Baseball – Bats Go Cold as Middletown North’s Last Dance Ends
LAKEWOOD - During the first week of the Last Dance World Series presented by RWJBarnabas Health, Middletown North's bats could not be contained.
After scoring 29 runs in its first three games, the Middletown North hitters got an unfriendly reminder that runs are hard to come by against great pitching performances.
Two of Middletown North's big three pitchers were again on their games, but Brooklawn's Tyler Parks was better, tossing a one-hit shutout in a 1-0 Brooklawn win over Middletown North Tuesday at FirstEnergy Park.
"It's a tough feeling, something I have never experienced - finishing out my high-school career," Tuesday's starting pitcher and senior 2020 graduate Ryan Rozinski said. "We only got to play four games, but it was a good experience to come out and win some games against good teams. We didn't really have it today but it was a good overall experience."
Brooklawn - which is made up of players from Gloucester Catholic High School - advances to the Last Dance South Region quarterfinals Wednesday to play the winner of Tuesday night's game between Notre Dame and Dirty Boyz Liedtka Trucking (Hamilton West) at 11:30 a.m. in Lakewood.
Parks struck out seven, walked one and allowed Middletown North's other three baserunners on an error, a hit batter and a passed ball on a strikeout.
"We started off hot last week and we were were excited to come here but for whatever reason, we were a little lethargic at the plate today," senior second baseman Mike Roditis said. "Our pitching was great, the defense was pretty good but we just didn't have it at the plate."
Three of those baserunners came in the bottom of the fourth, when Middletown North mounted its only threat of the game. Roditis led off the inning with a single to center and senior first baseman Shane Doyle worked a one-out, eight-pitch walk. Parks then hit sophomore catcher Andrew Lombardi to load the bases for Colin Dowlen, who went 6-for-11 with a home run and two doubles last week.
Dowlen lifted a fly ball down the right field line, where junior Adam Gates chased it down in foul territory. Gates squared up, fired the ball home and nailed Roditis by two steps for the final out of the inning.
"I was ready for (the runner to go)," Gates said. "I got around the ball pretty well so I was in good position to make a strong throw. Once I let it go and saw the runner, I knew I had him."
Gates also went 2-for-3 with a double at the plate and provided the big swing on offense with an RBI single in the top of the sixth inning.
"I have been waiting for a game like that since quarantine started," Gates said. "Not having a season, this is great to be able to come out to a ballpark like this and play a game like that that's tight all the way."
Rozinski pitched into the fifth inning and after allowing a double to catcher Tyler Shinn, gave way to junior Dan Frontera, who struck out three straight to get out of trouble.
Jeremy Wolf led off the Brooklawn sixth with a double down the left-field line on a 3-2 pitch by Frontera. After Frontera struck out the next batter, Gates ripped a line drive to center to chase home Wolf with the first and only run of the game. Brooklawn loaded the bases with two out but Frontera avoided further damage.
Rozinski pitched four-plus scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out six. Frontera took the loss while allowing one earned run on three hits with one intentional walk and five strikeouts over three complete innings.
Middletown North entered practice in March determined to put a 7-16 2019 season far behind them and while the Lions did not get an opportunity to do so over a full high-school season, the Lions' Last-Dance outfit left little doubt that the 2020 Middletown North baseball team would have been a difficult team to deal with in Monmouth County.
Not only did Middletown North outscore its opponents 29-10 during pool play last week; the Lions did so against three teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network 2020 Preseason Rankings: No. 12 Freehold Township (Columbia Blue), No. 16 Marlboro (Blue and Gold) and No. 2 CBA (Lincroft Colts). The top three Lions pitchers - Rozinski, Frontera and Dowlen - combined to allow one earned run in 14 innings last week and just two over 21 innings for the entire tournament.
Next year's Middletown North team will have to replace Roditis, Doyle and Rozinski - the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup - but will return the rest of its starting lineup and two thirds of its starting pitching trio.
"We still have a young team so as seniors, we had to step up and help those guys get ready for this week," Roditis said. "All-in-all, everybody did a good job. We just couldn't quite get it done today."
Middletown North vs Brooklawn