despite taking the loss. The junior right-hander allowed two runs on only three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. Right fielder Andrew MacNeille went 2-for-3 to lead the Spartans lineup.
Toms River East played Sunday without junior shortstop Jon Meola, who missed the game due to flu-like symptoms, according to the Raiders coaching staff.