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The Jackson Memorial baseball team entered March of 2020 with 10 players committed to play baseball in college - seven of which will compete at the Division I level. With futures that promising, it would have been understandable if most of them were ready to get on with their baseball careers rather than hold onto their high-school days for one more tournament.

Instead, every one of the Jaguars key players - particularly from its loaded graduating Class of 2020 - jumped at the chance to make one more run at a championship together when the Last Dance World Series presented by RWJBarnabas Health was announced last month.

On Thursday night, Beetel did his part to ensure the Jackson Jags would play at least one more game next week by spinning four strong innings in his team's 7-2 win at FirstEnergy Park over a Monmouth Monarchs team comprised of players from Manalapan High School.

"It's definitely been a playoff atmosphere this week," Beetel said. "It's put us in a great position to win. We were going to come out more prepared than any other team to execute and win"

The pool-play-round championship game pitted two teams ranked in the top six of the Shore Sports Network 2020 preseason rankings and two of the top left-handers in the Shore Conference. Beetel - who is heading to Lehigh in the fall - pitched opposite Manalapan Class of 2021 southpaw and Rutgers University commit Joe Mazza on Thursday in Lakewood.

The Monarch got to Beetel for a run in the top of the first inning on three hits that Beetel described as "weak contact." The first was an infield single by Chris Marzo, followed by a one-out single by Mazza to shallow center that centerfielder Ryan Lasko had trouble finding off the bat.

"It was two ground balls and a missed pop-up," Beetel said. "I knew if that's the way they are going to score, so be it. If they were going to manufacture runs with three weakly-hit balls, that was fine. Over the course of a game, I like our chances to make the plays we need to make and put some runs on the board."

Princeton commit Nick DiPietrantonio gave his team the 1-0 lead with a bouncing ball through the left side to chase home Tom Guidice, who reached on a fielder's choice ground out.

The Monarch lead was short-lived, as Lasko led off the bottom of the first with a walk, took second on an errant pick-off throw, stole third and scored on the back end of a double-steal with catcher Tom Cartnick.

In the bottom of the second, Lasko and Cartnick again sparked the offense, this time for a game-breaking inning. Lasko smashed a triple to deep centerfield off his future Rutgers teammate to chase home two runs and Cartnick then followed with a line-drive to the gap in right-center for a two-run double and a 5-1 Jackson lead.

Senior first baseman Carmine Petosa ripped a hard ground ball that took a wicked hop over first baseman Anthony Matteis for an RBI single and senior third baseman Jake Wendell got in on the act with an RBI single to center to score Petosa with Jackson's seventh run.

Beetel coasted through the second and third innings before encountering a jam in the fourth. The Monarchs loaded the bases with with two out and Beetel fired his sixth and final strikeout to end the threat. He finished with one earned run allowed on four hits, three walks and 77 pitches.

"Coming into the game, I wasn't worried about getting (tattooed)," Beetel said. "My concern is more throwing the ball over the plate. I have had issues walking too many batters but today I was able to get out and throw strikes. They scored an early run but I knew that wasn't going to be an issue with our bats and with the kind of contact they were making."

Senior Joe Santoriello followed up Beetel by pitching the final three innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. DiPietrantonio drove in the second Manalapan run as well when he hit a high fly ball that again got lost in the twilight and dropped for a double.

The two seniors continued Jackson's sharp line of pitching performances, which included seven pitchers allowing three runs in 19 innings. Sophomores Zach Crotchfelt and Devin Fodorara pitched along with senior Rocco LaVista in Tuesday's win over Dragons Baseball (Brick) and junior Matt Potok and senior Dan Greenwood combined on a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over the Mustangs of Brick Memorial. Potok threw four perfect innings with six strikeouts on 41 pitches in that Wednesday win.

"Unlike most other teams, we can throw starters out there without overextending them," Beetel said. "We are going to be confident in every guy we put on the mound. We have a bunch of really solid seniors, three Division I arms so we're not going to have a game where we don't have a guy we know is going to give us a great shot at winning."

Lasko and Cartnick continued their strong tournaments by each finishing 2-for-2 with a walk, two RBI and two stolen bases, with Lasko also scoring a pair of runs. Cartnick homered in each of the first two Jackson wins in the tournament and his perfect day at the plate on Thursday both continued and capped a red-hot week for the Rhode Island University commit. He finished the week 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs, four walks, four runs scored and seven RBI in three games.

Jackson's tournament continues Tuesday against Middlesex at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, with the first pitch currently scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Like the players on the other 32 teams that qualified for the knockout round over the next two weeks, Jackson's players are in search of four more wins, which would secure a Last Dance sectional championship and a place in the overall statewide championship game on July 31 in Trenton.

"It would mean the world to the seniors, to coach Malta and everyone on the team," Beetel said of the possibility of winning the tournament. "I would like to believe that this title would be held up as just as big as any state championship. We knew that we missed a shot this spring at winning a state championship and we all wanted to come out and get the best title that we could."

 

Box Score

Jackson Jags 7, Monmouth Monarchs 2

1234567RHE
Monarchs (2-1)1000100262
Jackson (3-0)106000X771

 

Pitching

MonarchsIPHRERBBSOPC
Joe Mazza (L)1.13766064
Tyler Kane2.23001337
Aarush Sood10001116
Sebastian Czajkowski1100019
JacksonIPHRERBBSOPC
Nick Beetel (W)44113677
Joe Santaniello32111246

 

Top Hitters

MonarchsGame Stats
Nick DiPietrantonio2-3, 2B, 2 RBI
Chris Marzo2-2, BB
JacksonGame Stats
Tom Cartnick2-2, R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 SB
Ryan Lasko2-2, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB
Carmine Petosa1-3, R, RBI, SB
Jake Wendell1-2, BB, RBI, SB
Bill Petrina1-1, BB, R