TOMS RIVER - With the game on the line, the ball in his glove and his footing about to give way, Toms River South senior Matt Shiffer had to think quickly about what to do.

With two out in the seventh, Shiffer made a stop up the middle and threw behind the potential winning runner at third base, which led to a play at the plate that ended the Indians' 2-1 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III quarterfinal win over Brick. Toms River South will host No. 4 Allentown on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals.

With Kenny Bala on second base representing the potential tying run, Brick senior A.J. Serrino hit a soft line drive past Toms River South pitcher T.J. Scuderi. Shiffer made the back-handed stop moving toward the second base bag, but lost his footing long enough to put the out at first in serious doubt. Instead of throwing to first base, he immediately fired the ball to third base as Bala raced around the bag and headed toward home.

Third baseman Ben Montenegro then relayed the ball to the plate and catcher Connor Leatherman tagged out a diving Bala well in front of home plate to end the game.

Toms River South junior T.J. Scuderi. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Toms River South junior T.J. Scuderi. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We always look for the second play," Shiffer said. "The first play, obviously, wasn't there so the second play was to try to get the guy at third. Me holding the ball isn't going to do any good so I tried to just make a play out of it."

Brick nearly rallied in the seventh behind a pair of doubles by Stadelberger and Bala. Stadelberger ripped a line drive up the left-centerfield alley with one out and only reached third on Bala's doubled to right-center while making sure the ball dropped. Mike Brunner then delivered a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Bala, but did not advance Bala to third base.

Keeping Bala on second proved to be significant, as Shiffer would have had to throw out Serrino to prevent the tying run from scoring from third base.

"I was a little nervous when he was rounding third, but (Montenegro) had the ball before (Bala) was even halfway down the line," Scuderi said. "Benny has a good arm and he got it right to Leatherman."

"There were two out and we had one hit going into that inning," Brick coach Jason Groschel said. "Shiffer was on the ground in basically shallow center field, so in that situation, I wanted Kenny to take a shot and make Shiffer have to make a throw. As it turned out, they had to make two perfect throws and Shiffer and Montenegro did that."

Shiffer scored the game's first run in the bottom of the first inning after reaching on an error and moving to third base on a sacrifice bunt and wild pitch. Scuderi delivered the RBI hit to score Shiffer, an infield single that Brick senior Matt Stadelberger kept in front of him with a sliding block, but not quickly enough to throw out Scuderi and prevent the run from scoring.

Toms River South added a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out rally. Senior center fielder Dylan Danelson ripped a two-out single to center, stole second base and, after an intentional walk of Shiffer, scored on a bloop single to shallow left field by designated hitter Justin Fall.

Scuderi fired a four-hit complete game and faced little trouble at all before the seventh inning. Prior to the last frame, he allowed one hit and one walk for the only two Brick baserunners over the first six innings.

Dragons senior center fielder John Prato led off the game with a double to left-centerfield and reached third with one out on a sacrifice bunt, but Scuderi escaped the threat by notching a strikeout and a fly out to escape.

Scuderi retired 15 straight after Prato's double before walking sophomore Cole Groschel to lead off the sixth. Prato dragged Scuderi through a 12-pitch at-bat later in the inning, but Scuderi won the battle by inducing a ground out to second base for the second out. Scuderi then struck out Chris Salsano to strand Groschel at second and end his 27-pitch sixth inning.

Scuderi's start was his second since returning from a two-week hiatus from pitching due to a sore elbow. While he was not his usual sharp self in a start against Jackson Liberty, Scuderi was back near the top of his game on Friday.

"I felt fine, they just started to sit on my slider because they knew I was throwing it a lot," Scuderi said. "They started taking my changeup, which they were swinging at the first few innings and once they started to hit, it's contagious, so it was tough to stop."

Brick starter Mike Soldo allowed just one earned run in a complete-game loss. He struck out five and walked one while allowing six hits. Last year, Soldo allowed one run in a 1-0 loss to the Indians in the Ocean County Tournament.

Friday's win over Brick was the third for Toms River South this season over its Class A South rival. Last year, the Indians beat Brick four times, including once in the Ocean County Tournament and again in the Shore Conference Tournament.

"There's an edge on both sides, depending how you look at it," Scuderi said. "We have a psychological advantage because they haven't been able to beat us, but they are going to come in really hungry because they want to beat us. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge against a good team and a good pitcher."


Box Score

(1) Toms River South 2, (9) Brick 1

Brick (14-9)0000001141
TR South (22-3)100010X260



Mike Soldo (L, 4-3)66211579
T.J. Scuderi (W, 6-1)74111696


Top Hitters

BrickGame Stats
Matt Stadelberger1-3, 2B, R
Kenny Bala1-3, 2B
John Prato1-3, 2B
TR SouthGame Stats
T.J. Scuderi1-3, RBI
Justin Fall1-2, RBI
Dylan Danelson1-2, R, SB


More From Shore Sports Network