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Four great games whittled the Shore Conference Tournament down to the semifinals on Wednesday, headlined by yet another walk-off hit for Christian Brothers Academy junior star Brandon Martorano.

The Colts' dream of chasing five titles in one season looked to be on life support when they trailed Middletown South by four runs going into the bottom of the seventh, but they rallied for another pulse-pounding win, one day after capturing the Monmouth County Tournament title in walk-off fashion thanks to an RBI double by Martorano in the bottom of the seventh inning against Wall.

 

CBA catcher Brandon Martorano was at it again on Wednesday, smacking his third walk-off hit in the last six games. (Photo by Bill Normile)

CBA tied the game with four runs in the bottom of the seventh yesterday, with Martorano belting his second home run of the game to start the rally. The North Carolina recruit then hit the game-winning RBI single in the eighth to pull out a 6-5 win and keep the Colts' SCT hopes alive. Martorano has just been unconscious at the plate. It's almost surprising that anyone pitches to him any more, but the remainder of CBA's lineup has forced opponents to deal with him by consistently putting runners on ahead of him.

The Colts advance to face 15th-seeded Manasquan, which had a thriller of its own with a 6-5 comeback win over Class A Central rival Shore Regional to punch its ticket to the SCT semifinals for the first time since 1993. Senior catcher Tyler Bradley delivered Manasquan's biggest hit of the season thus far when he roped a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Warriors the lead for good.

This is the time of year when teams need their seniors to step up in big spots if they want to keep playing, and that's what Bradley did, as he also hit an RBI double earlier in the game. Fellow senior Tanner Cowley, a Virginia football recruit, also has been on fire, and he belted a solo homer in the win. Two other seniors, Max and Ty Hawkins, combined for four hits, three runs scored and an RBI. Now the Warriors will take their crack at slaying the giant when they face defending SCT champion CBA next Wednesday at Count Basie Park in Red Bank in the semifinals.

On the other side of the bracket, Red Bank Catholic got a third crack at Class B North rival Colts Neck after two regular-season losses to the Cougars and took full advantage. After Colts Neck made it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth, the Caseys answered with a seven-run explosion in the top of the seventh to knock off the SCT's No. 1 seed with a 16-8 win. The bottom of their order did the bulk of the damage as sophomore Anthony DeRosa, junior Mike Spinelli and sophomore Dom Caraballo combined to go 7-for-11 with a walk, two doubles, a triple, two RBI and seven runs scored.

Mike Spinelli was 2-for-2 with a double, triple and three runs scored Wednesday against Colts Neck. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

RBC is now back in the semifinals for the second straight season with a team that only regularly plays about three seniors, so the Caseys could be on the verge of a great run. It was a disappointing end for Colts Neck, which was the No. 1 seed in the MCT, SCT and Central Jersey Group IV, and won a total of one tournament game. The silver lining is that the Cougars did take home a championship this season in capturing the Class B North crown.

RBC will square off against Jackson Memorial, which had a comeback of its own to beat Wall 7-5 to reach the semifinals. A two-run double in the bottom of the sixth by junior Kyle Johnson as part of a three-hit day that helped the Jaguars dig all the way out of an early 5-0 hole keyed by a first-inning grand slam by Wall's Regan Dombroski. Junior Jim Plaganis held the fort with six strong innings of scoreless relief before the Jaguars pulled it out.

The OCT champions are now two wins away from their second SCT title in four seasons and first since 2012. Meanwhile, it was a rough ending for Wall, which was upset in the first round of the state playoffs on Monday, lost a heartbreaker in the MCT final to CBA on Tuesday, and then let the SCT game get away from them on Wednesday to end their season.

Another big game by junior Kyle Johnson put Jackson Memorial into the SCT semifinals. (Photo by Matt Manley)

For Jackson Memorial, the victory also marked win No. 299 for head coach Frank Malta, who will go for the 300-win milestone today in a CJ Group IV quarterfinal against Hillsborough. At the level Jackson has been playing, Malta is racking up 100 wins about every five years, which is as good as it gets. The only bad news from yesterday for Jackson was that senior star Brandon Janofsky, one of the Shore's top pitchers and all-around players, suffered a forearm injury that could potentially sideline him for the rest of the season.

One other game of note from yesterday was St. Rose taking care of Trenton Catholic with an 8-1 win to start its Non-Public South B run. The team that looks like a primary obstacle for the Purple Roses and Mater Dei Prep is No. 4 Marist, which no-hit Ranney in a five-inning win in its first-round game.

More on Thursday:

  • St. John Vianney sophomore offensive lineman Micah Clark added offers from Central Michigan and Illinois yesterday, while junior quarterback Anthony Brown added one from Navy.
  • Penn State football coach James Franklin had some high praise for wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan) and tight end Mike Gesicki (Southern).
  • Former Lakewood star J.R. Smith poured in 28 points to help the Cavaliers beat the Hawks in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Another Catholic school in New Jersey has gone under as Cardinal McCarrick in South Amboy will close its doors after 130 years.
  • The shooting death of a high school basketball star in Paterson has forced some of the warring factions in the city to attempt a truce.
  • A Syracuse women's lacrosse player has come back from three torn ACLs.
  • Sure, Jets. Don't even have a quarterback competition because Geno Smith is just so great.

On tap for today:  In lacrosse, Rumson-Fair Haven is the last team standing from the Shore, while it's another huge day of NJSIAA Tournament baseball, with 17 Shore Conference teams in action. The public brackets are in the sectional quarterfinals, while the Non-Public brackets are getting underway with first-round games.

There are two all-Shore match-ups, as Freehold Boro heads to Manalapan in Central Jersey Group IV, one game after stunning Monroe, while Matawan travels to Manasquan for a big Central Jersey Group II game in which the winner will be the last Shore team standing in the bracket. Toms River North and Toms River South both have home games in their respective South Jersey brackets, and defending Group I champion Shore will look to bounce back from the Manasquan loss at home against Bound Brook in Central Jersey Group I.

I'll end with a spectacular catch by a high school centerfielder from Arizona.