The Shore Daily, 4/29/15
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Jackson Liberty got a leg up on the rest of the competition in Class B South entering a crucial stretch of the race, and Middletown South continued its offensive surge to win a Top 10 battle in Class A North to highlight Tuesday's baseball action.
On the football side of things, the recruiting for St. John Vianney sophomore offensive tackle Micah Clark continues to explode, as he added two more big-time offers on Tuesday. (See more below).
The Lions upended Donovan Catholic 5-2 for sole possession of first place in Class B South, but will be right back at it today against the Griffins, so there's no time to celebrate. They also still have two games left against Barnegat, and have the Ocean County Tournament looming, so Jackson Liberty's pitching depth will definitely be tested and there is still some heavy lifting to be done to repeat as division champs. Junior Brandon Pallante gave them a great start on Tuesday with five innings of two-hit ball to help set the tone, and the offense banged out 14 hits against a Donovan Catholic pitching staff that has been tough in B South games this season.
Middletown South has now won 10 of 11 as its offense continues to explode after a slow start. The No. 6 Eagles won 9-5 over No. 5 Marlboro, a team whose pitching has been among the Shore's best, to continue their momentum into May.
The craziest division race is Class A Central, where Manasquan and Monmouth are now tied for first, with St. John Vianney, Shore, and even a 2-7 Rumson team only a game behind, and Raritan two games behind after a loss to Shore on Tuesday. That means six of the seven teams in the division still have a shot at the title or at least a piece of it. Plus, these wins are coming in unorthodox fashion, as Manasquan beat St. John Vianney in extra innings on Tuesday on a dropped pop-up that allowed two runs to score, and Monmouth beat Holmdel by a run despite only having one hit, but drawing 17 walks.
Here are the Top 10 performers from Tuesday's action, in no particular order.
Dave DeFeo, Sr., 1B, Pinelands
DeFeo finished 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and six RBI in a 9-2 win over Manchester in Class B South to put the Wildcats (6-7) one win from getting back to the .500 mark.
Howard Taylor, Sr., INF, Jackson Liberty
Taylor went 2-for-4 and set the tone for a big 5-2 victory over Donovan Catholic by smashing a two-run homer in the first inning of a game that put the Lions in sole possession of first place in Class B South. He later added an RBI single.
Chris Rodriguez, Jr., SS, Manalapan
Rodriguez helped the Braves get their sixth win in seven games by finishing 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, including the game-winning run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 win over Freehold Township on an RBI single by Stephen Hansen.
Dante Cuzzolino, Sr., P, Freehold Boro
Cuzzolino stifled Howell in a complete-game four-hitter, walking three and striking out five in a 3-1 win in Class A North.
Johnny Zega, Jr., P, Middletown South
Zega continues to play well, as he threw 5 2/3 innings of no-hit relief with no walks while also belting a two-run homer as the Eagles rallied from a five-run hole to beat Marlboro 9-5 for their 10th win in 11 games.
Chas Breithoff, Jr., P, Shore Regional
Breithoff threw a complete-game three-hitter in an important 5-4 win over Raritan that kept the Blue Devils right in the hunt for the Class A Central title.
Brett Hyers, Sr., P, Toms River North
Hyers continues to be one of the Shore's top pitchers, as he threw a complete-game six-hitter, walking none and striking out seven, in a 7-1 win over Brick Memorial.
Brandon Roth, Sr., OF, Freehold Township
Roth was outstanding in an extra-inning loss to Manalapan as he went 4-for-5 and hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh and send it into extra innings.
Christian Pongracz, Jr., M, and Chris Stefanowicz, Jr., LSM, Jackson Liberty
Pongracz and Stefanowicz combined for 14 groundballs and helped lead the defensive effort as the Lions pulled out a 7-6 win over No. 9 Barnegat in Class B South in a game that was tied at 5 going into the fourth quarter.
Matt Yard, So., P, and Mike Yard, Jr., 1B, Wall
The Yard brothers helped lead the way as the Crimson Knights continued their best stretch of the season by beating No. 9 Ocean 12-3 in Class B North. Matt allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, while Mike went, uh, yard with a two-run homer in the win.
The latest Shore Sports Network Top 10 by Bob Badders is out, and it's pretty status quo as the Shore Conference Tournament looms next week. No. 9 Barnegat lost yesterday to Jackson Liberty, while there are two big ones today between No. 7 Red Bank Catholic and No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven, and No. 3 Howell and No. 6 Freehold Township.
The latest Players of the Week are also out, headlined by Manasquan sophomore attackman Jarrett Birch.
The recruiting of St. John Vianney sophomore offensive lineman Micah Clark continues to explode, as he picked up offers from Alabama and Michigan on Tuesday, according to Lancers coach Mark Ciccotelli. He already had offers from Boston College, Rutgers, Penn State, Syracuse and Temple, but when Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh come calling, you know things are picking up. That may not be it for the offers this week, either, as several other major conference coaches are expected to stop by at the school for Clark.
Clark is one of three players on the Lancers who have one or more FBS offers along with junior quarterback Anthony Brown and junior cornerback Khalil Haskins. Clark is considered one of the top 70 players in the nation for the Class of 2017, top 10 among offensive tackles, and the No. 1 offensive line prospect in New Jersey for his class.
Also, as for the NFL Draft coming up tomorrow night, the main hopeful is Middletown South graduate Rick Lovato, who will most likely sign with a team as an undrafted free agent. Lovato was a long-snapper at Old Dominion, so the hope is that he can be the next Clark Harris, the former Rutgers and Southern star tight end who used his long-snapping skills to become a mainstay with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he is currently in the midst of a multi-million dollar contract.
More on Wednesday:
- Former CBA star and current Robert Morris coach Andy Toole is one of the speakers at this year's New Jersey Basketball Coaches Clinic.
- A lacrosse community in Maryland has helped a high school player who has lost both of his parents and an uncle to cancer.
- How Twitter plans to keep its users addicted.
- Bo Jackson may be 51 years old, but he's still doing ridiculous things like smashing a golf ball 331 yards.
- The descent of famed sportswriter Jim Dent, who wrote "The Junction Boys" that became an ESPN movie. He got 10 (!) DUIs and is now in prison.
- The selfie arm is creepy and depressing.
On tap for today: Really big day of lacrosse, with the Class B North and Class A North titles essentially being decided one way or the other. No. 2 Rumson is at No. 7 RBC in B North, and No. 6 Freehold Township is at No. 3 Howell in A North. Howell is gunning for its first division title in program history, while a Freehold Township win will most likely mean a tri-championship between the Patriots, Rebels and CBA.
In baseball, Freehold Township is at Ocean in a Monmouth County Tournament game, while Donovan Catholic is at Jackson Liberty, one day after Liberty beat the Griffins to grab sole possession of first place in Class B South.
I'll end with Jackson Liberty's Kyle Tavaska slamming a double off the wall in the win over Donovan Catholic, an awesome dirt bike triple backflip, and Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley's selfie after he took a line drive to the face.