Howell, NJ- