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MIDDLETOWN -- Middletown South junior Ben Schild has inspired older teammates and earned the respect of opponents with how outstanding he has pitched to start his high school career.

From his perch Schild can't help but watch in awe as his teammate, Joe Stanzione, homers his way towards history.

On Wednesday at Brookdale Community College, the Eagles dynamic diamond duo were on full display and led Middletown South past Wall, 11-1, in six innings to win the program's first Monmouth County Tournament championship in 11 years.

05/18/2022 - Wall / Middletown South - MCT Final
Photo: Richard O’Donnell Photography
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Schild did everything for Middletown South: the 6-foot-5 junior right-hander allowed on unearned run on five hits and three walks while striking out 11 in 5 2/3 innings while also going 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI at the plate. In earning the win, Schild ran his career record to 13-0, including 5-0 this season.

While Schild did everything, Stanzione did what he does best. The bridge-year senior continued his record-setting home-run pace by clocking two more home runs on Wednesday -- two solo shots that increased his season total for the season to 12 and marked the third time Stanzione has hit two home runs in a game this season.

"It's ridiculous," Schild said of Stanzione's home-run rampage. "I hit in front of him for a while, I started hitting after him today and it does not matter. Every single at-bat, he puts a good swing on the ball and if he misses it, he just misses it. And when he hits it, it goes very, very far."

"I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now so I can't really complain," Stanzione said. "Once we get Ben on the mound, the whole atmosphere changes for everyone. We just try to do our jobs to help him and get him some runs to work with on the mound."

Stanzione is now just two home runs away from equaling the Shore Conference single-season record of 14, held by 1994 Jackson Memorial graduate Marc Fink. At his current pace, Stanzione could make a run at the state record of 18, set by two players: former Ramsey slugger Ashton Bardzell in 2015 and three-time American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout in 2009.

"Coming into the year, I definitely wasn't thinking about breaking any record, but now I'm thinking about it with the way things are going," Stanzione said. "I'm not really focusing on it. I'm just trying to help my team out but it's definitely fun to think about."

With 12 days between Wednesday's final and the start of the NJSIAA Tournament and Middletown South eliminated from the Shore Conference Tournament, the Eagles will be playing tune-up games to prepare for their NJSIAA Group IV title defense for the better part of a week-and-a-half. That will give Stanzione a chance to add to his home run total in a low-pressure environment before the state tournament gets underway on May 31.

"It does relieve the stress of playing in tournament games," Stanzione said. "I just have to go out, stay with the same approach and try to do my job. Hopefully the rest takes care of itself."

As for Schild, he showed some rust in the first inning pitching for the first time in nine days, but also the overpowering stuff that has made him unbeatable through nearly two full seasons. The Eagles ace issued back-to-back one-out walks in the top of the first and fell behind 3-1 to sophomore catcher Jake Howlett. After a mound visit from head coach Chris LeMore, Schild zoned in and struck out the next two batters to strike out the side in the first inning.

"Even when he is not at his best, it's still better than the other team's best," Stanzione said of Schild. "He is really a special arm and a special talent. Even when he is off, he is still special."

"I was throwing more strikes at the end," Schild said. "I was just going batter-by-batter, trying to find ways to get them out without really thinking about pitch count. It was good enough for today and next time out I'm going to try to throw more strikes and just be better."

Schild then gave himself a 1-0 lead with an RBI double to the leftfield fence in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Stanzione from first after Stanzione reached on a towering pop fly that twisted the Wall defense around and dropped for a single. After he gave himself a one-run lead, Schild walked just one batter the rest of the way and none after the second inning.

"To be honest, it made my hard beat some more," Schild said of his RBI double. "Just having kind of a hyped moment like that brings me up some more. I was happy to put some good swings on the ball."

Stanzione slammed the first of his two solo bombs over the left-centerfield wall to make it 3-0 in the bottom of the third. Junior Will Christopher had given Middletown South a 2-0 lead with an RBI double in the second inning.

Middletown South went on to add two more runs on the third on a groundout by senior Rob Cangelosi and an RBI single by senior Joe Bartos. When Stanzione dug back into the box in the bottom of the fourth, he launched his second solo blast of the game to extend the Eagles lead to 6-1.

Schild did not allow a hit through the first three innings before the Crimson Knights got to him in the fourth. Sophomore catcher Jake Howlett smoked a double to the fence in the left and courtesy runner Jake Layton scored on an outfield error on a single by junior Colin MacDermant.

"I knew their first five guys were their best guys, so I tried to, not pitch around them, but tried to be more pinpoint with my location," Schild said. "At the same time, I also wanted to give them my best stuff and try to go right at them."

Senior Evan Wood recorded the final out of the top of the sixth inning after Schild exceeded the single-game pitch limit with his 111th pitch and ended the game in the bottom of the sixth with a line drive to the right-center gap that plated the final two runs, activated the 10-run rule. Cangelosi also had an RBI single in the sixth and senior Steve Boguszewski ripped an RBI triple in the game-ending rally.

Wednesday's win was a therapeutic one for Middletown South, which dropped a 5-3 loss to 14th-seeded Southern Tuesday in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 as the No. 3 seed. Last year, the Eagles reached the championship game of the Shore Conference Tournament, the semifinals of the MCT and won the overall Group IV championship.

"After losing (to Southern), we stayed after and we said, 'We have to pick it up," Stanzione said. "It's do-or-die now. We can't have games where we fall apart.' Even though we played terrible, it was still 5-3. We came here today wanting to mercy them (Wall) and we were able to do that."

While they finished two games out of first place in the Class A North standings and suffered the SCT loss Tuesday, Wednesday's resounding win over Wall added a championship to the resume of returning starters Schild, Stanzione, Wood and Christopher while giving the new Eagles starters one to savor.

Over the next 12 days, Middletown South will prepare for what its players and coaches hope is another deep run in the state tournament, culminated by a second straight championship in Central Jersey Group IV and Group IV overall.

"You know coach: he is going to be on us harder than ever over the next week or so," Stanzione said. "We just have to keep grinding and keeping working like we haven't proven anything yet. Once we get to the state tournament, we'll be ready."

 

Box Score

Middletown South 11, Wall 1 (6 Innings)

1234567RHE
Wall (16-4)000100X150
Midd South (17-8)113114X11110

Pitching

WallIPHRERBBSOPC
Zach Szatkowski (L, 3-2)3.17664075
Triur Brown1.20112236
T.J. Legere0.24441036
Middletown SouthIPHRERBBSOPC
Ben Schild (W, 5-0)5.2510311111
Evan Wood0.1000004

Top Hitters

WallGame Stats
Nick Lovarco1-2, 2B, BB, SB
Gabe Cavazzoni1-2, BB, SB
Jake Howlett1-3, 2B
Colin MacDermant1-3
Drew Jarkowski1-3
Middletown SouthGame Stats
Joe Stanzione3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI
Ben Schild2-3, 2 2B, BB, RBI
Rob Cangelosi1-3, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB
Evan Wood1-3, BB, 3 RBI
Will Christopher1-2, 2B, BB, HBP, RBI
Joe Bartos1-3, BB, R, RBI, SB
Steve Boguszewski1-1, 3B, R, RBI