Baseball – Shore Sports Network 2015 Awards
For the first time in more than a decade and only the second time in history, a Shore Conference baseball team won all five possible championships – division, county, conference, state sectional and group – and in this particular case, it was good enough to land said team in the No. 1 spot in the state rankings and in the top 25 in two national polls.
With an accomplishment like that comes plenty of additional accolades, and a pair of Christian Brothers Academy players and their head coach can each add one more to the list.
Brandon Martorano, Player of the Year
Although the catcher position was unsettled in the spring of 2013, CBA head coach Marty Kenney did not want to put too much on the plate of a skinny freshman with all the tools and know-how to do the job.
Eventually, Kenney gave the nod to Brandon Martorano, and after holding his own during that rookie season, the University of North Carolina recruit has improved exponentially with each subsequent season.
After matching the school record – held by his current head coach, Kenney – with his seventh career triple early in the season, Martorano must have decided he had had enough running and started hitting the ball over the fence. He did not hit his first home run until April 17, but once the first ball cleared the fence, the homers kept coming.
Martorano, who committed to the University of North Carolina before his sophomore season and entered this season with two career home runs, had three home runs heading into a May 7 showdown with Manalapan. CBA had just lost to Middletown South and with four division losses, was in danger of letting the Class A North title slip away. For the second time in two weeks, Martorano took a Braves pitcher deep, this time for a three-run blast in a 5-1 win. That win was significant because it was the first of 14 in a row to end the season and five of those wins clinched a championship of some kind for the Colts.
While CBA’s pitching rounded into form during the final month of the season, Martorano’s bat was the constant throughout the streak. Over those 14 games, which spanned exactly one calendar month, Martorano hit eight of his 11 home runs to go with 19 of his 31 RBI while raising his batting average from .355 to .444.
Of those eight home runs, seven of them came in tournament games, including two in a come-from-behind win over Middletown South in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Eagles took a 5-1 lead into the seventh against CBA and threatened to end the Colts' historic run right then and there, but Martorano ignited a four-run seventh inning with his second home run of the game and won the game in the bottom of the eighth with a walk-off RBI single that kept the Colts alive.
That game-winning hit against Middletown South was the third walk-off hit in four games for Martorano, who sent the Colts to the Monmouth County Tournament final with a tie-breaking walk-off single against Manalapan in the bottom of the seventh and then won the MCT title with a walk-off double to beat Wall in the MCT final, 5-4, at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood.
The walk-off barrage was far from the end for Martorano. He hit his eighth home run in a 4-3 win over St. Augustine in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals and came back the next day with a solo blast off of Manasquan left-hander Tom Sheehan in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, which tied him for the Shore Conference lead.
Martorano took the lead in the home run race for good by belting a solo shot off Bishop Eustace right-hander and Penn State recruit Justin Hagenman in the second inning at Monmouth University, giving CBA one of its two runs in a 2-0 win over a team ranked No. 2 in the state at the time. After beating the Crusaders in the South Jersey final, CBA jumped on top of previously undefeated Don Bosco Prep in the state final on Martorano’s 11th home run of the season – a two-run shot to right field off Seton Hall recruit and Ironmen left-hander Cullen Dana.
The 11 home runs and 22 extra-base hits (9 doubles and two triples) this season both tied single-season school records, and another 11-home run season next year by Martorano would break the school’s career home run record of 23, held by Anthony Buffone.
Luca Dalatri, Pitcher of the Year
Speaking of CBA records, Dalatri is well on his way to owning nearly all of CBA’s pitching records and has already nailed down a few in his first three years as a Colt – the last two of which ended with him being named Shore Sports Network Pitcher of the Year.
This past season, Dalatri set the single-season CBA record for both strikeouts (122) and strikeouts per seven innings (12.03), became the school’s all-time leader in wins (25) and strikeouts (252), and is only two-thirds of an inning away from breaking the school record for innings pitched (183, held by Blaine Cordes).
On top of the cumulative numbers, if Dalatri were to never play again for CBA (note: hypothetical scenario; do not read between lines) he would own the career records for ERA (0.77), strikeouts per seven innings (9.66) and hits per seven innings (4.1). In fact, the CBA Baseball Media Guide lists six categories in its career records list – innings, strikeouts, strikeouts per game , hits per game, wins, won-loss record (winning percentage) and ERA – and it is a very realistic possibility and, perhaps, likelihood, that Dalatri will own all but one of those records by this time next year. The only record out of reach is winning percentage, which is held by Pat Light, who went 20-0 over two seasons and is now knocking on the door to the Major Leagues with the Red Sox.
