MIDDLETOWN - Wednesday at Rich Veth Field, the Middletown North baseball team had a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the state and at the Shore in that the Lions only surrendered one run and had the tying run on second base in the bottom of the sixth inning.

On the other hand, with the way Luca Dalatri was pitching, they never had much of a chance.

Dalatri matched a career-high with 15 strikeouts and did not walk a batter in a three-hit shutout as the Colts edged Middletown North to win their second straight Shore Conference Class A North game since returning from their trip to Florida.

CBA senior Luca Dalatri struck out 15 in a three-hit shutout on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We saw what we've seen for four years," CBA coach Marty Kenney said. "He threw well down in Florida, he threw well prior to that. It's been the way he's always thrown: command of three pitches and he's even added a fourth. He's throwing a slider as well as the curveball. You know he's going to be around the plate, he's not going to walk people, he forces you to put the ball in play and he can be overpowering at times."

After fanning 10 in six shutout innings in his first start of the season down south, Dalatri was even better in the chillier, N.J. weather on Tuesday. He threw 68 of his 88 pitches for strikes and struck out the side in four different innings, including the seventh.

"I do a lot for my endurance to prepare myself to be able to go out and finish games with that burst," Dalatri said. "I knew I had the heart of the order coming up (in the seventh) so I wanted to focus on getting on top and staying low in the zone."

Of his 15 punchouts, 12 came on a fastball that registered from 85-to-90 miles-per-hour over the course of the game, according to the radar guns of the 15-to-20 Major League Scouts in attendance to check in on the 6-foot-5 right-hander and his catcher and fellow University of North Carolina commit, Brandon Martorano.

"I felt pretty good for my second start," Dalatri said. "The first start was much different because it was a little warmer and I just think I could be a lot more loose and easy, but I felt like everything was working today and I didn't do anything outside the ordinary to get outs. I feel like I'm at a pretty good spots right now."

Dalatri's fastball was in the 88-to-90 miles-per-hour range before he settled in between 86 and 88 for the middle innings. Once the seventh inning hit, every fastball Dalatri unleashed was either 89 or 90 miles-per-hour and he struck out the side by throwing the fastball on 10 of his 13 pitches in the inning.

"I always feel like anytime you go in thinking you can just overpower somebody, you end up getting into some trouble," Dalatri said. "You have to be able to pitch backwards and set your pitches up and that's the real key to it."

Over the summer, Dalatri hit 93 miles-per-hour on the gun and hit 92 in the seventh inning of his Non-Public A final, four-hit masterpiece against Don Bosco in early June of last year. As the weather heats up, Dalatri expects his velocity will be up, but he has never been one to play to the radar guns pointed in his direction.

"You could see it," Dalatri said of the attention from scouts. "I just go out there and try to take it the same way I did my sophomore and junior year - as if they're not there. I never really pitch for velocity even though it may be there. I always try to get the batter out with whatever I need to put a little on or take a little off. I look at it like they are here to see me pitch, not how hard I can throw, so I just keep doing what I've been doing."

What Dalatri has been doing is historic by both CBA standards and Shore Conference standards. He has already shattered the CBA record with 27 career wins after Wednesday and he has added to his records in innings (195 1/3) and strikeouts (277) in his two starts this year. With eight more wins this season, Dalatri would break the Shore Conference record for career wins, which is held by former Toms River East and Rutgers star Casey Gaynor.

While topping out at 90 miles-per-hour on a day in which the thermometer did not reach 50 degrees, Dalatri still impressed the handful of scouts who stuck around until the seventh inning of his outing. One scout of an American League club said he sees Dalatri as a round five through 10 talent in the upcoming draft and also said he could see Martorano going earlier based on his improved athleticism following an 11-home-run junior season.

Even without the draft in mind, eyes will be on CBA this year to see if the Colts can repeat as state champions with the battery of Dalatri and Martorano back. The Colts return just two other starters from that team and have had two games out of four this season in which they have only scored one run.

