The Shore Daily, 5/13
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Apologies for no column yesterday, as between doing multiple other posts and working on some other stuff, there weren't enough hours in the day. However, there is plenty to talk about today, including the historic and emphatic Shore Conference Tournament championship victory by Southern boys lacrosse.
The undefeated Rams left no doubt with a 16-6 victory over four-time defending SCT champion Rumson-Fair Haven to become the first Ocean County team to ever win the SCT. Southern's relentless offense, led by Chris Smith, Nick Simonelli, Kyle Mulrane adn Dylan Jinks started hot and never slowed down, while a defense led by goalie Brendan Lefanto stifled a talented Rumson attack for the key stretches of the game. Even their sneak attack water bath for the coaches in celebration was fast.
The picture of Jinks, one of the state's top players, hoisting the trophy says it all. This was the third straight year in the final for the Rams, and they finally broke through.
Southern's win is a good thing for the continued evolution of the sport in the Shore because the more teams that rise to power, the higher level of competition it brings. Rather than having two or three really legit teams who are threats on a state-wide level, the Shore can start getting to the point where it has five or six. With young teams like Manasquan, Rumson and Christian Brothers Academy returning a host of talent next season, plus a Southern team that will still be dangerous despite graduating a tremendous senior class, it should only get better and more competitive.
The main intrigue now is whether Southern can topple one of the North Jersey giants like Bridgewater-Raritan or Westfield and win the overall Group IV crown. The Rams are the heavy favorite to win their third straight South Jersey Group IV title and then will probably take on one of those two teams in the Group IV final. It will mark the first and only game all season that Southern is considered an underdog, so a team with that talent going in with nothing to lose could make another piece of history and really put Shore boys lacrosse on the map.
The state tournament starts tomorrow, with the Shore's best shots looking like Southern in South Jersey Group IV and potentially a Rumson-Manasquan showdown for the crown in South Jersey Group I.
The Monmouth County Tournament final is all set as CBA pulled out a 3-2 win over Manalapan in the semifinals yesterday on a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh by North Carolina recruit Brandon Martorano.
The championship was originally scheduled for Friday but has been moved to Tuesday at 8 p.m. at FirstEnergy Park because CBA's opponent, Wall, has a prom on Friday night. The big question is how CBA is going to deploy ace Luca Dalatri, who struck out 12 in a five-hitter yesterday to get the win. The Colts are literally unbeatable with Dalatri on the hill, as he is now a combined 17-0 between this season and last season.
However, they will have a Shore Conference Tournament game on Saturday and then the state tournament starts next week, and sandwiched in all that is the MCT final. Do they go with Dalatri in a bid to lock down the MCT title or use him for one of the other tournaments? That's what's so annoying about having all these simultaneous tournaments for Shore teams. Everywhere else in the state, those county and conference tournaments are wrapped up by the time the NJSIAA Tournament starts, so those teams can go guns blazing into that tournament without having to make choices about what title to chase by lining up their top pitcher. Dalatri, coincidentally, is a Wall resident, so that adds a little spice to the MCT final if he takes the hill.
The rest of Monday and Tuesday's action has been just tune-ups to stay sharp for either the SCT, state tournament, or both, so there was nothing else too monumental the last two days. Congrats to Monmouth Regional standout Matt Vincenti, a senior outfielder who tied the school record for career doubles (23) with one in a loss to Matawan yesterday.
The SCT gets rolling today with 10 games across the Shore in first-round action, with the winners advancing to Saturday's Round of 16. You can check out the full schedule of the whole tournament here.
I also caught up with former Henry Hudson star Jerry Vasto, a left-handed pitcher now in the Colorado Rockies organization. Vasto is the rare professional athlete from Henry Hudson, the smallest school in the Shore Conference. He also pitched at a Division II program, Felician College, but was outstanding enough to get picked in the 24th round last year. Felician is a regular destination for former Shore stars and is coached by former Keyport standout Chris Langan, so it was good to see Vasto helping keep them on the radar for MLB scouts.
Vasto has been great so far in limited work for the Asheville Tourists, who came through FirstEnergy Park the past four days. The key for him is going to be movement. He doesn't have the 98-mph fastball of a top prospect, but if he shows command, hits spots and gets late movement on his pitches, he will continue to progress in that system. It would be a heck of an underdog story if he makes it to the big leagues one day.
Finally, a college commitment to report for a pair of Red Bank Regional seniors.
Didn't get a chance to get to this yesterday, but reading the story of Alec Donovan, the state champion Brick Memorial wrestler, coming out as gay on a recruiting trip gave me even more respect for him than I already had, which was a lot. He's always been a great interview who speaks frankly besides also being a talented wrestler.
The part about him planning to commit suicide as a freshman because he felt worthless after hearing anti-gay remarks from family, friends and students while growing up was heart-breaking, but unfortunately not surprising. People have no idea who they could be hurting or driving closer to something like that when they toss off dumb, homophobic remarks like it's nothing.
When I was in high school, a member of our basketball team committed suicide, and we had thought he may be gay. I look back on stupid stuff that we said because we didn't know better and there wasn't the education and information that is out there now about the gay community, and wonder if our remarks didn't factor into that terrible incident. That's why I hope Donovan's story gets shared widely because maybe it can help eradicate the type of talk that can lead to a gay teen like Donovan having those kind of suicidal thoughts.
Donovan is also the rare wrestler to come out as gay. It's a macho sport where men are in close contact the whole time, so I could see how he would be worried, but it's been heartwarming to see the acceptance from the wrestling community. It also was tremendous to read that when he was worried about his Brick Memorial teammates potentially attacking him when he told them he was gay, instead they told him they were proud of him and were a brotherhood who would support him.
That takes a lot of maturity, and by doing that, they helped fuel his drive for a 39-1 season and a state championship because he didn't have to be eaten alive inside by holding on to a secret. Their decision to support him rather than shun him is a huge turning point in his life, and it shows that attitudes across the country are changing, which is great to see.
Donovan is known as a tireless worker who is always at the wrestling club trying to get better. It's such a grueling sport that when you work as hard as he does and reach the level he reached, you gain respect regardless of your sexuality, so I think that also has been a factor in the positive reaction to his story.
More on Wednesday:
- Red Bank Catholic junior quarterback Eddie Hahn added another FBS offer from Buffalo yesterday.
- The non-public contingent is definitely not happy with this NJSIAA proposal to split the publics and non-publics in football.
- Huge fight coming up Saturday night for UFC star Frankie Edgar, a Toms River East grad.
- Great story about a quarterback from a Pennsylvania high school taking his friend, who has Down syndrome, to the prom in order to fulfill a promise he made to her in elementary school.
- A life in motion, stopped cold.
On tap for today: It's all about the first round of SCT baseball. The games that stick out to me are Jackson Liberty at St. John Vianney, as the Lions are a dangerous team for a 21 seed, and Shore at Barnegat, as 23rd-seeded Shore could be a problem if ace James Kelly, a Monmouth University recruit, is on the mound. Mater Dei Prep at Manasquan is also an interesting game, with the B Central champs going against a Manasquan team looking to make noise in the tournaments after coming up short of the overall title in Class A Central.
I'll end with Southern celebrating the SCT title, Giancarlo Stanton hitting a bomb out of the whole stadium against the Dodgers, and highlights of Shaq's son, Shareef O'Neal, who is now a freshman prospect.