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Two walk-off wins, a 15-strikeout one-hitter, an upset by the No. 23 seed, and a pair of games where the winning team belted three homers - not a bad day of action for the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament.

The most dramatic was Manalapan's rally from a four-run hole to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh and then one in the eighth to walk off with a 5-4 win that helped the Braves avoid the upset bid of No. 26 Donovan Catholic. Stephen Carbonara's three-run double with two out in the bottom of the seventh was the crucial hit that tied the game and then Nick Surhoff won it in the eighth with an RBI single.

Updated Shore Conference Tournament bracket

St. John Vianney also won with some last-inning magic when Victor Jamandron drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh for the walk-off walk that beat No. 21 seed Jackson Liberty 3-2. John Michael Broderick allowed one earned run in six innings to keep the Class A Central champs right in it until they got the win to advance to face Wall in the round of 16 on Saturday.

Shore Regional ace James Kelly helped the Blue Devils pull a first-round upset in the Shore Conference Tournament. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB)

The best individual performance came from Marlboro ace Andrew Nardi, who threw a one-hitter with a career-high 15 strikeouts in a 7-0 win over Pinelands that set up the third meeting of the season with Class A North rival Middletown South in the next round. Right behind Nardi was Freehold Boro's Dante Cuzzolino, who pitched a six-hit shutout with seven strikeouts in a 3-0 win over Ocean that was a measure of payback for the Colonials and Cuzzolino, who gave up a walk-off home run in a loss to Ocean in the Strike Out Autism Challenge on April 18.

There was one other shutout win on the day as the Brick tandem of Brandon Weber and Nic Chirichello as the two combined on a six-hitter in a 3-0 win over Freehold Township, while John Prato and Nick Moglia led the offensive effort.

Also delivering a lights-out performance on the mound was Shore Regional ace James Kelly. The Monmouth University recruit helped the No. 23 Blue Devils pull the biggest upset of the first round when they knocked off No. 10 Barnegat, the Class B South champion and Ocean County Tournament finalist, with a 2-1 win. Kelly struck out eight in a four-hitter.

It was a homerfest for Toms River South and Howell in their first-round victories. Winning pitcher Ray Ligouri belted a two-run homer and teammates Jake Ryan and Trevor Wagner each launched solo shots in a 6-1 win over Raritan by the Indians, while Howell's Dan Matrisciano smacked two solo home runs and teammate Connor Fey blasted another one in an 11-1 rout of St. Rose. Red Bank Catholic also had an offensive explosion with a 13-run first inning on its way to a 17-1 win over Point Beach led by a combined five hits, two triples and seven RBI by Evan Madigan and Aaron Ahn.

RBC and Aaron Ahn rolled past Point Beach to advance to the SCT Round of 16. (Photo by Matt Manley)

One other team that advanced yesterday was Manasquan, which grinded out a 6-3 win over Class B Central champion Mater Dei Prep thanks to four hits and a combined five RBI by brothers Tommy and Jack Sheehan to back up a combined two-hitter by three Warriors' pitchers.

Out of Saturday's Round-of-16 games, four of the eight feature teams playing each other for the second or third time this season. Top-seeded Colts Neck hosts Freehold Boro after beating the Colonials in a nondivisional game in the regular season, RBC hosts Toms River South in the 8-9 game after beating the Indians on the road at the Strike Out Autism Challenge, Jackson Memorial welcomes Howell after having already beaten the Rebels in a nondivisional game, and Middletown South hosts Marlboro after splitting two games with the Mustangs in Class A North.

Wall will host St. John Vianney in what should be a hard-fought game, while No. 19 Brick travels to No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy in an interesting game to compare the relative strengths of Class A South and Class A North. An underdog Shore squad will travel to Manalapan and will need another pitcher to step up with Kelly having gone the distance on Wednesday, while No. 15 Manasquan will take a crack at solving No. 2 Toms River North.

Today is all about the Ocean County Tournament final, which is at 7 p.m. at Toms River East, pitting Jackson Memorial against Barnegat. It's most likely Jackson's Ryan Takacs against John Corbett on the mound, although Barnegat just got knocked out of the SCT so it could also go to Seamus Brazil as well without having to worry about anything other than the state tournament starting next week.

More on Thursday: 

  • The North Jersey football powers are mulling over whether to just break away from the NJSIAA entirely.
  • Matt Thaiss (Jackson Memorial) and Virginia start a crucial three-game, regular-season-ending series against Joe Dudek (CBA) and North Carolina tonight.
  • A Northwestern football player who left the team for mental health reasons has found solace in becoming a WWE wrestler.
  • Leo Mazzone might be the best pitching coach in major-league history, yet no one will hire him.
  • Former Auburn star QB Nick Marshall is now trying to make it as a cornerback with the Jaguars.
  • Oregon State belted seven home runs in a win over Portland.

On tap for today: The NJSIAA Tournament gets rolling in boys lacrosse after one Shore team was in action yesterday, Wall's season came to an end with a loss to Ocean City in South Jersey Group II. Six Shore teams are in action today, with the lone all-Shore match-up being Colts Neck at Lacey in South Jersey Group III. The only other Shore team that won't be on the road besides Lacey is Jackson Liberty, which hosts Absegami in SJ III.

In baseball, tonight at 7 is the Ocean County Tournament championship game between Barnegat and Jackson Memorial at Toms River East. Jackson is seeking its first OCT title since 2012, while Barnegat is looking for its first one in history in its second straight trip to the championship game.

I'll end with reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber buzz-sawing through the Cardinals for 18 strikeouts in eight innings.