Baseball – Maypother, St. Rose Trio Lead Roses to MCT Semis
TINTON FALLS - St. Rose senior Riley Maypother embraced a move to the leadoff spot in the batting order to help out a teammate and three games into the experiment, it's looking more like a move to help the right-handed slugger, as well as his Purple Roses team.
For the second time in as many games, Maypother led off a Monmouth County Tournament game with a home run, this time to jump-start an 8-4 St. Rose win over Monmouth Regional Monday in which he and the two hitters behind him dominated the game at the plate.
The first batter of Monday's MCT quarterfinal, Maypother scalded an opposite-field home run off the scoreboard in right-center field for his second home run of the season and second in the last three days. Maypother led off Saturday's 7-5, round-of-16 win over Manalapan with his first home run of the year - his second game leading off this season.
"His at-bats always get everyone up," senior shortstop Will Gannon said. "Everyone in the dugout gets pumped for his at-bats, so when he leads off the game with a home run, it gets everybody fired up and into the game. The last two games, he really set the tone for us."
"That's the first time I've hit one out to right field," Maypother said. "I've been trying to get my bat to stay in the zone longer because I usually am pretty quick to the ball. I just to wait on it a split-second longer and that usually helps me hit it hard in play instead of pulling it foul."
Since moving to the leadoff spot against Red Bank in the preliminary round of the tournament, Maypother is 7-for-10 with two home runs, a double, eight runs scored and four RBI.
"I think it's actually a more natural fit for me," Maypother said. "I like to see pitches and I don't mind hitting with two strikes. Plus, pitchers have tried to pitch around me a lot so if they want to do that to lead off the game, that gives us a baserunner for the guys behind me and with those guys coming up, it's a chance for us to have a big inning right away."
Monday marked Maypother's best performance at the plate this season and after looking like a cleanup hitter on his first at-bat of the game, he shifted to lead-off mode in his next three plate appearances. Maypother finished 4-for-4, collecting three consecutive singles on the way to scoring three more runs whole also stealing a base.
As locked-in as Maypother has been since moving to the leadoff spot, the switch was not designed with him in mind. Gannon had been leading off and after lobbying to move out of the leadoff spot over the last two seasons, he got his wish when coach Rich Lanko flipped he and Maypother for the Red Bank game.
"He has been saying since last year that he didn't feel that comfortable leading off, but we didn't want to make the switch because he was hitting so well for us last year," Lanko said of Gannon. "This year, it just seemed like he was getting a little anxious jumping at the ball and trying to pull it. He thought moving down to two to shake things up a little bit might help and Riley was happy to make the move to the top and it's worked out well so far. Both guys are having good at-bats and taking good swings."
Since the change in the batting order, Gannon is 6-for-11 with a double and six RBI, including his 3-for-4, three-RBI showing on Monday.
"Leading off, I always feel like my job is to see pitches and I was probably being too patient and not attacking enough," Gannon said. "Since we changed things, I've felt like I can be more aggressive."
Senior catcher Brody Maypother also went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI, making St. Rose's top three hitters 10-for-12 with three doubles, a home run, seven runs scored and six RBI in the game.
"I feel like those three guys are pretty interchangeable in those three spots," Lanko said. "They all have pop, they all run well, they all do a nice job making contact. We're fortunate that if we want to try something different at the top of the lineup, it doesn't really throw off the whole lineup."
St. Rose scored three times in the top of the third to make it 4-0, with Brody Maypother doubling home Riley and both Gannon and Brody scoring on a two-out error. Gannon made it 5-0 in the fourth when he singled home Riley, who singled and stole second base with two out before racing home on Gannon's line drive to left field.
Monmouth came to life in the bottom of the fourth and cut the deficit to 5-3 on a pair of sacrifice flies that book-ended an RBI single by Alex Alonso.
St. Rose right-hander Nick Schmidt bounced back from allowing the three fourth-inning runs by working a scoreless, six-pitch fifth. In the top of the sixth the St. Rose trio went back to work after Dan Rose drew a walk to lead off the inning. Riley Maypother lined his fourth hit of the game to center field to set up runners on the corners and went to second on a wild pitch. Gannon then tagged a 3-0 pitch to the fence in right to chase home two more runs and scored on a double down the left-field line by Brody Maypother to make it 8-3.
Justin Scotto got Monmouth a run back with an RBI double to center, but Evan Peeke came on in relief of Schmidt to record the last two outs of the sixth and finish off the game with thee more outs in the seventh.
St. Rose used Riley Maypother, Gannon and fellow senior Sam Sestito to get past Red Bank and Manalapan during Saturday's MCT double-header and after leaning on Schmidt and Peeke to get the job done on Monday, St. Rose will have a chance to go back to Maypother and Sestito in some order next weekend. If Lanko's choice as starter comes through on Saturday against Raritan, the other will presumably get the ball in Monday's championship game against either Red Bank Catholic or Christian Brothers Academy.
"One thing I think people overlook about us is we have some depth," Lanko said. "We have Nick Marini going for us against Mater Dei (on Tuesday) coming off a no-hitter in his last start. Schmidt has done a good job for us. Peeke, Gannon and Crowley can all give us innings. Then you have Riley and Sammy who I see as two aces. Riley throws harder, but Sammy has great stuff too. Either guy can win us a game and it's really just going to be about the matchup."
St. Rose is looking to win the MCT for the first time in 10 years, which was also the last time the Purple Roses reached the semifinals of the tournament. Since then, the program has been fighting for respect as a team that can beat any team in the Shore and not just the B Central field. St. Rose's last two wins over teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - No. 8 Manalapan and No. 6 Monmouth - are proof enough but two more wins would really hammer home the point.
"People don't think we're that good," Riley Maypother said. "We are the 12 seed, people thought we were going to lose to Manalapan, I guess because we don't play in a tough division. We look forward to these games though. We want to play in them and we want to prove people wrong."
St. Rose 8, Monmouth 4
|St. Rose (12-3)||1||0||3||1||0||3||0||8||12||2|
|Nick Schmidt (W)||5.1||8||4||4||1||3||104|
|Dante Ciaramella (L, 2-3)||5||9||5||3||0||6||92|
|St. Rose||Game Stats|
|Riley Maypother||4-4, HR, RBI, 4 R, SB|
|Will Gannon||3-4, 3 RBI, 2B, 2 R|
|Brody Maypother||3-4, 2 RBI, 2 2B, R|
|Justin Scotto||2-3, RBI, 2B, HBP, SB|
|Dante Ciaramella||2-3, RBI, 2B|
|Anthony Guarino||2-4, 2B|