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GLASSBORO — Clutch pitching and timely hitting can take you a long way in the state tournament, and that’s precisely the formula Manasquan has used to go from a team that struggled toward the end of the regular season to a squad that is now one win away from a state championship.

Senior left-hander Tommy Sheehan tossed a complete-game three-hitter and the Warriors scratched out a run in the seventh inning for the second straight game to defeat Governor Livingston, 2-1, in the NJSIAA Group II semifinals on Wednesday afternoon at Rowan University. Senior Joe Ostberg scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh and Sheehan retired the Highlanders in order in the bottom frame to send Manasquan to Saturday’s Group II championship game where they will take on Whippany Park.

On Friday Manasquan won the South Jersey Group II state sectional title for its first championship since 1986. Now the Warriors will try to match that 1986 group and close out their dream season with a victory.

“We had nothing to lose today,” Sheehan said. “No one even expected us to win the last game, so we just came in thinking we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

“If you look at our entire season it’s been one-run games,” said senior catcher Adam Schreck. “We just want to win and we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Senior left-hander Tommy Sheehan tossed a three-hitter in a 2-1 win over Gov. Livingston that sent Manasquan to the Group II final. (Photo by Robert Badders).

Sheehan, a Notre Dame signee, allowed one unearned run on three hits while striking out five and walking one. He had one of his most efficient outings of the season, as well, needing just 92 pitches to shut down a Gov. Livingston (26-4) lineup that had scored 31 runs in four state tournaments games heading into Wednesday’s showdown.

Sheehan was throwing his sharp curveball for strikes, and combined with his usual overpowering fastball it made life difficult for the Highlanders’ offense. A line drive triple by Stephen Reid in the first inning was the only hard-hit ball off Sheehan all game. The other two hits he surrendered came on a seeing-eye single between third base and shortstop in the second inning and an infield single in the fifth inning.

“He was lights out,” Schreck said. “His curveball was spot on and he was mostly fastball-curve. Kids would sit on the fastball and we’d dip a curveball in there and they didn’t know what to do. He hit all his spots.”

“He threw his curve dominantly for the first time all year and threw it for a strike,” said Manasquan head coach Bob Waldeyer. “When he’s doing that it’s not a wasted pitch for him, and that made all the difference. With his fastball you can’t catch it if you have to wait for a curveball that might be coming.”

Gov. Livingston senior lefty Nicky Cocchia suffered his first loss of the season (8-1), allowing four hits while striking out six and walking one on 92 pitches.

Just as they did in the sectional final, Manasquan scored the winning run in the top of the seventh. Schreck led off the inning with a single up the middle and Ostberg entered as his courtesy runner. He moved to second on a passed ball and, after a strikeout, went to third on a groundout by Dylan Finn. With Dan Del Guercio at the plate, Cocchia bounced a breaking ball that got away from catcher Dan Baroff and caromed to the backstop. Ostberg initially hesitated, but raced for home and beat the throw with a headfirst slide to give Manasquan a 2-1 lead.

 

“I paused for a minute, with the way the ball kicked straight under the catcher I couldn’t really see it and wanted to make sure he didn’t have it,” Ostberg said. “As soon as I saw the catcher moving I just broke for the plate.”

“He almost sat and didn’t go until I almost kicked him and said go,” Waldeyer said. “When I screamed at him to go the third time he finally want. If he doesn’t score there…”

Sheehan, who retired the final seven batters of the game, set down the Highlanders in order in the bottom of the seventh to keep the Warriors’ incredible postseason run going. Manasquan (15-10) went 1-6 in its final seven games prior to the state tournament and was the No. 4 seed in the South Jersey Group II playoffs. Now the Warriors are one win away from a Group II state championship.

“We’re just having fun,” Schreck said. “If you look at us in the dugout we’re all goofing around and having a good time. We’re just relaxed playing baseball and having fun. We want to finish the season on a win.”

Manasquan got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Sophomore third baseman James Harmstead doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a passed ball with one out. Freshman Alex Galvan then hit a ground ball to first base where P.J. Gonnelli initially looked to throw home, but bobbled the ball and had to settle for the out at first base.

Manasquan also had runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings, but Cocchia was able to work out of trouble in both situations. Sheehan led off the fourth inning with a double and senior Damaso Jaime entered as his courtesy runner. Harmstead moved Jaime to third with a ground ball out, but Cocchia got Schreck to ground out to third and Galvan to pop up to shortstop to keep the game 1-0. In the sixth Sheehan walked with two outs and Jaime, in again as a courtesy runner, stole second after a pickoff throw was dropped. Cocchia stranded him at second by getting Harmstead to ground to third.

Gov. Livingston tied the game 1-1 in the fifth inning when Will Jennings reached on an infield single with one out, diving head first to first base to beat Galvan to the bag. Pinch runner Jace Tweeten then stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Tweeten scored the tying run when Tyler McCulloch reach on an error.

Manasquan was 9-4 late in the season before their slide saw the Warriors enter the state tournament at a meager 10-10. From shutdown pitching to clutch hitting and overall execution, they’ve completely turned their season around.

“It was never about the effort, it was more about executing,” Waldeyer said. “Maybe the stage is making them focus a little more. We had a conversation when we were 10-10 after being 9-4, and they have stepped it up every single game since.”

“Going 1-6 in our last seven games, I don’t think anyone thought we’d be where we are now,” Sheehan said. “We’re going to come out on Saturday, play loose, have fun and try to get another W.”

 

Box Score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Manasquan (15-10) 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 1
Gov. Livingston (26-5) 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 1

 

Pitching

Manasquan IP H R ER BB SO PC
Tommy Sheehan (W, 6-2) 7 3 1 0 1 5 92
Gov. Livingston IP H R ER BB SO PC
Nicky Cocchia (L, 8-1) 7 4 2 2 1 6 92

 

Top Hitters

Manasquan Game Stats
Tommy Sheehan 1-2, 2B, BB
James Harmstead 1-3, 2B, R
Adam Schreck 1-3
Dylan Finn 1-3, 2B

 

Gov. Livingston Game Stats
Stephen Reid 1-3, 3B
P.J. Gonnelli 1-3
Will Jennings 1-3

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 

 

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