HOLMDEL - Matt Mincieli had done just about everything possible to get his Long Branch baseball team a win over St. John Vianney during the first six-and-a-half innings of Saturday's Monmouth County Tournament preliminary round game.

When the Lancers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, however, Mincieli could only do so much to carry the Green Wave to the finish line. He needed help and his teammates delivered in a big way when it mattered most.

Mincieli sparkled on the mound, at the plate and in the field for the first seven innings, but it was a trio of his teammates who headlined a six-run eighth inning that helped Long Branch - the No. 19 seed in the county tournament - bury No. 14 St. John Vianney, 11-5, in eight innings.

"It was good to see seniors step up today," Mincieli said. "Once you see what one guy can do, it makes everybody want find a way to contribute. I think we just had the energy in the first inning and we never let down."

Long Branch senior Matt Mincieli. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Long Branch senior Matt Mincieli. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Mincieli went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI at the plate, allowed one run on one hit and no walks while striking out seven over five innings on the mound, and also threw out a runner at third base from shallow left field after moving to shortstop.

The senior two-way standout, who committed to Montclair State University earlier in the week, was not alone in having a big offensive game for Long Branch. Seniors T.J. Brewer and James Horniacek each went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and four RBI at the plate, with both delivering a crucial swing of the bat in the eighth inning.

Brewer blasted a three-run home run to extend Long Branch's lead to 9-5 and Horniacek followed two batters later with a screaming two-run double that one-hopped the fence in right-center field. Brewer also hit an RBI double to right-center in the top of the fourth and Horniacek launced a solo home run in the fifth.

St. John Vianney scored two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings immediately after Mincieli was forced to leave the game having exhausted his remaining allotment of pitches for a five-day span. Logan Marter's two-out, RBI single to center on the ninth pitch of his at-bat in the bottom of the seventh tied the game at 5-5, one batter after No. 9 hitter Mike DiPede singled with two out to score St. John Vianney's fourth run and extend the game.

With Long Branch potentially facing a demoralizing loss, the senior-laden squad mustered one more rally. Senior second baseman Nick Luhn started it with a long, one-out double to right field, followed by an RBI single shot through the right side of a drawn-in infield by left fielder Jordan Pellot to put Long Branch back on top. Pellot finished 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.

Two batters later, Brewer stepped in with two men on and jumped on a fastball from sophomore Ryan Chin, hammering it well beyond the left-field fence and off the roof of the shed just beyond the field of play to make the score 9-5.

"I saw breaking balls for most of the game, so I just went up looking for that fastball and if I got it, I wanted to do something with it," Brewer said. "He finally gave me one and I was ready."

St. John Vianney center fielder Spencer Margulis supplied the first of the three home runs in the game when he turned on a 0-2 offering from Mincieli with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning. To that point, the Long Branch senior had not allowed a baserunner to reach and was cruising toward a potential six-inning outing despite entering the game with only 67 pitches of eligibility.

Mincieli pitched a one-hit shutout in a win over Middletown North on Tuesday in which he tossed 83 pitches. Per NJSIAA pitch count rules, a pitcher is allowed to pitch on three-days rest as long as he did not exceed 90 pitches in his previous start. Should a pitcher meet that criterion, he is allowed to throw up to 150 pitches combined between the two starts, which accounted for Mincieli's strict pitch count on Saturday.

"The only word I can think of with Matt on the mound is confident," Brewer said. "There's nobody I have more faith in out on the mound than him."

While Long Branch coach James Reilly had the option of using Mincieli in relief, he stuck with Mincieli in the role that has suited him well so far this year. In five starts following Saturday's outing, the senior is 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA over 27 2/3 innings, which include only 12 hits and eight walks allowed and 28 strikeouts.

"I have been a starter this whole year so I wanted to stay in that role for today if I could," Mincieli said. "I was ready to do what the team needed and I had enough pitches to get us four, five, maybe six innings."

Evan Yerman entered the game with a 1-2 count on DiPede and induced a ground out for the first out of the sixth inning before running into trouble. St. John Vianney loaded the bases with one out and senior Evan Perrette lined a double down the left-field line to chase home two runs and cut the Long Branch lead to 4-3.

Mincieli, however, got his team a huge second out when he fired the relay in to third base to cut down Margulis attempting to advance from first to third. Yerman then induced an inning-ending flyout to squash any further threat.

Mincieli then came through with a two-out, RBI double down the left-field line in the top of the seventh to give his team a crucial insurance run. He also made a back-handed stop in the hole and long throw to get Margulis for the first out of the bottom of the eighth.

Long Branch jumped on Lancers senior right-hander Brendan Martin for two runs in the top of the first inning, with Brewer singling and scoring from first on a single by Mincieli that got past right fielder Nick Noto. After Mincieli made it to third on the play, he then scored on an RBI single by Horniacek.

Martin gave up four earned runs on 10 hits, but also fanned nine Long Branch hitters while walking only one.

Long Branch will play its next MCT game on Saturday at No. 3 Marlboro and will have Mincieli ready on full rest with full 110 pitches of eligibility.

"I'll be good an rested for next Saturday," Mincieli said. "When I wake up and I know I'm pitching that day, it's a whole different mood. I just love coming out here, throwing as hard as I can and competing for my team."


Box Score

Long Branch 11, St. John Vianney 5 (8 Innings)

Long Branch (4-7)2001101611171
SJV (4-4)00010220582


Matt Mincieli51110767
Evan Yerman (W)37441267
Brendan Martin610541997
Ryan Chin (L)27661553

Top Hitters

Long BranchStats
T.J. Brewer3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
James Horniacek3-5, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI
Matt Mincieli3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI
Nick Luhn2-3, 2B, R
Jordan Pellot2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI
Logan Marter2-4, R, RBI
Evan Perrette2-4, 2B, 2 RBI
Spencer Margulis1-3, HR, R, RBI
Mike DiPede1-3, R, RBI


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