MANASQUAN - Many teams might suffer from shaken confidence when the opposition scores on its ace in the top of the first inning, especially when that ace is one the caliber of Manasquan left-hander Tommy Sheehan.

According to Warriors coach Bob Waldeyer, however, watching Cedar Creek's enthusiasm after jumping on Sheehan forced a response from his team and from his left-handed ace and the proof was in the result.

Ethan Thompson and Dylan Finn each hit a two-run home run in the first three innings and Sheehan did not allow a hit after the first inning as Manasquan - the No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Tournament - bounced back from a brief one-run deficit to beat No. 8 Cedar Creek, 7-1, and advance to the South Jersey Group II final on Friday against No. 3 Deptford.

Manasquan senior Tommy Sheehan. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Manasquan senior Tommy Sheehan. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"They pulled up cheering and yelling on their bus, so I think we were a little too amped up and ready to fight instead of just playing," Waldeyer said. "I think their run settled us down a little bit."

Sheehan allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the top of the first inning before holding the Pirates hitless the rest of the way. Although he walked five in seven innings, Sheehan never faced serious trouble beyond the first inning thanks, in large part, to his 14 strikeouts.

"I noticed pretty quickly that the hitters at the bottom of their order were having trouble catching up to my fastball," Sheehan said. "So I decided I was going to just throw it by them when they got up and use a little bit more to pitch to the top of their order - mix location, pitches. I walked a few more guys than I would have liked but, but I pitched the way I wanted to for the most part."

Sheehan put at least one runner on in five of his seven innings thanks to five walks, but struck out the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win. It was the fourth of four one-two-three innings, one of which ended on a line drive double play to freshman shortstop Will Hopkinson.

In two state tournament starts, Sheehan has allowed one run on three hits and 10 walks with 27 strikeouts in 13 innings.

"He had some walks, but the goal for him today was to throw more strikes and not give away free passes," Waldeyer said of Sheehan. "I thought he did a better job of that. He was around the plate. He made some big pitches. He was able to have a couple of quick innings. His pitch count gets up there pretty quickly because he strikes so many guys out, so the big thing is just getting us to a point where he can finish the game."

Cedar Creek was riding high after Dan Dort's first-inning RBI single with two out, but the celebratory air in the visitor's dugout would not last long. In the bottom of the first, Thompson lofted a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left-center after Antonucci walked, which gave Sheehan a 2-1 lead that would prove to be enough for the Notre-Dame-bound left-hander.

"That was definitely a big boost," Sheehan said of Thompson's answer in the first inning. "We could have made a couple of outs and gone flat, but right away (Thompson) got us back up. It got the energy back up in the dugout and it carries over to the mound."

Finn connected on his two-run homer in the bottom of the third to make the score 4-1. In the bottom of the fifth, Antonucci worked the count full and one pitch after fouling a ball off his left foot, he ripped a shot to the left-centerfield gap to plate two runs and scored himself after an errant throw to third bounced out of play.

Teammates swarm Manasquan's Dylan Finn after his home run on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Teammates swarm Manasquan's Dylan Finn after his home run on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Tuesday's game was the last Manasquan will play at its home field this season, which means Sheehan - a four-year varsity starter for the Warriors - pitched the final home game of his team's senior season.

"After we won last Friday, we thought we were going to Delran to play the number one seed," Sheehan said. "Then we heard (Cedar Creek) won. It's nice to get another home game. I think we play a lot better at home and you never know when the last game is going to be so we want to make the most of every opportunity."

Sheehan now hopes Tuesday won't be the final start of his career. Classmate Connor Muly will take the ball against West Deptford on Friday trying to pitch the Warriors to their first sectional championship since 1986. Muly has been less the No. 2 starter behind Sheehan and more of the 1-A starter alongside him. Muly is 4-3 with a 1.53 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 55 innings.

"It's a luxury to have two guys who can do what they do," Waldeyer said. "It's not one of those lines that coaches sometimes say: 'I'm comfortable with either guy.' In our case, it's true. Connor has shown all year that he deserves the ball."



Box Score

Manasquan 7, Cedar Creek 1

Cedar Creek (9-14)1000000121
Manasquan (13-10)202030x7110



Sean Mancuso (L)4.2107643115
Colin Banta1.11001118
Tommy Sheehan (W, 6-2)7211514104


Top Hitters

Cedar CreekGame Stats
Sam Mascioli1-2, BB, R
Dan Tort1-3, RBI
ManasquanGame Stats
Tommy Antonucci1-2, 3B, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI
Dylan Finn2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Ethan Thompson1-4, HR, 2 RBI
Tommy Sheehan2-4
Adam Schreck2-4, 3B


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