MIDDLETOWN - Freehold Township senior catcher Andrew Beam missed the first nine games of the season due to a back injury, but no amount of rust or soreness could prevent coach Todd Smith from inserting him into the cleanup spot of a lineup that needed a jolt.

Wednesday against Middletown South in the Shore Conference Tournament opening round, Beam's run-producing prowess earned Freehold Township a tournament win.

Beam drove in four runs with a pair of two-run singles and finished 3-for-4 to lead Freehold Township's 5-2, come-from-behind win over the Eagles on Wednesday. The No. 18 seed Patriots will play at No. 2 Monmouth Regional on Saturday in the round of 16.

"At first coming back and hitting fourth right away was a little overwhelming, but as a couple games went by, I felt like I was easing into it," Beam said. "I feel good now. I feel like I'm up to par."

Winning pitcher Zack Pericone plated the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh and Beam gave his pitcher some breathing room with a two-run single in the same inning to cap the scoring. The Patriots scored all five runs in the final two innings after Middletown South ace John Martin held them scoreless over the first five innings.

Freehold Township senior Andrew Beam. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Freehold Township senior Andrew Beam. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"As a team, I think our at-bats definitely got better as the game went on," Beam said. "The second time through, guys we getting hits, getting better pitches to hit, fouling pitches off and getting (Martin's) pitch count up."

Beam also tied the game in the sixth with a two-out, two-run single. Left fielder Nick Lodispoto extended the inning with a double to the left-centerfield gap that set Beam up with runners on second and third and two out.

Both of Beam's RBI singles by Beam came on a 1-1 count with two out. The first single one-hopped past lunging Middletown South third baseman Jeremy Joyce and the second was a line drive back through the middle on a breaking ball.

Ryan Ruziecki led off the bottom of the seventh against Pericone with a single but was later called out for baserunner interference when he slid too far past the base while attempting to break up a double play. Pericone retired the next batter on a ground out to Ryan Ford at third base for the final out.

Pericone was the third pitcher of the game for Freehold Township, which had to scramble after starter Mike Pirrotta left the game with two out in the third inning due to a back injury. Pirrotta struck out the side in order in the bottom of the first and finished with five strikeouts, but threw just seven of 19 pitches for strikes while laboring through the first two outs of the third inning.

Pericone pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.

"He's so versatile and so competitive," Freehold Township coach Todd Smith said. "He's played first, third, right field, starting pitcher, middle relief and closer for us. Anything I ask him to do, he's been ready for, so I knew he was one of the guys who could just go to the mound, throw his eight pitches and be ready to go."

According to Smith, Pirrotta injured his back while taking swings during practice last Thursday. Both of Freehold Township's top pitchers are battling injuries, with junior right-hander Bryan Reed also on the shelf. The Patriots have also been without senior right-hander and Penn State commit Ralph Gambino all year.

"(Pirrotta) hurt himself swinging on Thursday, so we shut him down over the weekend," Smith said. "He warmed up Monday and didn't go and felt like he was ready to go today. He looked great for the first couple innings, but it locked up on him in the third and it just wasn't working for him."

Ruziecki singled home a run in the third and Joyce opened the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the second.

Freehold Township committed a pair of errors in the game, the first of which cost the Patriots a run in the first inning. Sophomore shortstop Brandon Smith committed the first error, but also made a sensational diving play to rob shortstop counterpart Aurellio Licata in the fifth.

"Runs have been hard to come by for us in most games, so we've gotten used to playing these low-scoring, tight games," Smith said. "For the most part, we've been pretty solid on the defense and our guys know that if we're going to win games, we have to catch the ball."


(18) Freehold Twp. 5, (15) Middletown South 2

Freehold Twp. (10-10)0000023582
Midd. South (12-9)0110000251



Mike Pirrotta2.22212550
Greg Najar0.21001015
Zack Pericone (W, 2-2)3.22001234
John Martin662215101
Robby Zega (L, 2-2)0.11332013
Jack Roesch0.21001016

Top Hitters

Freehold Twp.Game Stats
Andrew Beam3-4, 4 RBI
Nick Lodispoto2-3, 2B, BB, R
Cristian Corcione3-3, R
Midd. SouthGame Stats
Ryan Ruziecki2-4, RBI
Jeremy Joyce1-1, 2 BB, RBI
Robby Zega1-3, 2B


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