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COLTS NECK - Colts Neck coach Mike Yorke was not sure what to expect from his Cougars team on its opening day of the 2021 season Tuesday against Manalapan and why would he? Like every other team in New Jersey, his team had gone almost two years without playing an official game and in Colts Neck's case, the Cougars are a team of mostly junior starters. In other words, most of their key players were freshmen two years ago.

"We had our first Zoom meeting on the first day we were allowed to meet with the team and one of the kids who was a freshman two years ago had all this facial hair," Yorke said. "I didn't recognize him. The last time I saw him, he looked like a kid. Now I'm looking at a guy with a full beard."

One thing Yorke felt fairly certain about, however, was that his choice for opening-day starter was going to be up to the task.

Junior left-hander Anthony Gubitosi was dominant in his first ever varsity start, spinning a five-inning, two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts while his offense backed him up in a 10-0 win over the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10.

Gubitosi spent his freshman year at Freehold Boro High School and transferred to Colts Neck ahead of the 2019-20 season, but did not get to pitch for his new school last year because nobody got to pitch for their school last year. The 2020 season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic and Gubitosi's Colts Neck had to wait until Tuesday.

Colts Neck junior Anthony Gubitosi. (Photo by Matt Manley)

It turned out to be worth the wait. Gubitosi did not allow a hit until there were two out in the top of the fourth, at which point Manalapan senior catcher Anthony Matteis ripped a shot off the left-field fence for a double. He issued three walks to leadoff hitter Chris Marzo, which accounted for all the walks he issued in the game. After walking Marzo to lead off the top of the first, he promptly picked him off.

Gubitosi finished off his outing with three strikeouts in the top of the fifth to strand a pair of runners and preserve the shutout.

"He's a winner," Yorke said. "He has his own program, his does things his own way when it comes to preparation and he looks to (Colts Neck pitching) coach Bob Jack for guidance and tweaking. He's looked very good so far."

During the offseason, Gubitosi touched 90 miles-per-hour with his fastball and on Tuesday, he featured a sharp curveball that struck out three Manalapan batters early. To finish the game, however, the left-hander went to his fastball.

Colts Neck's offense backed up Gubitosi beginning in the second inning and did not let up. Junior Brad Salamone started the inning with a single and scored on some heads-up, aggressive base-running when he scored all the way from first following a single through the left side by junior Dave Cohen and misplay in the outfield.

Junior catcher Joe Cilea followed with an RBI triple to right field and senior Ben Goldman capped the scoring in the third with an RBI single.

Colts Neck junior Joe Cilea. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"What I thought was really good was we had a lot of two-strike hits and a lot of two-out hits," Yorke said. "I think those were backbreakers early."

Junior Christian Rice started Colts Neck's third-inning rally with a single and a stolen base, then scored on a ground ball by Salamone that resulted in two Manalapan errors - one scoring the run and another allowing Salamone to go to third. Cohen then plated him with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-0.

Rice ripped an RBI single off the third-base bag in the bottom of the fourth and came around on a three-run double by Cohen, who finished 2-for-2 with four RBI on the day.

Colts Neck put the game away via the 10-run rule in the bottom of the fifth, with senior Cameron Knipp hammering a double to deep leftfield and coming home on another double by classmate Matt Jacobson.

They have come a long way since freshman year," Yorke said. "We have a lot of good arms and some talent. To me, they haven't played team baseball in almost two years so there are some things we have had to teach them about playing together as a team that we haven't had to spend as much time on in the past. But they are buying in and there were a lot of good things today."

Box Score

Colts Neck 10, Manalapan 0 (5 Innings)

1234567RHE
Manalapan (0-1)00000XX024
Colts Neck (1-0)03241XX10102

Pitching

ManalapanIPHRERBBSOPC
Justin Simone (L, 0-1)2.25530249
Liam Martin0.21331018
Dylan Shaffer14220122
Colts NeckIPHRERBBSOPC
Anthony Gubitosi (W, 1-0)52003980

Top Hitters

ManalapanGame Stats
Anthony Matteis1-2, 2B
Chris Marzo0-0, 3 BB
Cristian Bernardini1-2
Colts NeckGame Stats
Dave Cohen2-2, 2B, R, 4 RBI
Christian Rice2-3, 2 R, RBI
Brad Salamone2-3, 2 R
Joe Cilea1-3, 3B, RBI
Cameron Knipp1-3, 2B, R
Matt Jacobson1-2, 2B, R, RBI
Ben Goldman1-2, R, RBI