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BRICK TOWNSHIP – Jackson senior catcher Tom Cartnick has started the Last Dance High School World Series on such a hot streak that not only do opposing pitches feel uncomfortable with him in the batter’s box, his own coach is also a little leery standing down the third-base line.

“I’m scared in the third-base box and I don’t get scared in the third-base box much,” said Jackson head coach Frank Malta. “He’s like a caged animal now.”

Cartnick mashed his second first-inning home run in as many days on Wednesday night, blasting a two-run homer deep over the left-field fence to give Jackson all the runs it would need during a 4-0 victory over Brick Memorial in the final of the Brick Region. Senior Ryan Lasko added a two-run single in the fourth inning while junior starter Matt Potok was flawless and senior reliever Dan Greenwood pitched the final three innings to complete the shutout.

Jackson will now play Monmouth Monarchs (Manalapan) in the Pool 1 final at 7 p.m. on Thursday at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. The winner will advance to the single-elimination round of 16.

On Tuesday it was Cartnick’s three-run bomb that opened the floodgates in Jackson’s 14-1, 5-inning victory over Brick. This time he took a 2-2 pitch that caught a little too much of the inner half of the plate and turned on it like it was teed-up, launching a no-doubter over the fence to give Jackson a 2-0 lead.

“Luckily I got a good pitch and no matter what the count is I’m still looking to put my best swing on the ball,” Cartnick said. “The pitch was there and took full advantage of it.”

Cartnick also walked twice. In two games he is 2-for-3 with 2 home runs, 5 RBI, 3 runs scored and 3 walks.

“He’s a kid who over the course of time has worked so hard and has a desire to be great,” Malta said. “I’m so happy he’s getting this opportunity. He’s pounding the baseball.”

“I have to shout out all my guys at Compete and Leg Kick Nation; Steve Johnson, Rob Corsi, Howie Brey,” Cartnick said. “They got me ready for this.”

The Jaguars didn’t pile on the runs as they did on Tuesday, however, thanks to a gritty effort from Mustangs junior right-hander Cole Manfro, who settled down to pitch five innings. Manfro allowed four runs on six hits while striking out seven in a 101-pitch outing. Joe Gioia pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

“Their kid was very good, he kept coming,” Malta said of Manfro. He does a great job controlling the running game, as well. He’s a good pitcher.”

But even with Brick Memorial keeping Jackson’s volcanic offense from erupting, the two early runs were enough thanks to a second straight day of great pitching. Potok tossed four perfect and effortless innings, retiring all 12 batters he faced with six strikeouts on just 41 pitches. Greenwood pitched the final three innings and allowed one hit with one walk, one hit batsmen and five strikeouts.

“The plan has been two innings but he was kind of playing catch out there so we let him extend because it was effortless,” Malta said of Potok’s outing. “Danny Greenwood was a reliever last year but his innings were minimized because of our starting pitching, so I was happy for him to get out there.”

“Potok was awesome today, he was hitting spots and was effortless,” Cartnick said. “If our bats are quiet for a few innings it doesn’t matter because our pitching is just as strong.”

“I’m glad for (Greenwood) because he’s been putting in a lot of work,” Cartnick added. “He’s going to be a dude for us in this tournament and he proved it today.

Malta said senior left-hander Nick Beetel and senior righty Joe Santoriello are set to pitch against Manalapan on Thursday night.


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