"We're still trying to put a team together, to tell you the truth," Kenney said. "Last year, it took us a few weeks to really become a team and I see the same thing for this year. It's not so much the returning players but the guys who are coming up.

"I haven't seen the intensity yet that it's going to take, especially since we are the hunter this year. We had a team beat us in a scrimmage in Florida and it looked like they just won a state championship. It shows you teams are researching us and they know that we're nationally ranked and number one in the state and I've been trying to tell these guys it's just an opportunity and not much else. We're ranked based on what we did last year, not anything that we've done this year."

Despite Dalatri's dominance, CBA still barely pulled out the win thanks to the effort of Middletown North sophomore right-hander Tyler Ras. In seven innings, Ras allowed one unearned run on three hits, a walk and a hit batter while punching out 10 in his first start of the season. Between the two starting pitchers, just two balls made it to the outfield all game - a single by CBA sophomore right fielder Nick Hohenstein and a bloop single to right by Middletown North senior third baseman Kyle Capo.

"He has a great state of mind where big games really don't get to him," Middletown North coach Justin Nathanson said of Ras, who used an 87-mile-per-hour fastball and unique changeup to keep the Colts off balance. "He's mentally tough and he goes at guys. No one intimidates him at all. He's a competitor and he gave everything he had out there today."

Hohenstein's line-drive single to center was the difference in the game, as it chased home Martorano with the lone CBA run with none out in the top of the fourth. Martorano walked to lead off and Dalatri followed with a come-backer to Ras that the sophomore bobbled and threw low and a late to second base to give CBA two baserunners with no one out instead of one with one out. After the Hohenstein single, Ras retired the next three CBA hitters - two on strikeouts.

Dalatri was even more dominant, allowing two infield singles and the flare to right by Capo on a 3-2 fastball. The second infield hit was a pinch-hit single by Brendan Doherty to lead off the sixth and a sacrifice bunt by shortstop and leadoff hitter Cole Fluta gave the Lions a chance to pull even if either Ras or Capo could solve Dalatri.

Ras slapped a firm ground ball to third base, where Dalatri's younger brother Andrea made the play for the second out while also holding pinch-runner Marc Cerbo at second. Before Capo had a chance to tie the game, Dalatri got himself out of the inning by picking off Cerbo at second base.

CBA will have Thursday off before travelling to play Freehold Borough on Friday. Last season, the Colonial shut out CBA in both A North meetings and outscored the Colts 12-0 in the two games. The first of the two was a 10-0 romp in six innings and the second a 2-0 win.

Senior right-hander Steve Rullo pitched both games and followed up a six-inning two-hitter with a one-hitter in the second meeting. Rullo is rested and expected to take the ball Friday against the Colts.


Box Score

CBA 1, Middletown North 0

CBA (3-1, 2-0)0001000130
Middletown North (0-3, 0-3)0000000032


Cid Porter, CF301001
Evan Menendez, LF301000
Brandon Martorano, C210010
Luca Dalatri, P300002
--Jack Harnisch, CR000000
Nick Hohenstein, RF201100
Kenny Campbell, 1B300002
Andrea Dalatri, 3B300002
Brendan Galvin, DH300001
--Sal Rinaldi, SS000000
Luke Chece, 2B300002

GIDP: Martorano
SB: Porter

Middletown NorthABRHRBIBBSO
Cole Fluta, SS200001
Tyler Ras, P300001
Kyle Capo, 3B301002
Walter Schopf, C301002
--Connor Welsh, CR000000
Seth Ziegler, 1B300003
Garrett French, 2B200002
Phil Pecherski, CF200002
Mike Mercier, RF200001
Marc Cerbo, DH100001
--Cody Sharkey, RF000000
Brendan Doherty, PH101000

SAC: Fluta
Picked Off: Cerbo

Luca Dalatri (W, 2-0)73000150


Tyler Ras (L, 0-2)73101100


HBP: Hohenstein (by Ras)
Pitches-Strikes: Dalatri 88-68, Ras 92-62
Groundouts-Flyouts: Dalatri 5-0, Ras 7-0