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BAYVILLE -- Three innings into his Ocean County Tournament championship outing Tuesday at Al Kunzman Field, Donovan Catholic junior left-hander Jake Marciano had given up four earned runs, thrown 64 pitches and appeared not long for the game as his team trailed Southern Regional by a run.

Marciano did not think about those particulars. All he knew was that he was mad and that was how he was going to pitch the rest of the game.

"I one-hundred-percent go mad and I knew I was going to mow them down right after that," Marciano said.

Marciano flung fire out at the Rams over the final four innings on the way to a career-high 16 strikeouts with no walks and a complete a four-hitter that clinched the second-seeded Griffins a 6-4 win over fourth-seeded Southern and the program's first ever Ocean County Tournament championship.

"He grew nine inches in a year and when that happened, we saw him start to sprout into his body a little bit," Donovan Catholic coach Corey Hamman said of Marciano's development over the last year. "He really takes care of himself and this group of kids has been training together since October and they haven’t stopped. Jake really bought into it and now he is reaping the benefits."

The junior left-hander needed 64 pitches to get through the first three innings, but after a three-run home run by Southern senior Dom Miranda gave the Rams a 4-3 lead in the top of the third, Marciano flipped a switch. He mowed down 10 of the next 11 batters he faced with eight strikeouts and the lone batter that reached (on a hit-by-pitch) Marciano picked off at first base.

Photo: Matt Manley
Photo: Matt Manley

A complete-game seemed far-fetched with Marciano at 64 pitches through three innings, but his next four frames included pitch counts of nine, 11 and 12 to get him to the top of the seventh with 97. Marciano struck out the side in order in the sixth inning on only 12 pitches.

In the seventh, Marciano struck out the first batter of the inning, then allowed an infield single to first baseman Niko Diamantopoulos to give Southern a chance to bat with the tying run at the plate. Marciano bounced back by striking out each of the next two batters looking on four pitches to set off the celebration.

"He had two middle innings that were like a nine-or-ten-pitch inning that got him to a pitch count where he didn’t have to work hard; 110 pitches is a lot of pitches, but he didn’t have to work hard to get there," Hamman said. "He gave up four hits: one was the big home run. He made a bad pitch and he gave up a three-run homer but he doesn’t give in. That’s the beauty of it."

Donovan Catholic scored the game's final three runs to seal the victory, all of which were on miscues by Southern.

In the bottom of the fourth Gavin Degnan drew a walk with first base open and one out, but Southern catcher Gabe Tomei threw out Joe Maier attempting to steal third base, with Degnan stealing second on the play. Degnan then tested Maier and when the throw from the junior catcher skipped into left field, Degnan trotted home with the tying run.

"Gavin has the green light to do whatever he wants," Hamman said. "He’s got almost 100 bags in his career so he can pretty much do whatever he wants on the bases."

In the fifth, first baseman Rocco Scarpitti walked with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Dave Yorke. A passed ball moved Scarpitti to third and a wild pitch brought him home with the go-ahead run.

Degnan sparked another scoring rally in the bottom of the third when he singled and stole second with two out. Leftfielder Ryan Butchko then hit a popup on the infield grass that got caught in the wind and blew out of the reach of the Southern infield, allowing Degnan to score easily.

"He’ll hit a long ball, then he’ll hit a base hit in the hole and he is going to steal a base," Hamman said. "A single is almost a double every single time. The guys behind him have been picking him up throughout the year. Butchko has had some huge at-bats after they walk Gavin or he gets on base. I wouldn’t say we live or die by Gavin but he definitely helps us a lot."

Miranda drove in all four Southern runs -- all in the first three innings -- and his opposite-field, three-run home run with two out in the top of the third inning gave the Rams a 4-3 lead.

Southern senior Dom Miranda (left) celebrates his three-run home run in the Ocean County Tournament final. (Image: Matt Manley)
Southern senior Dom Miranda (left) celebrates his three-run home run in the Ocean County Tournament final. (Image: Matt Manley)

Southern had two different one-run leads in the game thanks to Miranda and the top four in the batting order. Marciano also helped start the Southern rallies by hitting three batters, two of whom came around to score.

In the top of the first, Marciano hit centerfielder Brandon Brown and with two out, Miranda dunked a single into shallow centerfielder, just in front of a diving Degnan. Brown was moving on contact and sped all the way home from first base to give the Rams a 1-0 lead.

Trailing 3-1 in the third, Southern junior leftfielder Ray Mulhern singled through the middle and third baseman Brady Lesiak was hit on the elbow with two out. Miranda then crushed an 0-1 pitch over the rightfield fence to put the Rams back in front.

Miranda finished the Ocean County Tournament 7-for-13 with two home runs and eight RBI, including 6-for-8 with two homers and six RBI in the final two rounds.

Donovan Catholic tied the game in the bottom of the first on a two-out RBI single by sophomore Tyler Levine and went up 3-1 with two runs in the bottom of the second. Sophomore John Busco drilled an RBI double to the left-centerfield gap and scored on an RBI single by Degnan.

Junior right-hander Roger Dreher surrendered the first three Southern runs while striking out seven over the first three-plus innings before turning the ball over to sophomore right-hander Tyler McLeod with 86 pitches during his outing.

Degnan was Donovan Catholic's hot hitter in the tournament, as he has been the entire season. The senior centerfielder finished the championship game 3-for-3, making him 8-for-11 with two doubles, a home run, three walks, eight runs scored, four RBI and six stolen bases. In three of the four games, Degnan did not make an out and in the other one, he hit a three-run walk-off homer in his final at-bat.

In addition to winning its first OCT championship, Donovan Catholic reached the 20-win mark for the season -- the first time the program has accomplished that win total in recent memory. The Griffins also strung together 14 straight wins before losing to Christian Brothers Academy Monday in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. On Tuesday, they bounced back by winning a championship to go with its outright Class B South title.

"We saw it starting to build up to this last year," said Hamman, now in his fourth season running a program that was 2-18 the year before he took over in 2019. "We had an okay year: we lost some games early, but as the season went on, they got better. Graduating one starting player from last year and having a returning core along with the pitching staff coming back and Shaun O’Keefe and Anthony Mursko coming back (as fifth-year seniors) was huge. They enjoy being together and that’s the beauty of it. We probably need a day off and they want to practice tomorrow."

Box Score

Donovan Catholic 6, Southern 4

Southern (13-6)1030000442
Donovan (20-2)120111X670


Roger Dreher35333786
Tyler McLeod (L, 1-1)2.22322446
Owen Durnien0.1000015
Donovan CatholicIPHRERBBSOPC
Jake Marciano (W, 3-1)7444016111

Top Hitters

SouthernGame Stats
Dom Miranda2-3, HR, R, 4 RBI
Ray Mulhern1-3, R

Top Hitters

SouthernGame Stats
Dom Miranda2-3, HR, R, 4 RBI
Ray Mulhern1-3, R
Donovan CatholicGame Stats
Gavin Degnan3-3, BB, 2 R, RBI, 3 SB
Tyler Levine2-4, RBI, SB
John Busco1-3, 2B, R, RBI
Ryan Butchko1-4, RBI


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