Baseball – Guidice Delivers in the 15th, Manalapan Extends Streak to 15
MANALAPAN - It took two days and a four-and-a-half hours-worth of baseball, but the Manalapan baseball team won its 15th straight game to open the season by outlasting rival Christian Brothers Academy in a game not soon to be forgotten by the players who played in it, the coaches who shuffled the lineup card and the fans who watched the 15-inning slugfest.
About 23 hours after sending the game to extra-innings with a seventh-inning pop-up that scored the tying runs, sophomore Tom Guidice scorched a game-winning, one-out RBI single to center field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th to cap a 4-3 win for the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 over the No. 3 Colts.
The two teams completed 11 innings on Tuesday before the umpires decided to suspend the game due to darkness. The teams agreed Wednesday morning to resume the game later that day and CBA headed back to Manalapan to pick up the action in the top of the 12th.
"It was very cool to be a part of this," Guidice said. "I woke up this morning and I didn't know we had a game but then we found out we were playing and I was so excited."
CBA stayed with senior Anthony Pillari on the mound after the right-hander struck out the side in the bottom of the 11th Tuesday. Pillari did not give up a hit until his fifth inning of work, which began with a leadoff single to center by Manalapan senior Jake Pellecchia.
Senior Mike Kuver laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Pellecchia to second and the Colts opted to intentionally walk junior shortstop Jake Pellecchia. At that point, CBA coach Marty Kenney brought senior Connor Baksh on to replace Pillari on the mound and face Andrew Lore hitting out of the cleanup spot in the order.
Baksh walked Lore to load the bases for Guidice who saw two pitches that set up a 1-1 count. On the third pitch from Baksh, Guidice scalded a line drive to center the touched down and scored Pellecchia from third with the winning run.
"Yesterday I was very aggressive and today, I was very calm," Guidice said. "I just tried to hit the ball hard back up the middle. I knew I couldn't strike out there so I just wanted to put it in play up the middle."
Manalapan stormed into the bottom of the 15th after Kuver made a huge defensive play to squash a potential CBA rally. With one out, Colts shortstop Tommy DiTullio ripped a shot to the left-center gap. With the outfield playing a no-doubles defense, Kuver cut the ball off before it got past, slide into throwing position, and uncorked a perfect, one-hopped strike to second base to nab DiTullio trying to stretch his hit into a double.
"They were stroking it all day, even going back to yesterday," Kuver said of CBA's hitters. "They were hitting balls toward the gap and some that were pretty deep, so we played back. The ball was coming pretty fast so I knew I had to get my body in front of it, square my hips around and make a strong throw. It fired everybody up and it sucks the energy out of the other team."
Kuver has also been one of the Manalapan's top hitters - he hit a walk-off three-run home run in an extra-inning win over Middletown South on April 18. Despite his knack for swinging the bat this season, he embraced his role in making the great defensive play and dropping down the sacrifice bunt in the deciding inning.
"The discussion on the bench was whether or not we should let him hit because he was coming off the field jacked-up after making that play," Manalapan coach Brian Boyce said. "But the right play was to bunt him over and try to get (DiPietrantonio) an opportunity."
"I knew once Jake got on base, I had to drop down that bunt," Kuver said. "That was my part and the guys after me had to play their part."
The dugouts of two Class A North divisional rivals went back-and-forth with one another through the two-day affair with the umpires having to settle a shouting match between the two sides at one point on Tuesday. Manalapan claimed it started when Baksh ran into Guidice at first base on a tag play in the top of the first inning.
On the game's last play, it was Guidice who had the final say with the winning hit off Baksh, who came on to help out a CBA pitching staff that was quickly thinning out.
"I was very excited because he was the one from the play at first in the first inning," Guidice said. "I was really hyped going in there, feeling confident. That (collision) gave us a lot of energy and motivation."
Pellecchia also earned the win on the mound with four scoreless innings of work on Wednesday. The senior started the game Tuesday at second base and took the mound to start Wednesday's action - his first time pitching in game action since his freshman year. He allowed two hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter in four efficient innings (39 pitches).
"We wanted to set up our rotation for the next couple days," Boyce said. "He is a veteran, so he's not going to crack under pressure. He was one of our best pitchers as a freshman, he worked a little bit sophomore year, so he has some experience going back."