For all his greatness over the span of the last two seasons, this past year stands on its own as one of the best in the history of the Shore Conference – impressive considering Dalatri’s sophomore season could be described the same way.
In addition to breaking the single-season school record with his 122 strikeouts, Dalatri went 9-0 with a 0.88 ERA and walked an astounding seven batters in 71 innings on his way to winning Gatorade N.J. Player of the Year. Dalatri went 3-0 in the Monmouth County Tournament and 2-0 in the Non-Public A Tournament, including wins in the championship game of each tournament.
Dalatri’s final week of the season will go down in Shore Conference and N.J. lore. With his team needing to go through the top two ranked teams in the state – No. 2 Bishop Eustace and No. 1 Don Bosco - in order to win a championship, Dalatri pitched two scoreless innings to nail down the save against Bishop Eustace and then pitched a four-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against previously unbeaten Don Bosco. In two appearances against the two top-ranked teams in the state, Dalatri pitched a total of nine shutout innings with six hits, one walk, one hit batter and 17 strikeouts.
Dalatri recorded double-digit strikeouts in eight of his 10 starts and struck out a career-high 15 in an 8-0 Monmouth County Tournament win over Monmouth Regional. He also took a no-hitter in the seventh inning in his first start of the season in New Jersey before losing it in the bottom of the seventh against Marlboro. That one-hit performance over seven innings was the lone start in which Dalatri did not earn a win, as CBA needed one more inning to beat the Mustangs, 1-0.
On top of his second straight dominant season on the mound, Dalatri enjoyed a breakout year at the plate, which was part of the equation in his Gatorade P.O.Y. selection. The 6-foot-6 slugger-slash-ace batted .402 with 11 doubles and nine home runs and led the Shore Conference with 44 RBI while finishing third in slugging percentage (.839).
CBA got enormous contributions up and down the lineup and throughout the pitching staff on its way to winning Class A North, the Monmouth County Tournament, Shore Conference Tournament and Non-Public A titles, but its North-Carolina-bound junior battery of Martorano and Dalatri were at the heart of CBA’s historic season.
Marty Kenney, Coach of the Year
In his 42 years at the helm, Marty Kenney has accomplished about as much as one high school coach can. His 729 career wins coming into the season were the second-most in the history of the Shore Conference behind legendary Toms River South coach Ken Frank and included two overall NJSIAA Group titles, seven sectional titles, six county championships and five Shore Conference titles.
One feat, however, Kenney had never accomplished was one that only Wall coach Todd Schmitt could lay claim to at the beginning of the season: winning the Shore Quintuple Crown.
Winning all five potential championships – regular-season division, county tournament, conference tournament and both NJSIAA sectional and overall group titles – is a daunting task for any Shore Conference team, but doing so by having to run the gauntlet in Non-Public A made CBA an unlikely candidate to join the 2004 Wall team as the only team in the history of Shore baseball to win all five.
Then again, it takes a talented team to run that table and Kenney knew he had a talented bunch coming into the year, even if he did not ever in his wildest dreams expect to win every title in front of him.
"This is not a David and Goliath (situation),'' Kenney said after his team knocked off previously unbeaten Don Bosco in the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game. "We're pretty damn good, too.”
Along the way to a 17th Class A North title, seventh MCT title, sixth SCT title and third state championship, Kenney moved into second place on the all-time wins list in state history, now trailing only Frank. Kenney ended the season with 756 career wins, 69 behind Frank (825) for the all-time N.J. record.
While CBA was led by its two North Carolina commits, the Colts evolved into a resilient team with key contributors throughout the lineup and a strong defensive unit throughout the field. In addition, CBA found the pitching depth that it was missing last year, when Dalatri was the only reliable, healthy pitcher for the duration of the season.
Kenney turned over the reins to the pitching staff to his son, Marty Jr., and the pitching staff flourished under the younger Kenney. While Dalatri again headlined the staff with his second consecutive historic season, senior Mike Garvey blossomed into an All-Shore pitcher while junior Kenny Campbell emerged as a five-game winner with a 2.03 ERA.
Kenney and his staff, which also includes assistant Joe LaRocca, found the right mix with this year’s Colts squad and the result was a season that ended with 14 straight wins and five championships. Kenney had already cemented his status as an all-time great in the Shore Conference prior to this season, but by leading his 2015 Colts to what will go down, arguably, as the greatest season in Shore Conference baseball history, he furthered his case as one of the best coaches in state history.