MIDDLETOWN - Entering the NJSIAA Tournament, the Wall High School baseball team had a very simple initial goal: close the season with a with a winning record.

That goal is normally a given for one of the Shore Conference's most consistent winners, but an up-and-down season left the Crimson Knights below .500 heading into the start of the state tournament. In order for the players to guarantee that this year's team would be a net winner, they had to beat team with the most wins and best winning percentage in the Shore Conference on Thursday.

Wall withstood a late power surge by Middletown South - the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group III section - by scoring twice with two out in the top of the seventh inning and holding on to knock off the Eagles, 3-2. With the win, Wall moves on to to play at No. 6 Nottingham in Tuesday's sectional semifinal.

Teammates mob Connor Metelski after the senior right-hander recorded the final out of Wall's upset win over Middletown South on Thursday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"This is a big confidence booster," senior Jamie Loesch said. "We had some tough losses this year but we came in here telling ourselves that we had to win today and we are good enough to get it done. We have a bunch of seniors and a bunch of guys with good attitudes and we didn't want to end our season with a losing record."

Wall jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a second-inning solo home run by Regan Dombroski, only to watch Middleltown South's Ben Porpora and Johnny Zega homer in consecutive innings in the fifth and sixth to push the host team in front, 2-1.

Wall started the top of the seventh inning with a leadoff walk by David Howarth, followed by a fielder's choice out at second on a bunt by Shane Richey and a strikeout by Middletown South junior Jon Martin. After pitching four innings to earn a win Monday against Ewing in the opening round, Martin came on in relief of starter Austin Markmann looking to close out the win.

Shortstop Joe Castellucia kept the game alive with a line-drive single to left to put runners on first and second for Loesch, the designated hitter. Loesch stayed on a 1-1 curveball from Martin and punched it into right field. Richey stormed around third and slid home ahead of the throw from Eagles right fielder Tom Frandsen, which carried up the third-base line. The single was the third of the game for Loesch.

"Whoever you are, no matter what the game is, you want to be the one with a chance to change the game with a hit," Loesch said. "That's what I did. I wanted to go up there and change the game and I did."

Right fielder Jake Malone then hit a ground ball to second that Zega could not handle and after the ball kicked away and he initially hesitated, Castellucia raced home and dove in with the winning run.

Senior Connor Metelski entered the game to pitch in relief of starter Matt Yard with one out in the sixth and again took to the mound in the seventh in an attempt to close out the game. He struck out Porpora - who had already hit a game-tying solo home run early in the game - on a high fastball just above the hands and induced a fly out to center field by left fielder Ryan Ruziecki. One day earlier, in a Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal game against Colts Neck, Ruziecki hit a tie-breaking two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Middletown South coach Ryan Spillane sent up senior Freddy Yahn to pinch hit with two out and Metelski coaxed Yahn into a soft line drive to first baseman Mike Yard, who squeezed the ball in foul territory for the final out.

Metelski continued his stellar work as a swingman for the Crimson Knights with his 1 2/3 innings of flawless pitching Thursday. To date, Metelski has yet to allow an earned run (he has surrendered eight unearned runs) in 20 2/3 innings of work and his 2016 senior resume also includes a no-hitter against Long Branch - one of his two starts this season. In those 20 2/3 innings, Metelski has struck out 24 and allowed only seven hits.

"He's been a guy I've really had to try to find innings for because he's thrown the ball so well," Schmitt said of Metelski. "I've wanted to use him more as a starter and when we did use him in that role, he threw the no-hitter. He's ended up being a big reliever for us and we know when we get the ball to him, he's going to do the job."

Middletown South tied the game in the bottom of the fifth on a solo home run by Porpora, who hit a curveball by Yard well over the left-field fence.

In the sixth, Zega broke the tie with his 10th homer of the season and third in the last four games to put the Eagles ahead, 2-1. Zega pounced on a first-pitch offering from Yard and crushed it over the left-field fence. Markmann followed with a double off the left-field fence on the next pitch to knock Yard out of the game after five-plus effective innings against one of the Shore's hottest lineups.

Zega has homered four times in seven Middletown South games and the first game of that run was a 10-0 Eagles rout of Wall back on May 14. None of the pitchers who appeared in that game appeared on either side Thursday and with much more riding on this game, Wall showed up with its best game this time.

"We were probably at a little bit of an advantage because for our guys, this was our season," Schmitt said. "Middletown South is still in the Shore Conference Tournament, they played (Wednesday) and this was their third game of the week. It's hard to keep up that intensity every day and for us, our focus was just on getting to next week, making sure the seniors went out with a winning season and giving ourselves a chance to win a ring."

Box Score

(7) Wall 3, (2) Middletown South 2

Wall (11-10)0100002380
Midd South (22-5)0000110262


Matt Yard5.162212
Connor Metelski (W, 3-1)1.2 00002
Austin Markmann661118
Jon Martin (L, 5-2)122112

Top Hitters

WallGame Stats
Jamie Loesch3-3, RBI
Regan Dombroski1-3, solo HR
Joe Castellucia2-4, R
Midd SouthGame Stats
Johnny Zega2-3, solo HR
Ben Porpora1-3, solo HR
Austin Markmann2-3, 2B