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An exciting slate of Strike Out Autism baseball games on Saturday, a host of lacrosse thrillers including a historic win for Howell, and the start of the Monmouth County Tournament made up a great weekend of Shore Conference action.

Saturday's Strike Out Autism Challenge games were a big success, raising thousands of dollars to help autism awareness and research in addition to providing funds to help special services and autism programs at local schools. It was the most beautiful day of the spring so far, and there turned out to be plenty of great games, including three walk-off wins and Brick Memorial upsetting previously undefeated Colts Neck.

Freehold Township pitcher Kyle Fenton and head coach Todd Smith celebrate a 5-1 win over host Central in Saturday's Strike Out Autism Challenge. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Challenge director Jerry Frulio has done a remarkable job of making this a fixture on the Shore baseball schedule in only three years, and it's great to see the solidarity of the Shore baseball coaches, players, parents and fans in supporting this event.

(Photo by Sport Shots WLB)

With that said, there were so many great performances this weekend that we'll go with the top 20 instead of just the usual 10 from this weekend's action, in no particular order.

Rich Rountree, Sr., OF, Jackson Memorial

Rountree slugged a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the host Jaguars an 8-4 win over rival Jackson Liberty in Saturday's Strike Out Autism Challenge. Rountree now has three homers and 13 RBI for the season.

Ian Colmorgan, Sr., G, Howell

Colmorgan was outstanding in the net with 17 saves to help the Rebels make history with a 13-8 win over Christian Brothers Academy on Friday for Howell's first win ever over the Colts.

Anthony Bartolomei, Sr., P, Ocean

Bartolomei smacked his first two varsity home runs, including a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the eighth, to power Ocean's 3-2 win over Freehold Boro in the Strike Out Autism Challenge. Bartolomei also threw seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing two runs while striking out seven and walking three.

Ian Ambrose, Sr., P, Brick Memorial

Ambrose earned Player of the Game honors by not allowing an earned run in five innings, allowing five hits, striking out three and walking three, as the Mustangs took down previously unbeaten Colts Neck 5-3 in the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Zach Mason, Sr., P, Southern

Mason earned Player of the Game honors in a 12-6 win over Mater Dei Prep at the Strike Out Autism Challenge by tying the Shore Conference high this season with 14 strikeouts in the Rams' win.

Tim Barile, Sr., A, Red Bank Catholic

Red Bank Catholic's Tim Barile loads up for the game-winning shot on goal in double overtime in a 10-9 win over rival Red Bank. (Photo by B51 Photography)

Barile had a hat trick and an assist, which included scoring the game-winning goal in overtime as the Caseys held off the upset bid of rival Red Bank on Friday night with a 10-9 thriller in double overtime.

Kyle Fenton, Sr., P, Freehold Township

(Photo by Scott Stump)

In his first varsity start, Fenton threw a complete-game two-hitter, retiring 14 straight batters to end the game, on 88 pitches in a 5-1 win over Central in the Strike Out Autism Challenge. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.

Robbie Garavente, Sr., A, Rumson-FH

(Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography).

Garavente registered five goals and two assists as the Bulldogs knocked off previously undefeated Ocean 13-6 in a Top 10 showdown on Saturday.

Tyler Foss, Sr., Midfielder, Toms River North

Foss had a hat trick and an assist as the Mariners held off Lacey 9-7 on Friday in a key Class A South match-up.

Aaron Ahn, So., 3B, Red Bank Catholic

Ahn belted a home run and a double and had three RBI as the undefeated Caseys kept rolling with a 10-3 win over Toms River South in a Top 10 showdown in the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Drew Cook, Sr., INF, Red Bank

Cook went 4-for-4 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI, scoring the winning run on a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Bucs upended Monmouth 9-8 in the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Jon Pierce, Jr., G, Red Bank Regional

(Photo by B51 Photography)

Pierce was incredible in defeat with 27 saves in a 10-9, double-overtime loss to No. 6 Red Bank Catholic on Friday.

Zach Schild, Jr., C, Middletown South

Schild went 3-for-4, including a game-tying, two-run double in the seventh inning, to help the Eagles knock off Manasquan with a four-run rally in the final inning of an 8-7 win in the opening round of the Monmouth County Tournament on Friday.

Will Morgan, Sr., OF, CBA

(Photo by Bill Normile)

The Old Dominion recruit had himself a day on Friday, almost hitting for the cycle in only five innings during the Colts' 13-1 win over Middletown North. He double, homered and tripled, finishing with four RBI.

