WEST LONG BRANCH – Shore Regional senior James Kelly was a junior standout on a senior-led NJSIAA Group I championship team, and while he showed Thursday in the Blue Devils’ season opener against Manasquan that he is ready to carry his team as a senior, his teammates also showed that he won’t have to.

Kelly pitched a complete game with nine strikeouts and helped his cause with a game-tying solo home run in the fourth to lead the Blue Devils to a 5-4 opening day win over the No. 8 team in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10.

The Shore baseball team awaits James Kelly after the senior hit a game-tying home run in the fourth inning against Manasquan. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“We definitely saw this as a chance to make a statement,” said senior Sam Parrino, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBI Thursday. “Manasquan is coming into the year with expectations to compete for a state title and a division title and we faced (starter Tommy Sheehan) last year so we knew he was tough. I think we all realize we lost some really good players from last year’s team, but we’ve got a good group of guys who are hungry and ready to step up, and I think we showed that today.”

Shore scored all five of its runs in the bottom of the fourth off sophomore left-hander Tommy Sheehan, a University of Notre Dame recruit. Kelly - a Monmouth University signee - started the rally with a solo blast down the right-field line on a 1-2 changeup from Sheehan, tying the game 1-1.

"(Sheehan) got me out with a curveball in the first at-bat, and I kind of thought he might throw me that again,” Kelly said. “I was still looking for a fastball, and he threw me a changeup, which was good because I was thinking fastball and it just came in like a slow fastball. I was able to get the barrel on it and luckily it stayed fair.”

Sheehan then issued two walks around a double by senior first baseman Matt McCarthy, and junior Chas Breithoff delivered an RBI single to right field to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead and keep the bases loaded with still nobody out. Sheehan then struck out the next two batters before Parrino lined a 2-2 fastball into the right-center gap for a bases-clearing triple that gave Shore a 5-1 lead.

"(Sheehan) doesn’t throw many curveballs, but his changeup can be pretty tough,” Parrino said. “He struck me out with it in my (second) at-bat, and I swung and missed at it earlier in that at-bat. At 2-2, I was still sitting on a fastball, and he left it up and over the plate.”

Parrino got a taste of starting by the end of his junior year. After hitting at the bottom of the order last year, he led off on Thursday and finished 2-for-3 at the plate against one of the Shore’s top pitchers.

“At practice yesterday, we talked about keeping a right-center approach against him because we knew he likes to work away,” Parrino said. “If you go up trying to turn on the ball, you’re not going do much with it.”

McCarthy and Breithoff each went 2-for-3 with a run scored for Shore, with McCarthy adding the double. McCarthy was also a starter at first base last season along with Kelly and Parrino, as was Thursday’s starting left fielder and clean-up hitter Justin Halper.

Manasquan answered the five-run Blue Devils inning with a three-run fifth against Kelly. Senior Matt Edwards smacked an RBI single to center to score Adam Schreck from third and senior Max Hawkins - also a Monmouth recruit - plated two more runs with a double down the right-field line that drove in Edwards from second and allowed junior Jack Sheehan to score from third when the ball got past the right fielder.

“They seemed to handle my slider pretty well,” Kelly said. “Coach (Dennis) Van Pelt does a good job giving hitters a plan at the plate, and they knew that if they saw a pitch at the knees to lay off of it because it was probably going to break out of the zone. I had to make some adjustments, and Max got a fastball that I elevated too much and he knew what to do with it. That was a nice piece of hitting.”

The fifth could have been an even bigger inning for Manasquan had it not had a runner picked off at second base on a throw down from Shore catcher Dhillon Barbetti for the first out. Each team had two runners picked off on the basepaths on Thursday.

“Baserunning was rough for both teams today,” Shore coach Pat O’Neill said. “You saw some situational things today that we failed to execute, and I’m sure that’s a direct result of not being able to get outside on a real field enough during the preseason. Guys need to get into those situations in order to feel confident in how they want to execute.”

Max Hawkins and senior catcher Tyler Bradley each went 2-for-3 for Manasquan. Sheehan allowed six hits and walked three while striking out eight in the loss.

Hawkins walked and took second on a wild pitch in the seventh while representing the tying run, but Kelly struck out senior Ty Hawkins to finish off a seven-hit complete game in which Kelly did not allow an earned run. He also walked four batters and threw 116 pitches. He entered the top of the seventh sitting on 101 pitches with the top of the order coming up for Manasquan, but had no intention of giving up the ball.

“I didn’t have any plans on coming out of the game,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t thinking about my pitch count so I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I felt good and I wanted to finish the game.”

“I wrote down the number 85 and circled it,” O’Neill said. “That was the pitch count coming in and I had no intention of going past it. We got through the sixth inning and he was somewhere around 90, and at that point, I knew it was pointless to try and take him out because I knew what the answer was going to be. You do want to think about the health and best interest of the pitcher, but sometimes, you have to let a competitor be a competitor.”

Kelly finished with a 2-4 record last year with an earned-run average of 2.45, but one of those two wins was a 3-2 win over New Egypt in the Central Jersey Group I title game. With Cosentino, Andrew Schultz and Dylan Vosk all gone from last year’s staff, Kelly will get the ball in a lot more of Shore’s big games.

“I feel like I can be that guy,” Kelly said. “We’re hoping to play in a lot more games like that, and if it’s my turn, I’ll definitely be ready.”

 

Box Score

Shore 5, Manasquan 4

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

Manasquan (0-1, 0-1)

1

0

0

0

3

0

0

4

7

1

Shore (1-0, 1-0)

0

0

0

5

0

0

x

5

7

3

 

Manasquan

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Matt Edwards, SS

3

2

1

1

1

0

Jack Sheehan, 3B

3

1

0

0

1

2

Max Hawkins, CF

3

0

2

2

1

0

Ty Hawkins, DH

4

0

0

0

0

2

--Mark Galvan, 1B-P

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tanner Cowley, RF

3

0

0

0

0

2

Tommy Sheehan, P-1B

2

0

0

0

1

1

--John Driscoll, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyler Bradley, C

3

0

2

0

0

1

--John Driscoll, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Adam Schreck, LF

3

1

1

0

0

1

Matt Paturzo, 2B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Totals

27

4

7

2

4

9

2B: M. Hawkins
SB: Paturzo, M. Hawkins, Schreck
CS: Driscoll
Picked Off: Driscoll

Shore

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Sam Parrino, CF

3

0

2

3

0

1

Dhillon Barbetti, C

2

0

0

0

0

2

James Kelly, P

3

1

1

1

0

0

Justin Halper, LF

2

1

0

0

1

1

--Ryan Campi, LF

0

0

0

0

0

0

Matt McCarthy, 1B

3

1

2

0

0

0

Devin McLaughlin, 3B

2

1

0

0

1

1

Chas Breithoff, DH

3

1

2

1

0

1

--Michael O'Halloran, SS

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kevin Donegan, RF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Alex Mango, 2B

2

0

0

0

1

1

Totals

24

5

7

5

3

8

2B: McCarthy
3B: Parrino
HR: Kelly (4th inning, off T. Sheehan, none on, none out)
SAC: Baretti
Picked Off: Parrino, Breithoff

Manasquan

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Tommy Sheehan (L, 0-1)

4

6

5

5

3

8

1

Marc Galvan

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

 

Shore

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

James Kelly (W, 1-0)

7

7

4

0

4

9

0

 

Pitches-Strikes: T. Sheehan 80-50, Galvan 17-12, Kelly 116-67
Groundouts-Flyouts: T. Sheehan 2-1, Galvan 2-2, Kelly 7-3