Baseball – Escandon’s Gem Clinches Ninth MCT Title for CBA
LAKEWOOD - After his team defeated Manasquan in Saturday's Monmouth County Tournament semifinal round and turned its attention to its next opponent, Christian Brothers Academy junior Jason Arnott admitted he did not know much about Ocean - the No. 6 seed in the tournament and CBA's opponent on Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood.
No matter - the most important player on the field for the eight-seeded Colts knew all about Ocean and put that knowledge to good use on Tuesday night.
Senior left-hander Joe Escandon - a native of Ocean Township - flirted with a perfect game and settled on a two-hitter to pitch CBA past the Spartans, 8-1, for the program's ninth ever Monmouth County Tournament title and fourth in the last six years.
"I have been playing with a lot of those guys since I was eight," Escandon said. "They are a good lineup, I was just happy I could get through the game. I have been playing against those guys for so long, I felt like I had a general idea of what to do."
PHOTO GALLERY: CBA vs. Ocean by Paula Lopez
Escandon had his fastball-changeup combination working from the first pitch on Tuesday night and nearly rode to a no-hit performance.
"My changeup was the biggest thing I had working," Escandon said. "Throwing my changeup in any count is so important to me. I threw one curveball the whole game."
The senior left-hander was perfect through five innings and his bid for the perfect game ended when classmate Anthony Celestre couldn't handle a hard-hit ground ball to second base and was charged with an error.
Escandon then walked the next batter and allowed the unearned run to score on an RBI fielder's choice ground out by junior Brian Yatcilla.
"(The perfect game) didn't matter to me anymore," Escandon said. "I just wanted to get through the game and get us out of here with a win as soon as possible."
Despite losing the perfect game and the shutout in the sixth, Escandon still had a shot at the no-hitter heading into the seventh. Senior shortstop Ryan Toomey, however, ended that notion with a long double to right field on a 1-2 count that reached the warning track.
Ocean picked up one more hit on a single to center field by sophomore Nick Callano and the Spartans loaded the bases with two out before Escandon recorded his fifth and final strikeout to cement the complete game and the championship.
Celestre made one of the two standout defensive plays that preserved Escandon's no-hit bid through five innings. The senior second baseman made a sliding stop up the middle and fired to first base from his knees for the first out of the fifth inning.
Junior right fielder Braedin Hunt had the other gold-star play, making a sliding catch near the right-field line for the second out of the third inning.
Hunt and Celestre also played important roles in CBA's eight-run, nine-hit attack. Celestre opened the scoring with an RBI double in the top of the third, followed by a two-run single by senior shortstop Tommy DiTullio to open up an early 3-0 lead.
Hunt stepped up later in the game, roping a two-run double to the left-center gap to make it 5-0 in the top of the sixth. He hammered another shot to nearly the same spot in the outfield in the top of the seventh - good for an RBI triple to push CBA's lead to 8-1.
Coming off an All-Shore season at the plate as a sophomore, Hunt was hitting .182 with one extra-base hit heading into the game and after coming up empty in his first two at-bats, Hunt broke out in time to give Escandon a big cushion on the scoreboard.
"I feel like I have been hitting a lot of balls hard and just missing some pitches so it was probably just a matter of time before one of them found a gap," Hunt said.
After Hunt made the score 5-0 in the sixth, junior Ben Settino followed with a single and Hunt then scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-0. The Colts extended the lead to 7-0 in the sixth on an RBI single by junior catcher Mason Wolf.
While CBA's offense delivered from top-to-bottom Tuesday, the night still belonged to Escandon, who was awarded Tournament MVP. He threw 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes, walked one batter and hit another. He reached a three-ball count three times and the first two instances came in the fifth and Escandon retired both batters - one on a strikeout.
"He is great to watch and play behind," Hunt said. "He knows hitters, he knows their tendencies, he stays away, he gets weak contact. He can get it up there with his fastball too."
Ocean's run to the championship game came up one win away from the Spartans' first MCT title since 2003. The last time Ocean made it to the championship game was 2005 and they also lost by a scored of 8-1 to Wall.
Junior starter Kevin Schoenberger began the game with 15 pitches over two one-two-three innings before CBA hung three unearned runs on him in the third. He posted two more perfect innings in the fourth and fifth before giving up four more runs (just one earned) in the sixth before being lifted with two out in the inning.
While CBA is only three years removed from their last county title, the current rosters is comprised of players who were either freshmen spectators or not yet in high school. A county title is nothing new for 41-year head coach Marty Kenney but it is a first for this group.
"It means a lot," Hunt said. "Last year we lost in the semifinal game, unfortunately, and it hurt. We wanted to come back and win it this year and we did."
"It shows we came here to play and we're not going to fold after big players graduate," Escandon said. "We're just playing as a team and playing good baseball and it's exciting to get something of our own."
CBA 8, Ocean 1
|Joe Escandon (W, 4-0)||7||2||1||0||1||5||91|
|Braedin Hunt||2-4, 2B, 3B, R, 3 RBI|
|Anthony Celestre||1-2, 2B, R, RBI|
|Tommy DiTullio||1-4, 2 RBI|
|Mason Wolf||2-4, R, RBI|
|Pat Reilly||2-3, 2 R|
|Ryan Toomey||1-3, 2B|