Baseball – Rivals from B South’s Top Teams Combine Forces in All-Star Win
LAKEWOOD - During the 2019 regular season, Jackson Liberty senior Charlie Rudderow and Point Pleasant Boro senior Christian Aurin were one opposite ends of one of the Shore Conference's most intense rivalry of the year.
Rudderow and Jackson Liberty struck first by sweeping the regular-season series before Aurin and Co. swung back by beating Jackson Liberty to win the program's first Ocean County Tournament title.
On Wednesday night at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, the two were teammates in the Shore Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game but again found time to continue their rivalry within the game.
Once again, it was Rudderow that stole the show early with a robbery-of-a-catch in right field, two hits and a pair of runs scored - all in the first three innings - before Aurin left a lasting image by gunning down a runner at home plate from center field and roping a two-run double in a 7-2 win by the National All-Stars over the American squad Wednesday night.
PHOTO GALLERY: SBCA Senior All-Star Game by Paula Lopez
During the regular season, Rudderow was a thorn in Point Boro's side in a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Panthers in which he went 2-for-3 against Point Boro ace Nick Guzzi and scored the winning run in the top of the seventh inning.
After losing to Jackson Liberty twice during the regular season, Point Boro paid the Lions back with a 10-7 win in the OCT final, with Aurin making one of the game's most memorable plays when he ran down a long drive by Kevin Ritz on the warning track in center field to rob him of extra bases and keep a run off the board.
It was Rudderow who showed off his glove early on in Wednesday's All-Star game. After singling and scoring on Toms River South senior Gabe Driscoll's slow-roller on the infield in the second, the Jackson Liberty senior read a drive off the bat of Ocean senior Ryan Toomey in the top of the third, sprinted after and extended to make the running catch for the first out of the inning.
"There is a lot of room to cover, there is a little bit of sun, I'm in right field - I'm in left field most of the time," Rudderow said of his running grab. "I was able to track it down. I was a little surprised to begin with too. I didn't think I was going to be able to get there."
Rudderow later reached on an infield single and scored his team's second run in the bottom of the fourth to cap his day 2-for-2 at the plate with a web gem in right field.
"Any time you get an opportunity to play out here, it's just a great opportunity," Rudderow said. "Playing in the outfield, you have the perfect grass out there. Being able to help the team in any way I could was great. Just having the opportunity to be here - I loved it."
Later in the game, it was finally Aurin's turn after sitting during the first part of the game. The American team had just cut the National lead to 4-1 in the top of the eighth and had runners on second and third with Lacey's Miles Feaster at the plate. Feaster delivered a single through the middle to cut the deficit to 4-2 and speedy Brick center fielder Cole Groschel was not far behind trying to score from second to make it 4-3.
Aurin, however, had other ideas as he came up firing and whistled a perfect strike to home plate in the air to catch Groschel by a half-step, with Brick Memorial catcher Mike Murphy holding on for the tag for the second out of the inning.
"It was awesome because it doesn't happen a lot," Aurin said. "This is going to be my last high-school-related baseball game ever - maybe my last ever - so I was just going to throw it as hard as I can and hope. I don't care it I tear my arm out."
"He picked up the ball and I was like, 'Wow, he is gunning it here,'" Point Boro teammate Sam Collins said. "The umpire called him out and I was like, 'Damn, you really did that?'"
After saving a run in the top of the eighth, Aurin added two in the bottom when he blasted a two-run double over the head of Henry Hudson left fielder Matt Payne. Pinelands third baseman Anthony Diaz and Toms River North shortstop Dylan Feigin - both of whom singled to reach base - both came around to score and make the score 7-2. Aurin was thrown out trying for a triple but not before adding on some insurance for the final inning.
Collins, Point Boro's other representative Wednesday night, started the eighth inning with a leadoff single down the left-field line. Fresh off an NJSIAA Tournament in which he hit .591 in six games, Collins went 1-for-2 with a run scored, pitched a perfect fourth inning with two strikeouts and robbed Groschel of a base hit with a diving stop at second base and throw to first from the seat of his pants in the top of the seventh.
"Playing against all these kids all season and coming in and playing on a team with them and getting to talk to them is kind of cool," Collins said.
Collins's clean fourth ignited a dominant run on the mound by the National squad. Manalapan left-hander Ben Levine and Monmouth right-hander Dante Ciaramella struck out the side around one base-runner in consecutive innings in the fifth and sixth, followed by a scoreless seventh by Manalapan right-hander Ben Levine.
PHOTO GALLERY: SBCA Senior All-Star Game by Paula Lopez
After the American team scored twice in the eighth to break up the shutout and led off the ninth with a single by Long Branch first baseman Brendan Cuddy, Driscoll struck out three straight to end it - the third time a National pitcher struck out the side Wednesday night.
The National team jumped out to a 4-0 lead without the benefit of a run-scoring hit. Driscoll reached on an error as the first run of the game scored in the second, an error scored Rudderow in the fourth, Toms River South's Damian Scott plated the third with a ground out in the fifth and the National side added another in the fifth on an error.
For the two B South outfielders - neither of whom were recognized on the Coaches' All-Division teams but both of whom made significant impacts for their respective 23-win teams - Wednesday was a chance to show their peers their knack for shining under the lights.
Rudderow hit .365 during his senior season with three home runs, two of which were game-winners in postseason tournament play. His fifth-inning home run against Brick Memorial broke a 10-10 tie and gave Jackson Liberty an 11-10 win over the Mustangs in the OCT quarterfinals. In the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16, Rudderow sank Colts Neck with a walk-off, two-run home run to send the Lions to the quarterfinals with a 12-10 win.
"It was a great season," Rudderow said. "I couldn't ask for anything more with my teammates. We didn't accomplish exactly everything we wanted to accomplish, but it's going to give us some great memories, for sure."
Aurin followed up his catch in the OCT final with a similar gem in a 2-1, extra-inning win over Monmouth Regional in the Central Jersey Group II first round. He later turned in a key 5 2/3-inning effort on the mound to pitch the Panthers past West Deptford in the group semifinal round and into the Group II championship game.
"We left everything on the field (in the Group II final)," Aurin said. "You don't think, 'Oh my God, I have to accomplish something here today,' because we already accomplished so much during the season. Even if we (Collins and I) both went 0-for-2 with the worst game ever, we would know we were just having fun and what we did during the season is what really counted."
The two outfielders competed against each other for the past two seasons but on Wednesday, they were glad to share a dugout and a win to end their time as high-school players.
National 7, American 2
|Ethan Gavin||1-2, R|
|Miles Feaster||1-2, RBI|
|Mike Conger||0-1, BB, RBI, SB|
|Charlie Rudderow||2-2, 2 R|
|Anthony Diaz||2-3, 2 R|
|Christian Aurin||1-1, 2B, BB, 2 RBI|
|Dave Howarth||1-1, HBP|
|Sam Angelo||1-2, 2B|
|Sam Collins||1-2, R|
|Dylan Feigin||1-1, R, RBI|