CBA Takes Its Place In History By Beating Don Bosco Prep to Win Non-Public A Crown
TOMS RIVER - Usually saying a team from a specific year was the best in Shore Conference history explodes into a million different arguments, but Christian Brothers Academy achieved the rare feat on Saturday of making its greatness hard to argue against.
The Colts became just the second team in Shore Conference history after the 2004 Wall squad to win the Quintuple Crown, claiming five titles in one season, when they buried previously undefeated Don Bosco Prep, the No. 9 team in the country, 7-0 to win the NJSIAA Non-Public A title at Toms River East. Junior right-hander Luca Dalatri put together a masterpiece with a four-hit shutout in which he struck out 12 against one of the most fearsome lineups in New Jersey, one that no team had been able to solve in 29 previous games this spring.
"It's incredible,'' said senior outfielder Will Morgan. "The kid is a stud. To have 12 strikeouts against that caliber of a team, that's just amazing."
To finish the job on the Quintuple Crown, the Colts had to beat Bishop Eustace and Don Bosco Prep, who were ranked 1-2 in the state, and they won by a combined 9-0. They also shut out Red Bank Catholic 4-0 in the Shore Conference Tournament final this week. The end result is the greatest season of any baseball team in Shore Conference history.
Hall of Famer Marty Kenney, who is second all time in wins in New Jersey history, has been coaching at CBA for 42 years. He didn't hesitate when asked if this is the greatest season any team in this area has ever had.
"I think so, based upon what we had to go through,'' Kenney said. "It wasn't easy. We always stress the essence of a team."
The Colts might all still be teenagers, but now they are immortal.
"When Coach Kenney says that...he's been here so long,'' Dalatri said. "To be in that caliber is a great feeling. It's surreal."
"I think it's incredible to be a part of this, especially my senior year,'' Morgan said. "The 2004 Wall team was a great team, but I think the teams that we played, the talent that we had to face, was very tough."
Saturday marked the first time in CBA's incredible run that the Colts were an underdog. The Ironmen entered at 29-0 with a national ranking, but it's not like CBA was chopped liver. There were two players on the field who are committed to national power North Carolina, and neither of them were on Don Bosco Prep. One of them is Dalatri, and the other is junior catcher Brandon Martorano, who slugged a two-run homer in the first inning to get the party started.
"This is not a David and Goliath (situation),'' Kenney said. "We're pretty damn good, too. They're playing with so much confidence, they feel like they can play with anybody. They weren't intimidated by Don Bosco. We knew they had somewhat of an ego. You can tell, by their presence, but we weren't going to back off, that's for sure."
"To play a 29-0 team, No. 9 in the country, and come out and blank them 7-0 is just a testament to how hard these guys in that dugout work and how much their heart is into it,'' Martorano said.
This CBA team has all the attributes you would want in arguing to be the greatest in Shore Conference history. It has the five titles, the shutout wins over top programs in championship games, multiple Division I players, and a pitcher who is rapidly going from having "star" before his name to "legendary." Dalatri is now a combined 20-0 over the past two seasons and already has a CBA-record 25 total victories.
He buzzsawed a lineup that had just mercy-ruled St. Joseph-Montvale in the Non-Public North A final. For good measure, he also launched about a 350-foot solo home run in the fifth inning to help his cause.
"Like I said back at the end of his freshman year, his ceiling is unlimited,'' Kenney said. "The thing that's always been great about Luca that separates him from others is that he's had command of his pitches at an early age, even as a freshman. Rarely does he make mistakes down the middle of the plate."
"I think he believes that he needs to go out there and be the man, and that's what he does,'' Martorano said. "He goes out there and shoves it, and we just back him up on offense."
Martorano also gave CBA the only runs it would need when he launched an 0-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a two-run homer, his 11th of the season, in the top of the first inning.
"As soon as Brandon hit that, we were inside the pitcher's head,'' said outfielder Cid Porter. "He was rattled completely."
"I just wanted to go out and show these guys, 'Hey we can hang with Bosco,''' Martorano said.
CBA also has shown constant resilience throughout this season, which it ended with a 14-game winning streak. The Colts were on the ropes in the SCT quarterfinals against Middletown South, down 5-1 in the seventh inning before rallying to tie it and win in extra innings. Martorano also gave the Colts a walk-off win against Wall in the Monmouth County Tournament, and he and Morgan had five walk-off hits combined this year.
Plus, CBA weathered the loss of senior first baseman John Moschella to a season-ending injury early in the spring. Moschella was off to a great start and is an All-Shore talent, but collectively the Colts were able to patch the hole in the lineup and keep winning. It also helped that their pitching down the stretch was dominant, led by Dalatri and fellow senior Mike Garvey with important contributions from juniors Kenny Campbell and Joe Gargana as well as freshman Nick Hohenstein.
For the second straight season, the Shore Conference will have the No. 1 team in the state after St. John Vianney earned that honor last year. This is the first time in history that Shore teams have won back-to-back Non-Public A titles. Add it all up, and you have a team that will always be brought up in the conversation in the future any time a new squad starts edging into "best team of all time" territory.
"We're all kind of in shock right now,'' Dalatri said. "We're just amped, and we're enjoying the moment. I think tomorrow or the next day it will sink in what we did."