Considering the powerhouse high school baseball programs that Ocean County produces annually it’s certainly no surprise that we have a team playing for a state sectional title. 

Brick Memorial pitcher Brian Cottrell (Scott Stump, All Shore Media)

However when you look at what Brick Memorial had to overcome to get there the fact that it’s the Mustangs with a chance for a state championship is certainly quite shocking.   Memorial advanced to the Central Jersey Group 4 Finals with a 2-0 shutout of rival and nemesis Jackson Memorial Wednesday and they did it on the Jaguars Larry D’Zio Field

Brian Cottrell was the story yesterday as he allowed just four hits, struck out 4 and walked just one in pitching the Mustangs into their first sectional final in 17 years.

Tyler Hobbs had two hits and collected an RBI single in the 2nd inning for the only run Brick Memorial would need as they ended a 13-game losing streak against the Jaguars.   The Mustangs began the state tournament as the 14th seed among the 16 teams in the sectional but have eliminated Rancocas Valley, cross-town rival Brick and powerful Jackson on their way to Friday’s sectional final against Hunterdon Central, a surprise finalist in their own right.  Memorial improved to 15-12 with the win and a sweet 16 would give Coach Evan Rizzitello a state title in just his third season as head coach.

Meanwhile there is no time for the Jaguars to lick their wounds because this afternoon they face another division rival in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.  Top-seed and defending champion Jackson and Toms River North will battle for the fourth time this spring at Count Basie Park in Red Bank for the right to face Jackson Liberty in Monday night’s championship game at FirstEnergy Park.

Wall shortstop Chris Barcas at the plate during the season (Scott Stump, All Shore Media)

The Lions, who stunned #2 seed Red Bank Catholic in the quarterfinals, disposed of another Monmouth County power when they toppled third-seed CBA 3-1 Wednesday.  Jordan Mundell drove in two runs for Jackson Liberty, who needed a gutsy relief outing from Tyler Pallante to advance into the Shore Conference Tournament final for the first time.

It would be interesting if they faced their rivals from the other side of town but of course the North Mariners will look to spoil an all-Jackson showdown. Both Central Regional and Point Pleasant Beach bowed out of the state tournament with sectional semifinal losses yesterday as the season winds down.