The Point Pleasant Boro baseball team is hoping for a return to glory in 2024 – five years after winning the Ocean County Tournament and coming up one win shy of an NJSIAA Group II championship. The Panthers’ potential was tested right out of the starting block with a Saturday double-header vs. reigning Shore Conference Class B South division champion Donovan Catholic and proceeded to send a resounding message on day one of their season.

After losing game one, 6-1, against Griffins ace and Virginia Tech commit Jake Marciano, Point Boro pounded the reigning Ocean County Tournament champions, 17-6, in six innings to hand Donovan Catholic its first divisional loss since the 2022 season. During a rain-shortened week in which not every Shore Conference team played a game, Point Boro made the most convincing statement of any Shore team and is the Week 1 Jersey Mike’s Team of the Week.

Even in their game one loss to Marciano, the Panthers proved they can compete with one of the Shore’s best on the mound. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and held the lead while senior right-hander Bryson Kirby retired the first nine Donovan Catholic batters of the game. Marciano, however, did not give up anything else over the remainder of his 5 2/3 one-hit innings and Griffins junior Ryder Simpson touched up Kirby for a three-run home run in the top of the fourth.

Although Point Boro could not rally in the final four innings in game one, the Panthers certainly rallied in game two. They scored 17 runs on 14 hits while junior left-hander Nick Kowalewski struck out 11 in 4 2/3 innings in a convincing, 17-6 win in six innings.

The game-two win was a showcase for promising freshman Jake Clayton, who is starting at shortstop and leading off to start his varsity baseball career at Point Boro. Clayton finished game two 4-for-4 with two doubles and five RBI out of the leadoff spot to key the offensive explosion. Senior John Ward was also a perfect 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI while classmate Jayson Bennett went 2-for-4 with a double and four RBI to back up Clayton’s big game.

Point Boro started the 2023 season 1-6 before going 11-4 over its final 15 games to build momentum heading into 2024. With a 2-1 start – Point Boro defeated Manchester, 5-1, on Monday – the Panthers look poised to make a run at an outright Class B North championship and contend for another county tournament title.

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