During Tuesday's action, CBA was in control for most of the game, jumping on top with three runs in the top of the third inning. Senior Tommy DiTullio smacked an RBI single to center and senior Connor Baksh ripped a two-run single inside the third-base bag.
Manalapan then loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the fourth against CBA junior starter Braedin Hunt but came away with just one run. Hunt got a shallow fly out to center field and a pop up to DiTullio at shortstop but could walked No. 9 hitter Kyle Sciallo to force in Manalapan's first run.
CBA senior left-hander Evan Mahns relieved Hunt to start the fifth inning and wound up throwing six innings of quality relief for the Colts: six innings, two runs on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts while throwing 99 pitches. In the seventh, however, his pinpoint command and otherwise reliable defense faltered just enough to give Manalapan a chance to keep their season-opening streak alive.
Senior second baseman Jake Pellecchia started the Manalapan rally by fighting off a bloop single down the right-field line. Senior center fielder Mike Kuver followed with a four-pitch walk and Mahns bounced back by striking out shortstop Nick DiPietrantonio for the second out.
Senior and starting pitcher Ben Levine worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases with two out to set the scene for sophomore Tom Guidice. The Manalapan first baseman hit a towering pop-up on the infield that Mahns initially called. Hunt - now playing first base - drifted toward the spot to offer support but the two could not get on the same page and the ball dropped. Pellecchia scored from third, Kuver raced around from second and courtesy-runner Dylan Hode motored to third while Guidice took second.
Mahns bounced back to strike out senior Matt Panzica to end the inning and force the game into extras.
In extra innings, Mahns retired all nine batters he faced before passing the ball off to senior Anthony Pillari, who struck out the side in order in the 11th to end Tuesday's action.
CBA got a single from junior Ben Settino in the ninth and junior Mason Wolf in the 10th before mounting a legitimate threat in the 11th. Junior Pat Reilly singled through the left side with one out and stole second base. Settino jumped ahead in the count against Manalapan senior reliever Jake Melman and was intentionally walked once the count got to 3-0.
Melman then hit pinch-hitter Declan Hoverter to load the bases, prompting Manalapan coach Brian Boyce to replace Melman with right-hander Rico Spinelli. The senior struck out senior Anthony Celestre on four pitches to end the threat.
Manalapan's bullpen was spotless in relief of Levine, who allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four and throwing 92 pitches. Junior left-hander Chris Nicol followed with two more innings of scoreless relief without a baserunner, extending his streak to 12 2/3 innings without a run allowed or a walk - all of which have come in relief.
Melman followed with 3 2/3 scoreless frames with three hits and one walk allowed while striking out three.
Hunt, meanwhile, gave up one run on one hit and five walks while striking out five in four innings.
Two of Manalapan's last three wins have come in dramatic fashion. On Saturday, the Braves rallied from a 2-1 seventh-inning deficit to beat Middletown North in the Monmouth County Tournament round of 16 on a walk-off, two-run single by Levine with two out.
After beating a surging CBA team that had won seven straight by getting an infield pop-up to drop in the seventh inning and prevailing in 15 innings, Manalapan has a wave of momentum at its back at 15-0 heading into a second game vs. CBA on Thursday, a trip to No. 8 Middletown South on Friday and an MCT semifinal game Saturday vs. No. 10 Ocean.
"This group, they are fighters," Boyce said. "They are very resilient. They don't crack under pressure, they root for each other and they know we have a deep bench. There are a lot of interchangeable parts on this team.
Manalapan 4, CBA 3 (15 Innings)
|CBA (9-4, 5-4)||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Manalapan (15-0, 9-0)||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|Anthony Pillari (L, 0-1)||4.1||1||1||1||1||5||49|
|Jake Pellecchia (W, 1-0)||4||2||0||0||0||3||39|
|Tommy DiTullio||3-7, R, RBI|
|Connor Baksh||1-7, 2 RBI|
|Jason Arnott||1-5, 2B, R|
|Mason Wolf||2-7, R|
|Tom Guidice||2-6, 3 RBI|
|Mike Kuver||1-3, R|
|Jake Pellecchia||2-7, 2 R|
|Ben Levine||1-3, R|