RED BANK - The dream of winning a state championship ended for the Monmouth Regional baseball team two games into the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs, but the Falcons players still wanted to make the most of their opportunity to win a championship to cap off their 2018 season.

With the season on the line Monday at Count Basie Park in Red Bank, junior Dante Ciaramella pitched a four-hitter on 105 pitches and added two RBI hits at the plate to pace Monmouth - the No. 13 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - to a 6-1 win over a fifth-seeded Jackson Memorial team that is still playing in the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.

"Honestly, we love each other and we want to keep playing," said Ciaramella, whose team beat No. 4 Jackson Liberty two days after losing to Voorhees in the sectional semifinals to earn Monday's shot at Jackson Memorial. "This is a great group and we want to go out with a championship, especially our seniors. We were hoping we could make a run in states, but we still have a chance to hold up a trophy at the end of the season and that's what we're going to try to do."

Monmouth junior Dante Ciaramella. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Monmouth junior Dante Ciaramella. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We haven't lost two games in a row all year, so I knew after losing to Voorhees, these guys were going to come out and battle against Jackson Liberty," Monmouth coach Paul Crivello said. "That's one thing I haven't had to worry about with this group. They are a resilient group of guys who feel like they are never out of a game.:

Ciaramella conceded the first run of the game when he gave up a leadoff single to Carmine Petosa in the second and an RBI single to Andrew Sefick to score Petosa from second after he moved up on a wild pitch. From there, the junior right-hander quieted Jackson Memorial's potent lineup by holding the Jaguars to two hits the rest of the way.

"I really just wanted to find their (Jackson's) bats," Ciaramella said. "I wanted to pound the zone, make them swing and let my defense work. I'm at my best when I'm getting ground balls and relying on the defense and there is no defense I'd rather pitch in front of."

Ciaramella walked four and struck out six, with two of the walks coming to the first two batters of the bottom of the seventh inning. He then struck out Jake Wendell swinging with a 3-2 fastball and induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double-play off the bat of Ryan Lasko turned by second baseman Jake Cushing and shortstop Liam Kile.

Ciaramella dropped a bunt single to chase home the last run in Monmouth's three-run third and added an RBI single through the left side of the infield that made the score 4-1 with two out in the top of the sixth.

The Falcons tied the game in the fourth on an RBI single to left field by senior first baseman Ricky Voss and took the lead on junior Charlie Rife's double down the right-field line to score Anthony Guarino from second base.

"This is probably the deepest lineup I've had here," said Crivello, now in his fifth season at the helm. "One-through-nine, we have good at-bats and guys who have confidence that they are going to get the big hit when it's their turn. We have had some more powerful lineups, but this group has a lot of guys who can get the job done."

To Crivello's point, No. 9 hitter and right fielder Chris Anfuso was 2-for-3 with a run scored and the No. 6 through 9 hitters - Rife, Ciaramella, Liam Kile and Anfuso - combined to go 5-for-12 with three RBI.

Monmouth added a pair of runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by senior Charlie Kelly and a sacrifice fly to left field by Voss.

Voss has held down the cleanup spot for the Falcons throughout the season and is now tied with Toms River North shortstop Craig Larsen for the Shore Conference lead in RBI with 38. The two co-leaders will be in opposing dugouts on Wednesday when the defending SCT champion Mariners take on Monmouth in the second game of the semifinal double-header at Count Basie Park.

"I came into the year expecting to be the guy who hits cleanup and drives in runs," Voss said. "Last year we had Josh (Jackson) who was our big bat in the middle and Paul Birzin behind him. It's been a team effort and I've just tried to contribute."

Center fielder Justin Scotto entered Monday hitting better than .500 out of the leadoff spot and was 1-for-4 with a run against the Jaguars.

Monmouth is seeking its first Shore Conference Tournament title since 1989 and since winning the whole tournament 29 years ago, the Falcons have been the the semifinals twice, according to former head coach and current Red Bank Catholic assistant Ted Jarmusz. They lost to Red Bank Catholic in the 2005 semifinals and lost to Toms River North in the 2012 semifinals - the last time Monmouth made it this far in the SCT.


Box Score

Monmouth 6, Jackson Memorial 1

Monmouth (18-9)00030126101
Jackson Mem (23-6)0100000140


Dante Ciaramella (W, 4-2)741146105
Jackson MemorialIPHRERBBSOPC
Joe Princiotta (L, 1-2)5.16441372
Matt D’Amore1.24220032

Top Hitters

Dante Ciaramella2-3, 2 RBI
Ricky Voss1-3, R, 2 RBI
Charlie Kelly2-4, R, RBI
Eli Rife1-3, 2B, RBI
Chris Anfuso2-3, R, SB
Jackson MemorialStats
Andrew Sefick1-2, RBI
Carmine Petosa1-3, R


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