Hustle & Muscle: Toms River North edges Toms River East
TOMS RIVER – Toms River North has undergone an offensive overhaul this spring, veering in a somewhat surprising direction unique to the Mariners. Annually rich in muscle at the plate, this spring’s edition is more predicated on its hustle along the basepaths.
Speed may be prevalent up and down the lineup, as was evident by the amount of bags swiped in building a sizable cushion against crosstown rival Toms River East on Wednesday. However, when the Raiders mounted a rally with three runs in the top of the sixth, Jon Giordano countered with a majestic reminder there is still some residual power lurking in the heart of the order.
The senior right-hander, who hurled 5 1/3 solid innings before being lifted, put a pin in East’s comeback bubble, blasting a two-run homer in the bottom half and sophomore southpaw Russ Thistle worked the balance of the contest to nail down the save in helping host Toms River North prevail, 7-4, in an A South clash.
“We have guys who can run and speed throughout the lineup,” noted coach Andy Pagano. “This is my sixth year here and we’ve never had that. It’s just another element that puts pressure on defenses.”
Toms River North (6-2, 5-1) was successful on seven of eight steal attempts, spearheaded by senior shortstop Dylan Feigin, who accounted for two, with the first generating North’s initial run in the bottom of the first. After leading off with a single, he stole second and found himself dashing home on a wild pitch. Giordano and junior Jake Dawson each drew a two-out walk and their courtesy runners, Zach Goodale and Nick Mortellito, respectively, continued the trend by stealing a base before subsequently scoring on an error to stake the Mariners to a 3-0 lead.
“We don’t have as much power as we’ve had in the past,” noted Feigin. “When we get on, we’ve been trying to produce runs on the bases. It puts teams in a tough spot knowing we’re a threat to run. Pretty much everyone in the lineup can steal a base. They never get a break from it.”
Senior second baseman Mike Colella, who went 2 for 3, doubled to start the second, advanced to third on a bunt single by senior left fielder Sean Aguiar, who followed suit by stealing second, drawing an errant pick off throw that encouraged Colella to break for the plate, widening the gap to 4-0.
East (4-4, 3-4) got a run back in the fifth. Junior Matt Santos, who yielded six hits, walked four and fanned six over five innings, helped his cause with an RBI single only to have the Mariners answer with Colella backing a two-out double by senior designated hitter Alex Civitello with a run-scoring single.
Giordano (2-1) threw smart and efficiently, retiring five straight in between bunt singles by sophomore shortstop Aidan Meola to lead off the game and senior left fielder Tyler Toth with two outs in the second. He induced a fly ball to open the sixth before surrending a single to Toth, who finished 2 for 3, and a walk to senior center fielder Logan Sommerer prior to his pitching exit.
“I tried to pitch to contact,” noted Giordano, who scattered six hits, walked three and struck out three while giving up one earned run. “My last couple starts, I was a little wild in terms of control. I concentrated on throwing the ball over the plate, hitting corners and I had faith in my defense to make plays.”
Thistle momentarily stemmed the tides with a strike out but Meola didn’t let him completely off the hook, lacing a two-run double that shaved the deficit to 5-4. Eager to make amends, Giordano did so impressively.
With two down, senior first baseman Sam Angelo earned a walk and Giordano turned on a 1-1 fastball, driving to deep left for some much-needed insurance runs as well as his first home run of the season.
“At that point, I had trust in Thistle,” Giordano said. “He’s been great this year. We need to get some runs to build a little cushion. I wasn’t going up there to hit a home run but he gave me a pitch in. I swung at it and it went over. I’ll take it.”