LACEY TWP. - Most freshmen baseball players don't see a varsity field in their first high school season, let alone pitch in front of a throng of Major League scouts like current Pinelands sophomore Noah Dean did last year.

The Wildcats southpaw squared off against current Red Sox prospect Jason Groome and Barnegat in last year's Ocean County Tournament first round and pitched a gem in a losing effort, so pitching against the No. 7 team in the latest Shore Sports Network Top 10 on Monday morning with an active hitless innings streak would not phase Dean.

Despite battling some control issues in the middle of his start, Dean followed up a season-opening no-hitter with a winning effort Monday, striking out 10 over five innings of two-hit ball to help the Wildcats hand Lacey its first loss of the season, 5-2.

Pinelands sophomore Noah Dean. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Pinelands sophomore Noah Dean. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"He's a bulldog and he's only a sophomore," Pinelands coach Rob Sanzari said. "He's an awesome kid too. He went face-to-face with Groome last year and didn't bat an eyelash. "

Pinelands gave Dean four runs of support before the sophomore left-hander took the mound and once he did, he breezed through the first two innings to extend his streak to nine consecutive hitless innings to open the year. He made it 10 straight innings with a hitless third, but issued four walks to give Lacey its first run.

"It was in the back of my mind (that I hadn't given up a hit) but I don't think it bothered me," Dean said. "I think it was more that I didn't want to give in to their hitters. I had to make a couple of pitches with runners on and I was able to get out of it."

Dean worked around another walk in the fourth to make it 11 straight hitless innings to open his sophomore year, but the streak ended when junior shortstop and No. 9 hitter Keith Apostolos led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a line drive over shortstop Joey Ventresca's head for a single. Sophomore Jorden Jurkiewicz added a lined single to right in the inning and Apostolos came around to score on a wild pitch.

As a freshman last year, Dean walked 20 in 39 2/3 innings and has already issued 12 free passes in 12 innings this year. He is also, however, missing bats at a higher rate, with 21 strikeouts on the young season.

"He battled today," Sanzari said. "His control hasn't been there so far, but he struck out 10 guys with just one of his pitches. His curveball and changeup weren't there today but he did a good job moving the fastball around and fighting through some of his issues."

Pinelands jumped on Lacey senior right-hander Tom Coraggio for four runs in the top of the first, capped by a two-run single by senior first baseman Sean O'Rourke. Sophomore Anthony Diaz led off the game with a single to right, followed by a bunt single by senior second baseman Chris Burke.

A wild pitch set up Ventresca for an RBI ground out to second base and sophomore Pete Hammond followed with a line-drive single to left to plate Burke with the second run. Dean then reached on an error and after a passed ball moved the runners to second and third, O'Rourke ripped a shot off of Coraggio and into shallow right field to allow both runners to score.

Ventresca added an RBI single in the second to stretch the Pinelands lead to 5-0 and finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Pinelands sophomore Joey Ventresca. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Pinelands sophomore Joey Ventresca. (Photo by Matt Manley)

In Dean and Ventresca, Pinelands has two sophomore pitchers who proved themselves as freshmen last year. Dean pitched to a 1.94 ERA in just shy of 40 innings, while Ventresca logged an even 2.00 ERA while striking out 52 with only 16 walks in 42 innings. On Monday, senior right-hander Joey McDonald tossed two scoreless innings to earn the save without surrendering a hit or a walk, although he did hit a batter in the bottom of the seventh.

"We're a good group of guys," Dean said. "We've played together our whole lives. We know how each other plays, so I think we'll be pretty good for the next two or three years."

Dean no-hit Lakewood on Wednesday in a 2-1 Pinelands win, in which he struck out 11, walked five and gave up an unearned run while throwing 105 pitches.

"It's a big year for me in my development," Dean said. "I was just excited to get out there and pitch. I didn't even know I had a no-hitter going, so it was a good feeling to be able to shut down Lakewood."


Box Score

Pinelands 5, No. 7 Lacey 2

Pinelands (3-1, 3-0)4100000581
Lacey (3-1, 2-1)0010100221



Noah Dean (W, 2-0)522271098
Joey McDonald (S, 1)20001227
Tom Coraggio (L, 1-1)58422475
John Troise21000427


Top Hitters

PinelandsGame Stats
Joey Ventresca2-4, 2 RBI
Sean O’Rourke1-3, 2 RBI
Pete Hammond1-4, R, RBI
LaceyGame Stats
Jorden Jurkiewicz1-2, BB, HBP
Keith Apostolos1-2, R, BB


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