Devin McLaughlin, Jr., INF, Shore Regional

McLaughlin went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, three RBI and two runs scored as the Blue Devils outslugged Matawan, 11-9, in the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Mike Kelleher, Sr., P, Raritan

Kelleher fired a one-hitter in a 6-2 win over Lakewood, striking out nine, to earn Player of the Game honors at the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Brandon DeKovics, Jr., P, St. John Vianney

DeKovics shut down No. 10 Barnegat with a complete-game four-hitter, striking out four and walking one, in a 7-1 win at the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Mike Dimino, Fr., P, Donovan Catholic

Dimino continued the tremendous pitching for the Griffins with a complete-game three-hitter in which he did not allow an earned run in an 8-1 win over Middletown North in the Strike Out Autism Challenge.

Shawn McManus, Sr., Midfielder, Southern

McManus had a hat trick as the top-ranked Rams remained unbeaten by winning a Top 10 showdown against No. 7 Freehold Township, 11-4, on Friday.

Steve Rullo, Jr., P, Freehold Boro

Rullo shut down Red Bank in an opening-round Monmouth County Tournament game with a four-hitter in which he struck out two and walked one in a 6-1 victory on Friday.

BASEBALL

I got a chance to take in Freehold Township's 5-1 win over Central at Saturday's Strike Out Autism Challenge, which offered the chance to see the Patriots' slugging catcher, senior Joe Silvestrone, who did not disappoint.

Silvestrone thumped his Shore Conference-leading sixth home run, a two-run shot, for some insurance runs late in the game. He was facing Central reliever Jake Dominguez, who has a hammer curveball. Dominguez threw him a pretty good one, and he still golfed it over the center field fence about 380 feet at a Central park where the ball doesn't carry that well.

Hitting offspeed stuff is going to have to be essential for Silvestrone, as he said he has seen a steady diet of offspeed slop since he went on a five-homer rampage in back-to-back games early in the season.

"I've been very anxious this week,'' Silvestrone said. "Basically every pitch I see is a curveball. I just have to be patient and realize that walks lead to runs, and runs lead to wins."

Senior Kyle Fenton was great on the mound, pounding the strike zone and letting his defense work as he retired 14 straight to wrap up a two-hitter on 88 pitches. One thing that stuck out about Central is that you rarely see a freshman batting clean-up, but that is the case with the Golden Eagles with designated hitter Tom Ruscitti. He smacked an RBI double off Fenton and is certainly one to keep an eye on in the coming years.

As for the other Strike Out Autism games, I don't think you can draw too big of a conclusion from the results. A lot of teams were using their third or fourth pitchers or only used them for a few innings because they're saving their big guns for divisional play, so it was more about some fun baseball on a beautiful day that raised thousands of dollars for the autism cause.

As for this week, there is only one unbeaten team left standing, and that is Red Bank Catholic. The Caseys have a good test against Colts Neck in a big Class B North game on Tuesday. RBC is one of four Shore teams ranked in the latest Star-Ledger Top 20, which includes Marlboro at No. 20. I don't ever remember Marlboro being ranked in the state, so that's a tribute to the Mustangs' great start and the ongoing building of their program under Jim Ferraro.

FOOTBALL

More college commitments to report.

 

More on Monday:

  • Defensive end Garrett Sickels (Red Bank) won the award for the most improved defensive player at Penn State's Blue-White game over the weekend. Manalapan's Saeed Blacknall also had a game-high 7 catches for 71 yards in the game.
  • Terrible to hear about the murder of a freshman basketball standout at Paterson Charter in a drive-by shooting on Saturday.
  • Remarkable story about a blind USC football fan who served as an inspiration to the team when he was younger and is now a freshman walk-on long-snapper. It's like something out of a movie.
  • Heart-wrenching story about a high school softball coach in Oregon who has returned to the field after the death of his daughter in a car accident.
  • Baylor is going to start a 405-pound tight end who coach Art Briles has dubbed "The Annihilator."
  • Crazy story on the guy who killed John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
  • Shawn Kemp had a party in Seattle when the Thunder missed the playoffs.

On tap for today: All the baseball is rained out, but there still are several lacrosse games that are still on.

I will end with the awesome steal of home for the walk-off win by Louisville, and the freakish Anthony Davis.