ABERDEEN TWP. - Matawan senior Mike Trapani caught 12 full innings in Thursday's Monmouth County Tournament opening-round marathon game against Freehold Township and while that's actually a long time to be squatting behind the plate, it had to feel even longer for Trapani.

The senior stranded four runners in scoring position at the plate and was called for catcher's interference twice behind it, but on the last pitch he saw - some three hours and 10 minutes since the first pitch - the 12-inning grind became worth it.

Trapani lined a shot to the left-centerfield gap in the 12th inning that reached the base of the fence and chased home Antonio Martinez from first with the winning run, giving the 16th-seeded Huskies a 2-1, extra-inning win over No. 17 Freehold Township.

Trapani grounded out with two out and a runner on second in the third, grounded into a fielder's choice at third base with one out in the eighth and struck out with the winning run on third in the 10th. Martinez worked a one-out walk and a fly-out by senior shortstop Tom Collazo to right field set up Trapani with two out.

"After flying out and striking out, I just figured to wait for my pitch and kill it if it comes," Trapani said. "You can't look too hard for it, but I got it - a fastball right in the wheelhouse."

After taking ball one, Trapani ripped a shot to the left-center gap and Martinez trotted home.

"This was a lot of fun," Trapani said. "Even if we did end up losing, I still would have been proud of my team because that was 12 innings of hard-fought baseball."

Thursday marked the second straight day Trapani delivered a decisive double: he doubled and scored in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Raritan. Tra pani did not play last year because he was focusing on completing a police training program that took up much of his extra-curricular time, according to Matawan coach Bobby Carnovsky.

"He's a senior and he's really seeing varsity pitching for the first time this year," Carnovsky said. "We've wanted to try the hot hand in the clean-up spot and he's really swung the bat for us so far. He is aggressive, he doesn't see a whole lot of pitches, but puts the bat on the ball and he's been able to square some balls up."

Before Trapani's bat won the game in the 12th, Matawan's defense kept the Huskies alive. Matawan turned three double plays and all three came in the seventh inning or later. After the first two Patriots batters reached against sophomore Chris Gendi in his first inning of work, Gendi threw out the lead runner at third on an attempted sacrifice and induced an inning-ending four-sixth-three double play to end the threat, started by Martinez.

In the ninth, Matawan sophomore centerfielder Jackson Hercek started a double play by making a diving catch in shallow center for the first out and fired to first to double off the runner.

"Our outfield is all new so we spent extra time getting those guys ready to play," Carnovsky said. "We usually might do 20 or 30 minutes of outfield work at the beginning of practice, but with this group, it's been more like and hour, maybe more. They have worked hard and it shows on plays like that."

The final Huskies double play came with runners on the corners and one out. Patriots starting third baseman and losing pitcher Zack Pericone reached on catcher's interference for the second time in the game and moved to third on a one-out single by Luke Milchman.

On his 63rd and final pitch of his outing, Gendi induced a ground ball to shortstop, where Collazo started an inning-ending six-four-three doubled play to squash the threat.

"Me and my friend Antonion over there, we always want the ball," Collazo said. "We're always calm. That's the main thing. Without staying calm, you can't make all of those plays. You have to stay calm and want the ball."

Matawan threatened to win the game in both the eighth and 10th innings, with Hercek playing a central role in both threats. The sophomore doubled to open the eighth and chase Freehold Township starter Ryan Ford after his 85th pitch. Senior Bryan Reed came on and notched a strikeout before issuing an intentional walk to Collazo to bring up Trapani. The catcher hit a sharp ground ball up the third base line, but Pericone back-handed the ball and stepped on the bag for the second out of the inning. Reed fired another strikeout to end his only inning of work.

In the 10th, Hercek reached on an infield single with one out, followed by an error that allowed Martinez to reach. Collazo lined a single to right field, but Freehold Township's shallow outfield kept Hercek from scoring on the play. Pericone then struck out Trapani on a breaking ball and coaxed a line drive off the bat of sophomore Stephen Salot that settled into the glove of right-fielder Chris Goodman.

Freehold Township's outfield continued to creep in over the course of the game and it paid off up until Trapani hit the ball over everyone's head. In addition to the catches in the air the outfield made because of their positioning, Goodman also threw out Jake Burlew at first base on what looked like a line-drive single to right that Goodman fielded on a long hop.

"They're outfield was playing us shallow and we weren't able to take advantage for most of the game," Trapani said. "We knew at some point, one of us was going to hit a ball hard and get it out there."

With Thursday's game sandwiched between two Class A Central divisional games on Wednesday and Friday, Matawan dug deep into its pitching staff and came up aces with Burlew and Gendi. Burlew allowed one run on just one hit and three walks over six innings while firing 63 pitches.

"He's very effective when he's throwing strikes," Carnovsky said. "I think it's been a challenge for him because he was on the team a year ago, but we had so many pitchers that he didn't really get a chance to pitch so every time on the mound is a new experience for him. Today, he was in the zone and did a nice job keeping (Freehold Township) off balance."

Gendi faced more trouble than Burlew did, but he did not give up a run and did not walk any batters in his six innings, which earned him his first varsity win.

"This game belonged to those two," Trapani said of the pitchers. "They did exactly what we needed them to do today. They kept us in the game for 12 innings."

In addition to making some key plays, Matawan's defense was sure-handed in a game that featured just three strikeouts by its pitchers in 12 innings. Although the Huskies committed three errors, two of them were catcher's interferences and the other was a hard-hit ground ball to Salot at third base.

"Coming into the year, that's the one thing I thought we would definitely do: catch the ball," Carnovsky said. "Our pitchers don't miss many bats, so we're going to have to catch the ball and we have three guys in Collazo, Martinez and Burlew (at first) who have experience and have done it for us."

"Defense is what we're about more than anything," Collazo said. "We've been doing it together since we were eight."

Before Hercek's diving catch in center, right fielder Derek Jordan made a sliding, back-handed stab on a line drive hit by Ford for the first out of the top of the ninth inning. The play prevented a potential extra-base hit with a runner already on first.

Although Freehold Township managed only five hits in 12 innings, defense cost Freehold Township Thursday. One of the Patriots' five errors turned into a second-inning run for Matawan.

The Patriots pulled even at 1 with a run in the sixth when leadoff hitter Nick Lodispoto walked, took both second and third on wild pitched and came home on an RBI ground out by Ford.

Matawan will continue its pursuit for the Class A Central championship before playing top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy on Saturday, April 29, in the MCT round of 16. Despite losing a host of starters - particularly in its pitching staff, the Huskies are tied with Raritan atop the standings one time through the schedule.

"We have a saying we use a lot: 'Why not us?,'" Collazo said. "This division is up for grabs. The rankings don't matter anymore and no matter what anyone thinks about us, we're playing to win and we've got a shot. We're focused on the A Central games, but we'll look forward to another opportunity next week and try to come out the same way we did today."


Box Score

(16) Matawan 2, (17) Freehold Twp. 1 (12 Innings)

Free. Twp. (4-4)000001000000155
Matawan (7-3)010000000001293



Ryan Ford74101485
Bryan Reed10001211
Zack Pericone (L, 1-2)3.25111334
Jake Burlew61113263
Chris Gendi (W, 1-0)64000163

Top Hitters

Freehold Twp.Game Stats
Nick Lodispoto1-4, 2B, BB, R
Brandon Smith1-4, BB, SB
MatawanGame Stats
Jackson Hercek3-6, 2B
Tom Collazo3-5, BB
Mike Trapani1-5, 2B, RBI
Wayne Bloom1-5, RBI




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