LAKEWOOD - For four innings of the Shore Conference Tournament championship game against Red Bank Catholic on Sunday night at FirstEnergy Park, Toms River North junior right-hander Craig Larsen was on course to reach the ultimate individual accomplishment for a pitcher.

Then the zero in the RBC hit column turned to a one and Larsen turned his attention to making sure the run column stayed a zero.

Larsen pitched a three-hit shutout after retiring the first 12 batters in order and senior teammate Mike Nyisztor provided the thunder with a solo home run in the third to lead Toms River North to a 5-0 win over the Caseys for the program's second Shore Conference Tournament title in the last five years and third overall.

Photo by Paula Lopez.
Photo by Paula Lopez.

"It was definitely awesome winning two (Ocean County Tournaments) in my career, but winning the Shore Conference Tournament is special," Nyisztor said. "Southern just won the (South Jersey Group IV) section, so there are a lot of teams that had success this year that are in this tournament. It feels good to be the team that came out on top of this one."

Heading to the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday, Larsen had not allowed a baserunner. He lost his perfect game bid when RBC senior second baseman Aidan Supp hammered a doubled to the wall down the left-field line, but bounced back to retire the next three Caseys in order.

"It's all about the zero in the run column," Larsen said. "It's not really about the zero in the hit column or pitching a perfect game. It's all about the runs.

"You it's going on, but you don't really care about it as much as the runs and the score."

RBC threatened again in the sixth when sophomore David Glancy and senior first baseman Mike Veit both singled and senior shortstop Aaron Ahn beat out a potential inning-ending double-play ball to put runners on the corners with two out. Larsen then goaded senior third baseman Anthony DeRosa into an inning-ending fielder's choice ground out to shortstop.

Larsen then set down the Caseys in order in the seventh to set off the celebration. He threw 83 pitches on the night, struck out three Caseys and did not issue a walk or a hit batter. Larsen also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double off the left-field wall.

"Why did we give him the ball? He earned is," Toms River North coach Andy Pagano said of Larsen, who was one of two primary options to start the game for Toms River North, along with fellow junior Brendan Mullins. "He's been one of our best all year. He's a kid who we know is going to leave everything he has out on the field. The defense loves to play behind him because he throws strikes."

Toms River North junior Craig Larsen. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Toms River North junior Craig Larsen. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Larsen wrapped up his junior season 6-2 on the mound with a 2.32 ERA after pitching mostly in spot duty last year. He finished first on the staff in innings (48 1/3), second in strikeouts (40) and tied for first in wins.

"This is what we all expected from him," Nyisztor said. "Growing up, we knew he was always one of the better players around. This year, I think he really showed what he could do and how good he could be."

Toms River North opened the scoring in the first inning on a shallow sacrifice fly by senior left fielder Ian Mindas, but the fireworks came an inning later. With two out in the top of the third, Nyisztor jumped on an inside fastball by RBC sophomore starter Vin Bianchi and launched it inside the left-field foul pole and over the fence for a solo home run.

The blast was Nyisztor's second of the season and part of a 3-for-4 game at the plate for the senior shortstop.

"It was honestly pretty awesome," Nyisztor said. "All day, I've just been thinking about this game. I was thinking about the last two years and I don't think I even got a hit here (at FirstEnergy Park). I was just trying to focus on getting a hit and thank God (Bianchi) just threw one in on me and I was able to turn on it."

Nyisztor wrapped up his senior campaign with a statistical line that was every bit as good as his All-Shore performance last year, and then some. Nyisztor improved his batting average by 10 points (.448 to .458), his on-base percentage by nearly 50 (.518 to .564) and his slugging percentage by 135 points (.552 to .687). He also drove in three more runs, went from six doubles to 11 and one home run to two. In his last high school game before he heads to play at Rutgers, Nyisztor flashed a little bit of everything: he laid down a bunt for a base hit, handled all four balls hit his way - including one that took a wicked hop - a showed off legitimate home run power that he has added since last year.

He also stamped himself as a winner at Toms River North, leading both the basketball and baseball teams to a combined six championships (three basketball division titles, two baseball county tournaments and a Shore Conference title), with the Mariners basketball team achieving unprecedented success over the last three years. He eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in basketball for his career and finished with 89 hits in baseball. Nyisztor might have reached 100 were it not for a broken collarbone that cut his sophomore year short.

Toms River North Mike Nyisztor gets a congratulatory handshake from coach Andy Pagano after his third-inning home run. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Toms River North Mike Nyisztor gets a congratulatory handshake from coach Andy Pagano after his third-inning home run. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"Mike Nyisztor is a kid that no one in the state of New Jersey is going to outwork," Pagano said. "The kid leaves night games and goes to the gym. He leaves school and goes right to the cage. Nobody works harder, so to see the kid have success in a game like this, you just feel great for him."

The Mariners added three more runs in the fifth against Bianchi, who lasted 4 1/3 innings while suffering the first loss (3-1) of a successful sophomore season. Larsen helped his cause by lacing a double off the left-field wall, moved to third on an errant throw-down by catcher Brian Sheehy and scored when junior Alex Klalo lined an RBI single into center field with the RBC infield drawn in.

After a bunt single by Nyisztor and a walk by junior first baseman Jared Bellissimo, senior third baseman Austin Feigin capped the scoring with a single between shortstop and third base that chased home Klalo and Nyisztor.

Junior Blaise Panzini was solid in relief for RBC, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out three in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Toms River North came through with another strong finish to a season with its win on Sunday in Lakewood. The Mariners have endured some early-season struggles in each of the last two years, only to rally to win the Ocean County Tournament in both years and the Shore Conference Tournament this year. The Mariners also finished strong back in 2013, when they won the Shore Conference Tournament in longtime coach Ted Schelmay's final season before passing the baton to Pagano.

"It's nice to win in April, but teams that peak early usually fizzle late," Pagano said. "A couple years ago, our offense was so hot early in the year and down the stretch, we fizzled. This year, I think it took us a while to get going and it took us a while to get hitting. We didn't sting the ball most of the year, but we got hits in big spots and the pitching really came around."


Box Score

Toms River North 5, Red Bank Catholic 0

TR North (20-7)0110300590
RBC (21-9)0000000033



Craig Larsen (W, 6-2)73000383
Vin Bianchi (L, 3-1)4.17552279
Blaise Panzini2.22000337


Top Hitters

TR NorthGame Stats
Mike Nyisztor3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI
Craig Larsen2-4, 2B, R
Austin Feigin2-4, 2 RBI
Alex Klalo1-4, R, RBI
RBCGame Stats
Aidan Supp1-3, 2B
David Glancy1-2
Mike Veit1-3


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