Mariners Advance to Take on Barnegat in OCT Semis
Toms River, NJ- It took an extra day and exceptional field maintenance from the Toms River North's ground crew to get Monday nights Ocean County Baseball Tournament quarterfinal contest between Toms River North and Jackson Liberty played.
After an all day rain out on Sunday, the game between the Mariners and Lions was changed multiple times on Monday and even considered changing location before the grounds crew secured the Mariners home field advantage and finished the preparations an hour before first pitch.
Toms River North wasted no time improving their record to (10-5 overall, 6-4 in A South) and advancing to the semi finals of the Ocean County Tournament, with a 6-1 win over Jackson Liberty who fell to (8-6 overall, 5-5 B South).
The Mariners turned to sophomore Jared Bellissimo to take the mound against the Lions and gutted out a win over 4 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, two walks, two strikeouts and one earned run before turning over the ball to junior Brody Sprinkle who closed out the game with a strikeout, two hits and no runs over 2 2/3 innings.
Toms River North got on the board in the bottom of the first inning when Austin Feigin beat out an infield single and set the stage for Joey Rose. Rose hopped all over a low inside pitch and belted a 2-run home run over the left field fence for a 2-0 lead and also his Shore Conference leading seventh home run of the season.
The Mariners would get another two runs in the bottom of the second when Craig Larsen laced a double with no outs and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Brandon Fischer who was also safe, setting up runners on the corner with no outs. Larsen would score two pitches later on a pass ball and moved Fischer to second. After a walk to David Cordoma, Jackson Liberty's Mike Zak pitched out of serious danger and gave up one more run when Feigin flew out to left and scored Cordoma to give Toms River North a 4-0 lead.
Jackson Liberty would make some noise in the fourth inning trailing 4-0 when the Lions loaded the bases with one out. Ryan Van Wickle got the inning started with a leadoff walk, advanced to second when David Melfi hit a one out single to left setting up first and second. Billy Hart loaded the bases with another to single to left and was followed up with and RBI single from Connor Keenan that would chase the Mariners Bellissimo from the game. Sprinkle would come on and with just two pitches got the Lions' Daniel Sofield to ground into and inning--ending 4-6-3 double play.
The Mariners would add another run in the bottom of the sixth inning after Sprinkle got out of another jam in the top of the inning. It looked like Jackson Liberty was going to make a run back into the game when they got a leadoff double to left from Zak and an infield single to deep in the shortstop hole from Melfi. But thats all the offense the Lions would get as Sprinkle got two ground outs and a pop up to end the threat.
Toms River North picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth after a miscue in left setup first and second with one out and then a walk to load the bases. Jeff Ciervo lined out to deep left scoring Mike Nyisztor for the games final run.
After Sprinkle went three up and three down in the top of the seventh, the fourth-seeded Mariners sealed their trip to the OCT semifinals against No. 8 seed Barnegat, which upset top seeded Point Pleasant Borough earlier in the day.
The semifinal is scheduled for Saturday and is likely to pit the third-highest scoring team in the Shore Conference against Barnegat ace and top MLB Draft prospect Jason Groome. Toms River North has league games against Toms River East on Tuesday and Southern on Thursday.