WALL TWP. - Junior Pat Reilly did not start until the third game of the season for the Christian Brothers Academy baseball team and with Reilly making one start in CBA's first five games, the Colts began 2019 2-3 and were saddled with the No. 8 seed in the Monmouth County Tournament.

Since the start of the season, Reilly has proved he is no No. 3 starter and with another performance befitting an ace Sunday against Wall, he and his Colts teammates showed they are no No. 8 seed.

Reilly struck out 12 and allowed three hits and three walks over six scoreless innings to get the better of Wall senior and reigning Shore Sports Network Pitcher of the Year Trey Dombroski, leading the Colts to a 1-0 win over the top-seeded Crimson Knights.

"We just know we're not an eight seed," Reilly said. "We play like a one or a two seed and that's where we think we should be. We came out kind of flat in that first week or so but we're proving now that we are a one or two seed or a team that can beat those teams."

CBA junior Pat Reilly. (Photo by Matt Manley)
CBA junior Pat Reilly. (Photo by Matt Manley)

For 6 innings and 112 pitches, Reilly matched zeroes with the gold standard of Shore Conference pitchers over the past three seasons, during which Dombroski had racked up an 18-1 record heading into Sunday and a spotless 2019 ERA to boot.

"I know that lineup up and down," Reilly said. "I pitched to them all summer and I knew that I was going to have to match Trey. You know he is going to come out and compete and we had to battle him and keep them off the board if we wanted to upset them and we did."

While Dombroski breezed through the first three innings on a nearly-unfathomable 19 pitches, Reilly's pitch count crept up to 90 by the end of the fifth inning and left him and his head coach in a bind with two out in the sixth.

Reilly walked sophomore Jay Bant with one out - the fifth straight inning in which a Wall base-runner reached after Reilly retired the first batter - and endured a nine-pitch at-bat against junior Sean Nocera that ended with a fielder's choice ground out to third to erase Bant. The at-bat ended with Reilly's pitch count at 108 and coach Marty Kenney took the long walk from the dugout to the mound ready to lift his starter.

As Kenney approached the mound, Reilly had already started his pitch to stay in the game and his figurative pitch to Kenney was as effective as the 112 he threw on Sunday. Reilly struck out senior Tanner Powers on four pitches to end his outing with the game still scoreless after six.

"I was confident in myself and I was confident in the defense behind me," Reilly said. "They didn't really hit the ball hard all day so whether it was going for the strikeout or getting a ground ball, I was confident we were going to be able to get out of any situation."

CBA's offense finally rewarded Reilly with the run that would give him his fourth win of the season and, fittingly enough, in a game dominated by the two pitchers, the winning run did not score on a hit.

Dombroski hit senior Connor Baksh to lead off the seventh and bounced back to retire the next two batters via a strikeout and a fly out. Junior Ben Settino kept the inning alive by poking a soft line drive over the head of shortstop Johnny Volpe and into left as Baksh motored all the way to third base.

Settino's hit gave CBA its second first-and-third opportunity of the game, but the first one came with one out in the fifth and Dombroski still wiggled out of it with two strikeouts.

"I wanted to do it then," Kenney said, lamenting not using his seventh-inning strategy earlier. "I spoke to my son (assistant and third base coach Marty Kenney Jr.) and I told him to go for it. Especially with a lefty on the mound, I wanted to get the ball in the first baseman's hands. To tell you the truth, I was kind of surprised they threw over. I thought they would leave the game in (Dombroski's) hands."

Dombroski got the count to 2-2 on junior Declan Hoverter when Kenney made his move. Settino left first base to draw a throw from Dombroski, who flipped the ball to second baseman Dylan Richey. Settino got into a run down and as soon as Richey threw the ball to Powers at first, Baksh broke for home plate. By the time Powers - a left-handed throwing first baseman - could square up and make the throw, it was too late: Baksh slide in safely and CBA finally had the game's first run.

"I felt like I was going to pitch well and Trey hadn't given up (an earned run) all year so you knew it was going to come down to something small," Reilly said. "Whether it was a bunt, a defensive play, base-running, small ball - we knew the little things were going to be huge in a game like this."

Senior Evan Mahns replaced Reilly and made quick work of the bottom of Wall's order on 10 pitches.

Mahns's sharp inning and first save of the season put a bow on another impressive performance in an eye-opening season by Reilly. The junior right-hander and Northeastern commit is now 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA, 38 strikeouts and four walks in 22 1/3 innings this season.

"It mostly confidence and maturity," Reilly said. "I have gotten bigger, I'm learning myself, I know a lot of these guys around the Shore and I know I can compete with any of them."

CBA's win spoiled another magnificent effort by Dombroski, who wound up throwing 80 pitches in seven innings. The left-hander and Monmouth University commit allowed five hits, hit one batter, did not issue a walk and stuck out nine - including eight punchouts over the final four innings.

Sunday's win was a statement for a CBA squad buried behind seven other teams in the MCT seeding but the Colts do not want to stop there. They will hit the road again next Saturday, this time to face No. 5 Manasquan.

The Warriors will likely throw senior Spencer Bauer, who one-hit Red Bank Catholic in a 1-0 Manasquan win on Sunday. Bauer began his high-school career at CBA before transferring to Manasquan for his junior season.

Reilly, meanwhile, is not eligible to pitch until Friday according to the NJSIAA pitch-count regulations and since CBA is not scheduled to play that day, Saturday will be his next opportunity to show he is, indeed, one of the Shore's best.

"I think the players around here have known who he is," Kenney said of Reilly. "I think maybe some of the coaches and other people around the Shore are just starting to find out about him."

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