Baseball – CBA Rolls Past Immaculata in 6, Advances to Sectional Final
MIDDLETOWN - If being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey for the 2015 season was supposed to put any pressure on Christian Brothers Academy junior Luca Dalatri, it took him all of one swing to dispel that notion.
Dalatri blasted a first-inning home run and senior right fielder Will Morgan added one in the fourth inning as CBA coasted past ninth-seeded Immaculata 14-4 in six innings and into the South Jersey Non-Public A final against Bishop Eustace on Tuesday.
Dalatri - playing in his first game since being named Player of the Year on Thursday - slammed a two-run home run inside the left-field foul pole on a 2-0 count in the bottom of the first to extend CBA's lead to 4-0.
“I was just looking to keep it simple and pick up the runner on second,” Dalatri said of his home run. “In that situation, I’m trying to stay up the middle and to right field. He (Spartans starter Colin Donnelly) threw a good pitch – it was a 2-0 changeup – and I was on it just long enough to get the good part of the bat on it.”
The home run was the eighth of Dalatri’s award-winning season, which also includes an 8-0 record on the mound with more than 100 strikeouts in 71 innings. He joins a list of former Gatorade N.J. Players of the Year that includes reigning American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout, who won the award as a star at Millville in 2009.
“It’s such an honor to be nominated as a junior, so to win it and join some really great company as the player of the year in New Jersey is special,” said Dalatri, who found out about the honor Thursday through Twitter.
The Colts took a 1-0 lead on a sharp single by senior second baseman Andrew Buccellatto that hopped up over the head of Immaculata shortstop Conor Deforge, scoring Cid Porter from second. Junior catcher Brandon Martorano followed with a double inside the third base bag and down the left-field line to chase home Buccellatto, who had stolen second base.
After Immaculata cut the Colts' lead to 4-3 with three runs in the top of the third, CBA scored four in the bottom of the fourth, starting with a two-out, two-run single on an 0-2 pitch by Buccellatto. After Buccellatto's single made it 6-3, Morgan blasted a 2-1 pitch from Donnelly over the right-field fence to stretch the lead to 8-3.
Trey Nelson added a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the fifth and Porter ended the game with a three-run double that activated the 10-run rule.
Buccellatto continued to produce out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup, finishing Friday 2-for-4 with three RBI and two stolen bases.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well and hitting it pretty hard pretty much all season, whether they’ve been hits or not,” Buccellatto said. “My approach is pretty simple. I just try to hit the ball hard to right center and give myself a chance to see the pitch as deep as possible. With the way the guys in the middle of the order have swung the bat, my job is pretty straightforward. I just need to pick out a good pitch, hit it hard and make sure I’m on base when they get up.”
Senior right-hander Mike Garvey allowed four runs - one earned - on six hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings to earn the win. He left the game with one out and runners on first and second in the top of the sixth and reliever Joe Gargana needed only two pitches to induce an inning-ending double play - the last pitch a CBA pitcher would need to throw on Friday.
Garvey improved his record to 6-1 on the season and has settled in as a reliable No. 2 pitcher in the CBA rotation behind Dalatri. He missed the better part of a week in April due to elbow soreness, which he treated with care because of an elbow injury during his junior season.
“I’ve felt like I’ve been healthy all year and even with the setback, that was more precautionary,” Garvey said. “I just needed a week to rest it and since I’ve come back, I think I’ve been able to locate my pitches when I’ve needed to.
“My curveball command wasn’t great today, but it was one of those days I just had to battle without my best stuff. With our offense, I know I don’t need to be perfect. I just have to give those guys a chance to score some runs.”
CBA will play Red Bank Catholic in the Shore Conference Tournament championship on Monday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood before playing in the sectional final on Tuesday at a site still to be determined. The Colts have won 10 straight and are now three wins shy of becoming just the second Shore Conference team to win a division, county, conference and state group championship.
Dalatri is slated to pitch in Tuesday’s South Jersey Non-Public A final, and should he win that game to improve his record to 20-0 over the past two seasons, he would then begin to prepare himself to pitch on three days' rest in Saturday’s Non-Public A final, which he did once during his 11-0 sophomore season.
“Needless to say, I won’t be thinking too much about finals,” Dalatri said. “I’m still a little sore from Tuesday’s start (against St. Augustine), so I’m going to make sure I do my homework, go over the scouting report and get myself ready to go physically.
“This is probably going to be the best challenge of my high school career, and I want to make sure I’m prepared. I don’t expect to go in and shut out a lineup like the one I’m going to face, but I just need to make my pitches and get outs to give our offense a chance to keep doing what it’s been doing. We still have the Shore Conference final on Monday to go through first, so it's going to be a big week.”