Baseball – Marcantonio, Holdorf Back Chiusano as Freehold Reaches 1st MCT Final in 28 Years
MIDDLETOWN - The Freehold Borough baseball team scored one run in two regular-season meetings against Christian Brothers Academy but it took Colonials junior catcher Phil Marcantonio one swing of the bat in the top of the first inning of Sunday's Monmouth County Tournament semifinal to surpass that two-game total.
Marcantonio connected for a two-run home run in a three-run Freehold first inning and Dan Chiusano struck out eight in six innings of work to lead the fifth-seeded Colonials past the top-seeded Colts and into the MCT final for the first time since 1989, according to longtime Colonials coach Jon Block.
"We're really excited," Marcantonio said of playing at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood on Tuesday against Red Bank Catholic. "It's going to be a fun night, we're definitely looking forward to it."
PHOTO GALLERY: Freehold at CBA by Paula Lopez
Nick Aiello preceded Marcantonio's home run with an RBI double that plated Mark Costanzo with the game's first run after Costanzo started the rally with a two-out single.
Marcantonio worked the count to 3-2 and turned on an offering from CBA sophomore Joe Escandon, lifting a towering shot that landed just over the fence in left field. Escandon was making his second career start after pitching a four-hit shutout against Howell in the MCT round of 16 on April 29.
"My approach stays the same, no matter what," Marcantonio said. "No matter who's on the mound, I'm trying to take the same swing that I worked on all winter."
Freehold built on the early lead when Tom Holdorf smoked a two-run double to right field in the top of the second to extend the Freehold lead to 5-0 and Marcantonio later added an RBI double that one-hopped the fence in left-center to give the Colonials a 7-0 lead in the top of the sixth.
In three MCT games, Marcantonio is 5-for-11 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI in wins over Manasquan, St. Rose and CBA. In his first season as the full-time catcher and a starter, Marcantonio is hitting .345 with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI.
Marcantonio started the season well, going 8-for-21 with a double and a triple during the first eight games of the season, but drove in just one run during the 5-3 stretch for the team. Since then, Marcantonio is 12-for-37 with six doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI in 10 games and Freehold Boro is 8-2 during that stretch.
"I really worked on using my legs," Marcantonio said of the offseason work he did on his swing. "That was the main stress I put on my work during the winter. I'm just trying to get myself to hit through the baseball, get the barrel to it and let the bat do the work."
After CBA scored a run off Chiusano in the sixth, the Colonials added three runs in the seventh - one on an RBI infield single by Holdorf, another on a sacrifice fly by Mark Costanzo and one more on a wild pitch that scored shortstop Chris Cassandra. Freehold worked four walks in the inning.
"It's very exciting to see this offense, because coming into the season, we didn't know what we were going to have," said Holdorf, who along with Cassandra, was the only returning starter to hit .300 last year. "We were patching a lot of holes, but everyone has been coming through, filling roles and doing their job. That's all that matters at the end of the day."
Chiusano threw 92 pitches in six innings while allowing a run on four hits, one walk, one hit batter and eight strikeouts. CBA's best threat against him was in the third inning, when the Colts loaded the bases with a single by Jack Harnisch, a walk by Nick Hohenstein and a wild pitch on a strikeout with two out. Chiusano ended the threat by striking out Spencer Bauer.
Hohenstein doubled to lead off the sixth and scored CBA's lone run.
Freehold Boro will face Red Bank Catholic in Tuesday's MCT final at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. Holdorf and fellow left-hander Dane Della Valle will both be fully eligible to start and which one starts will depend on how the rest of Freehold's schedule shakes out.
The Colonials are one win from clinching no worse than a share of the Class A North championship and are also scheduled to play Howell on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. Block indicated he has appealed to the Shore Conference to allow Freehold and Howell to move their divisional game to later in the week, despite the Shore Conference rule that stipulates divisional and non-divisional games are not to be moved to accommodate county tournament games.
Moving the championship game might normally be an option, however, the BlueClaws return home on Wednesday and FirstEnergy Park will not be available until the following week. Moving the Monmouth County Tournament final would likely mean changing the venue.
"I've had the same mindset no matter what team I face," Holdorf said. "As long as you pound the strike zone and hit your spots, you can get outs. If I can do that, we can compete with anybody."
(5) Freehold Boro 10, (1) CBA 1
|Dan Chiusano (W, 4-1)||6||4||1||1||1||8||92|
|Joe Escandon (L, 1-1)||1.2||5||5||5||0||1||43|
|Phil Marcantonio||2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI|
|Tom Holdorf||2-5, 2B, 3 RBI|
|Nick Aiello||1-2, 2B, 3 BB, 3 R, RBI|
|Matt Granato||2-4, 2B|
|Isaiah Howard||1-3, 2B, BB, 2 R|
|Mike Belka||1-2, 2 BB, 2 R, RBI|
|Nick Hohenstein||1-2, 2B, BB, R|