Baseball – After Barely Sneaking In, Brick Memorial Begins SCT Run
HOLMDEL - During its mad scramble last week to become the 25th and final team to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament, the Brick Memorial baseball team showed it could compete with the top teams in the Shore and win with its collective back against the wall.
After winning another hard-fought, do-or-die game on Wednesday, the Mustangs will now set out to prove they can not only play with the best: they can beat them.
Brick Memorial - the No. 17 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - pulled out a 3-2 win over No. 16 St. John Vianney, 3-2, Wednesday to earn a trip to play No. 1 Middletown South Saturday in the round of 16.
Brick Memorial lost by one run to both Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty last week - the Nos. 5 and 2 seeds in the tournament, respectively. Jackson Memorial fought off the Mustangs, 4-3, to open the week and Jackson Liberty survived an 11-10 slugfest in Friday's Ocean County Tournament quarterfinal round.
After losing to Jackson Liberty and falling to 9-11 overall, Brick Memorial hit the road Saturday for a 4-1, morning win at St. Rose, then returned home for an 11-1 late-afternoon win over Matawan to reach a .500 winning percentage and qualify for the SCT.
"I think we showed last week we can play with anybody," Brick Memorial coach Evan Rizzitello said. "Earlier in the year, I don't know that we win a game like today but going through last week's schedule definitely got us ready. You look at a schedule that has Jackson, Jackson and Jackson - that's a lot to overcome and our guys battled all week and we're glad we have the opportunity."
Senior second baseman Greg Hanlon was the catalyst for Brick Memorial late in Wednesday's win, delivering big hits in both the sixth and seventh innings. He ripped a double down the left-field line to lead off the top of the sixth, took third on a wild pitch and scored when St. John Vianney sophomore catcher Jacob Ramirez's throw skipped into shallow left field.
Hanlon's one-man run in the sixth extended St. John Vianney's lead to 2-0, but Vianney - and Ramirez - responded. Senior second baseman Robert Skinner reached on an error, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the Lancers' first run on an RBI ground out by senior third baseman Luciano Fabrizzi.
Ramirez stepped to the plate with two out and freshman Rocko Brzezniak on second base as the tying run and fell behind in the count, 1-2. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Ramirez scalded a line drive into right field for a two-out RBI single, tying the game at 2-2.
Ramirez's sixth-inning heroics set the stage for Hanlon to come through again in the seventh. Senior center fielder Graham Harrigan singled through the left side with one out against St. John Vianney reliever Evan Pollack, who struck out the next batter for the second out.
Senior catcher Mike Murphy worked a six-pitch walk to extend the inning for Hanlon, who hit the first pitch he saw through the left side, just out of the reach of a diving Brzezniak at shortstop. Harrigan motored around third to score the go-ahead run, putting the Mustangs on top, 3-2.
"I was just thinking about putting the ball in play," Hanlon said. "With two outs, I just wanted to give us a chance to score that winning run."
Junior right-hander Nick Gillen lasted six innings on the mound to earn the win and turned the ball over the senior Torrey Savoia for the seventh. Savoia mowed down St. John Vianney in order, including strikeouts of the final two batters, for his fourth save of the season.
Gillen allowed two unearned runs on five hits while striking out two and walking two while evening his record at 3-3.
Savoia's brother, Tristan, opened the scoring with his first home run, a solo shot that cleared the left-center field fence in the top of the second inning.
A total of 10 St. John Vianney batters reached base on Wednesday but four were erased on the basepaths by Murphy. The senior backstop threw out two runners attempting to steal, caught one on a back-pick at first base and hosed one more trying to advance to third base on a pitch in the dirt.
The four assists loomed large not only in keeping a potential third run from scoring but also in ensuring that Torrey Savoia got to face the bottom of the order in the bottom of the seventh.
"Even when he doesn't get a hit, he showed you how he impacts the game," Rizzitello said of Murphy.
Without those outs on the bases, St. John Vianney would have had a chance to tie or win the game with the top of its order, perhaps even with Brzezniak at the plate. The freshman continued his outstanding first season of high school ball Wednesday by going 1-for-2 with an intentional walk and a run scored in the sixth inning.
Brzeniak - who has already offered a non-binding verbal commitment to play at Louisville - is hitting .521 with a slugging percentage of over 1.000 thanks to his six home runs. He picked up a single on a pop-up that dropped in shallow right field, but was not so lucky in his second at-bat, when he ripped a line drive that shortstop T.J. Rosace snared out of the air with a runner on second base.
Brick Memorial will face another offensive force when it travels to Middletown on Saturday to play the Eagles, who are the Class A North champions with average offensive output of 6.8 runs per game.
"We play a regular-season schedule that includes Jackson Memorial twice, that has some tough teams like (Toms River) North and South twice, so we feel like we know what it's like to step up and play a team like them," Rizzitello said. "We're not afraid to play anybody and I though coming into this tournament, we could be a team that top teams wouldn't necessarily want to see early on."
Brick Memorial 3, St. John Vianney 2
|Brick Mem (12-11)||0||1||0||0||0||1||1||3||7||3|
|Nick Gillen (W, 3-3)||6||5||2||0||2||2||81|
|Torrey Savoia (SV, 4)||1||0||0||0||0||2||18|
|St. John Vianney||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Evan Pollack (L, 0-2)||1||2||1||1||1||1||23|
|Greg Hanlon||2-4, 2B, R, RBI|
|Tristan Savoia||1-3, HR, R, RBI|
|Graham Harrigan||1-2, R, SB|
|Nick Gillen||1-3, 2B|
|St. John Vianney||Stats|
|Jacob Ramirez||1-3, RBI|
|Rocko Brzezniak||1-2, R|
|Spencer Margulis||1-3, 2B|
|Robert Skinner||1-3, R|