LANOKA HARBOR - Jackson Liberty baseball coach Jim Rankin has to remind himself from time to time that the team he's coaching this year is filled with underclassmen. That self-reminder has come in handy during some tough losses this year, but Tuesday against the hottest team in Ocean County, the Lions played beyond their years.

Sophomore right-hander Nick DeCarlo pitched a complete game and the Lions offense strung together a mix of two-out hits and run-manufacturing on offense to pull out a 4-2 win Tuesday over a Lacey team that entered play Tuesday on a 10-game winning streak and ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.

"I do have to remind myself that a lot of these guys are either on their first or second year as varsity players," Rankin said. "But it is getting to be that time of year when you start to expect guys to perform, no matter how old they are. And with this group, a lot of the sophomores played as freshmen, so yeah, they are young, but they have played at this level."

Jackson Liberty sophomore Nick DeCarlo. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Jackson Liberty sophomore Nick DeCarlo. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Entering with a record of 1-2, DeCarlo twirled the best game of his young high school career Tuesday and did so despite giving up an earned run in the first inning. He settled in and threw up five straight scoreless innings while giving up just two hits during the stretch.

DeCarlo faced the tying run in the form of Lacey cleanup hitter Justin Thompson - who already doubled in a run in the game - in the bottom of the seventh. With 108 pitches, Thompson was the last batter DeCarlo could face and he fell behind 3-0 before coming back with three straight strikes to end the game.

"That was big, not just for him but for us," Rankin said. "We had Kevin Ritz ready and he's been good for us, but being able to bear down there showed a lot of heart and fire. Plus, we needed it. We've lost a lot of one-run games this year and we needed somebody to step up and help us finish."

DeCarlo was one of several underclassmen to carry the load for Jackson Liberty on Tuesday. Junior Billy Hart and sophomore Scott Wierciszewski each picked up early two-out RBI in the first three innings and freshman Shane Hickey drove in two more runs later on.

Hart lifted a two-out RBI double in the top of the first and Wierciszewski punched a 2-2 pitch from Lacey starter Anthony Elefante into right field for an RBI single in the top of the third. Hickey added a sacrifice fly in the fourth and rolled into an RBI ground out in the fourth.

Hickey also doubled and scored in the third and started a 5-3 double play at third base to end the second inning. Junior Rich Dordas picked up a pair of hits as well for the Lions. Jackson Liberty did not commit an error until the final inning.

Close games have been a problem for Jackson Liberty this year, with five of the Lions' six losses coming by a margin of one run. Jackson Liberty as not won a game by one run this season, but now has two victories by a margin of two runs.

"We've been close against some good teams and unfortunately haven't been able to win them," Rankin said. "To come in here and play seven good innings and beat a quality team like Lacey and a quality pitcher in Elefante is really encouraging."


Box Score

Jackson Liberty 4, No. 5 Lacey 2

Jackson Lib. (8-6, 7-4)1011010461
Lacey (13-2, 9-2)1000001264


Nick DeCarlo (W, 2-2)762138114
Anthony Elefante (L, 1-1)664315100
Tom Coraggio1000017

Top Hitters

Jackson Lib.Game Stats
Shane Hickey1-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Rich Dordas2-4
Daniel Sofield1-3, 2 Runs
Billy Hart1-4, 2B, RBI
Scott Wiercisewski1-4, RBI
LaceyGame Stats
Justin Thompson1-3, 2B, RBI, BB
Miles Feaster1-4, Run
Jorden Jurkiewicz1-4, Run
Jarrett Dial2-3



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