MANASQUAN - The Christian Brothers Academy hitters knew Saturday's opponent on the mound about as well as a lineup can know a pitcher and they went to the plate with a plan that worked.

Junior pitcher Pat Reilly, however, threw the game-plan out the window more than once Saturday and that worked even better.

Reilly overcame a muddy mound and a lack of a curveball during his four-inning outing and crushed a slider from Manasquan starter Spencer Bauer for a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fifth inning to key eighth-seeded CBA's 5-2 win over the fifth-seeded Warriors.

CBA will play for its fourth Monmouth County title in the last six years Tuesday at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, where the Colts will take on No. 6 Ocean.

Reilly needed 34 pitches to get out of the bottom of the first, during which he allowed one earned run but did not surrender a hit. He battled footing problems on the mound while pitching through steady rain that affected the first inning of play. His four walks Saturday matched his season total entering the game.

CBA junior Pat Reilly. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA junior Pat Reilly. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"For whatever reason, I just didn't have my best stuff today," Reilly said. "Even after the rain stopped, my curveball wasn't breaking like it usually does so I really had to rely on my fastball location. Anybody can hit a fastball so it was all about moving the ball in and out, up and down and hitting spots as best I could."

Despite the early struggles and the uncharacteristic control problems, the junior right-hander still limited Manasquan to two hits, no earned runs and struck out seven - all while improving to 5-0 in five starts.

"Pat has been incredible all year," CBA junior third baseman Jason Arnott said. "There were some pretty tough conditions out there and he had to work harder than he usually does but he still gave up only one run and it was unearned. When he is on the mound, we're a really confident team."

Reilly stranded Manasquan runners in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings and was set to give the ball up after throwing 103 pitches, but not before he took one more at-bat to try to give himself a lead.

Reilly and CBA beat Bauer, a former CBA player who entered the game with 14 scoreless innings on the season, including a one-hit shutout against Red Bank Catholic in the quarterfinals last weekend. Bauer pitched at CBA as a sophomore and made his first start against his former team on Saturday.

"A lot of guys played with Spencer when he was at CBA two years ago, so we knew him pretty well," said Arnott, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI Saturday. "We knew he likes to throw his slider so we really focused on laying off the pitch as much as we could and tried to force him to throw fastballs in the zone. It took us one time through the order but we forced him into the zone and started to get good swings."

CBA scored its first run to tie the game in the top of the third on a two-out RBI single by Arnott after senior Anthony Celestre started the rally with a two-out single for CBA's first hit off Manasquan starter Spencer Bauer.

CBA junior Jason Arnott. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA junior Jason Arnott. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

While CBA's lineup stayed discipline against Bauer's slider, it was a slider that Reilly connected on for is second home run of the season. Reilly sat on the 0-1 pitch in the zone and crushed it over the temporary fence in left-center field to give CBA a 3-1 lead.

"I knew I got it," Reilly said. "He threw a slider on the inside corner the first pitch and I think that helped me time it up and he hung the next one. That one felt good."

Just before Reilly's home run, Manasquan appeared to regain momentum. The Warriors cut down junior Mason Wolf attempting to tag up from third on a fly ball to left field by senior Tommy DiTullio in the fifth, with left fielder Hayden Kunz getting to ball to third baseman James Harmstead, who quickly fired a strike to catcher Alec Wells to get Wolf at the plate.

Junior Braedin Hunt replaced Reilly on the mound and was greeted rudely by the Shore's top power-hitter. Harmstead mashed a solo moonshot of his own in the bottom of the fifth that hit the roof of the house well beyond the short porch in left field and made the score 3-2. Harmstead now leads the Shore Conference with seven home runs on the season.

Harmstead took over on the mound in the sixth and gave up a pair of runs, first on a bases-loaded walk to Arnott and then another on a sacrifice fly by DiTullio. Celestre helped ignite the inning with a ground-rule double to left-center to set up runners on second and third with one out.

Hunt shook off the long home run by Harmstead to save the game while allowing just the one hit in three innings. He struck out four Manasquan batters and captured his second save of the season.

A season that started off on the wrong foot for CBA is now one more strong performance from a county championship. The Colts opened the season 2-3 and have since gone 9-1 over their past 10 games, with the only loss coming in the 4-3, 15-inning loss at Manalapan that took two days to complete.

CBA will have senior left-hander Joe Escandon eligible to take the ball on Tuesday night in Lakewood, with the Colts co-ace sporting a 3-0 record with a 0.97 ERA over 28 2/3 innings.

"The season didn't start the way we wanted it to but we knew there was still a lot of baseball left to play and a lot of room for us to improve," Arnott said. "We like our group a lot. We come to play every day, whether it's practice or a game and we're getting better and better every day. It's going to be fun to get out on the field Tuesday and play against Ocean for a championship. We'll be ready."

Box Score

CBA 5, Manasquan 2

CBA (11-4)0010220571
Manasquan (11-4)1000100230


Pat Reilly (W, 5-0)421047103
Braedin Hunt (SV, 2)31112439
Spencer Bauer (L, 2-1)563326102
James Harmstead11223140
Alex Galvan10000210

Top Hitters

Pat Reilly1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
Jason Arnott2-3, R, 2 RBI
Tommy DiTullio1-3, RBI
Anthony Celestre2-3, 2B, 2 R
Mason Wolf1-2, 2 BB
James Harmstead1-2, HR, 2 BB, R, RBI
Alex Galvan1-3, SB



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