RED BANK - Last year was a lost season for both the Middletown South baseball team and current senior left-hand pitcher Jack Lisowski. The Eagles went 11-13 and were one of the Shore's worst teams at keeping runs off the board and Lisowski was in no position to help due to a season-ending shoulder injury.

On Saturday in the Strike Out Autism Challenge at Count Basie Park against Red Bank Catholic - the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - Lisowski and senior teammate Jack Roesch gave Middletown South a pitching effort rarely seen last year to help the Eagles win a game that would not have been winnable a year ago.

Roesch battled through 4 1/3 solid innings and Lisowski came on to earn the win in relief, striking out the final two batters of the game as the winning runs to sew up a 5-3 Middletown South win over the No. 3 Caseys.

Middletown South junior Anthony Esposito. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We wouldn't have won this kind of game last year," Middletown South coach Ryan Spillane said. "We have been talking about and preaching about getting mentally tougher. We could have made a couple more plays today but we made enough plays. I think that we're a different team this year. We scrap. The plan today was to keep it close, get into the late innings and we have confidence that we are going to get it done."

Middletown South managed only two hits on Saturday against RBC senior pitchers Vincent Bianchi and Ryan O'Hara, committed four errors in the field and played without two of their top juniors from a year ago. The Eagles, however, endured by leaning on the two seniors - Roesch from the right side and Lisowski from the left - to make big pitches and wiggle out of trouble.

Roesch and Lisowski pitched to junior Anthony Esposito, who donned the catchers gear with senior and three-year starter Trevor Brey nursing a sore back.

 

"Esposito did a really good job filling in behind the dish and I'm not surprised," Spillane said. "He's a really solid catcher and he has control of the game when he's back there. He did a nice job."

On top of missing Brey, Middletown South is still without shortstop and Seton Hall commit Aurelio Licata due to a shoulder injury that has sidelined him indefinitely. Licata was the Shore Conference leader in on-base percentage last year and was second in both batting average and doubles during a First-Team-All-Shore campaign.

"It's really tough losing Aurelio and Trevor, especially for a game like this against a Shore Conference power like RBC," Lisowski said. "Last year, we pretty much had the same team we have now except for Joe Sprake. We added a couple sophomores and juniors and we built up a lot of chemistry over the offseason working out with each other. We're back with the same team, we feel like we're brothers, we're going to fight and we think we're going to get a lot of wins this year."

At the plate, Middletown South benefited from inconsistent control by Bianchi, who overpowered the Eagles by striking out five of the first six batters who stepped in the box against him during two perfect innings.

In the third, the Eagles began to chip away at Bianchi, with junior center fielder Chris Lotito working a six-pitch walk and stealing second base. Junior Jack Seridan then followed with a line drive to center field that RBC junior Anthony Boriello caught with a sliding grab to prevent a run. Bianchi got out of the inning unscathed but Middletown South had made progress against the St. John's commit.

"Watching from the dugout, I loved our approach at the plate," Lisowski said. "Not a lot of hits, but the approaches were great. They did a great job getting on base and scoring runs and that's all you really gotta do."

Bianchi helped his cause with an RBI single in the bottom of the third that opened the scoring and took a no-hitter into the top of the fifth. He opened his fifth inning of work by hitting his second batter of the game and an errant pickoff attempt pushed Middletown South senior Robby Zega to second base.

Lotito and Sheridan could not knock the run in against Bianchi but senior and No. 9 hitter Jack Kinsella came through with a first-pitch single to right-center field to break up the no-hit bid, score Zega from third and tie the game at 1-1.

In the top of the sixth, the flood gates opened on the Caseys. Bianchi hit junior Danny Minze to lead off the inning and after a fielder's choice ground out to second base, sophomore first baseman Joe Stanizone worked a walk to set up Middletown South with runners on first and second.

Esposito stepped to the plate, fouled off a two-strike pitch from Bianchi, then smacked a 2-2 pitch to center field just in front of the diving attempt of Boriello. Junior Chris O'Connor scored with the go-ahead run and Middletown South went on to scored three more runs in the inning without a hit. The runs scored on a wild pitch, an error and a squeeze bunt by Sheridan.

"I just feel like we needed to get a chance to see him and get used to it because he throws so hard," Esposito said of Bianchi, whose fastball was clocked at 91 miles-per-hour throughout the first three innings. "We had to wear him out and keep swinging. Don't take strikes, jump on first-pitch fastballs when they are there. He has a dominant curve and a dominant slider so if we got something in the zone, we had to hit it."

Roesch did not get a decision and left the game with runners on first and second and one out in the RBC fifth and the game still tied at 1-1. The two men reached on errors and Lisowski came in to try to keep the two potential unearned runs off the board. He completed his first escape job of the day by inducing a pair of fly outs to Lotito in center.

"They threw strikes, which is really all we needed them to do," Esposito said. "Roesch came up huge giving us a chance to win and Lisowski made some huge pitches to get us out of jams. He has a great curveball that he can mix in and Roesch just pumps strikes. You can see if he is on in the first inning and he definitely had it working today."

After giving up the lead in the top of the sixth, RBC opened the sixth with a walk by junior first baseman Jack Scrivanic and a long, line-drive single by sophomore left fielder Shane Panzini off the fence in left field. Lisowski bounced back by striking out designated hitter Ray Martini and Boriello, but extended the inning when he hit leadoff hitter Alex Gonzalez.

That brought up third baseman Robert Gonzalez, who went 5-for-7 with a home run and two doubles in RBC's first two games of the season and singled in his second at bat on Saturday. Lisowski got out of the jam by coaxing a ground ball to third, where O'Connor made pick and the throw across the diamond to end the threat.

RBC had one more challenge for Lisowski in the bottom of the seventh. O'Hara and junior catcher Chris Sparber began the threat with one-out walks and Lisowski hit Scrivanic on the hand to load the bases. Panzini ripped the ball through the legs of O'Connor at third to plate two runs and bring the winning run to the plate.

Lisowski responded by striking out Martini with an elevated fastball on 2-2 and set down Boriello on three pitches, finishing him off with another high fastball.

"I tried to use my adrenaline to get a lit extra zip in those spots," Lisowski said.

Middletown South will put its 3-0 start - the Eagles beat Marlboro twice to open the season - on the line with two games against No. 5 Christian Brothers Academy to open the week. The Colts are 2-1 and will be looking to break out at the plate against the Eagles after scoring a modest eight runs in their first three games.

"Anybody in our lineup and anybody on our bench can come in and play during the season and we will have a chance to win," Esposito said. "Being 3-0 gives us a good feeling and that makes you want to keep winning."

 

Box Score

Middletown South 5, Red Bank Catholic 3

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Midd South (3-0) 0 0 0 0 1 4 0 5 2 4
RBC (2-1) 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 3 6 2

Pitching

Middletown South IP H R ER BB SO PC
Jack Roesch 4.1 5 1 1 1 2 68
Jack Lisowski (W, 1-0) 2.2 1 2 0 3 4 63
Red Bank Catholic IP H R ER BB SO PC
Vincent Bianchi (L, 0-1) 5.1 2 5 3 3 8 95
Ryan O’Hara 1.2 0 0 0 1 2 20

Top Hitters

Middletown South Stats
Anthony Esposito 1-3, RBI
Jack Kinsella 1-2, BB, RBI
Robby Zega 0-1, BB, HBP, 2 R
Red Bank Catholic Stats
Jack Scrivanic 1-2, 2B
Ryan O’Hara 1-2, R
Vincent Bianchi 1-4, RBI
Alex Gonzalez 1-2, R

 

 

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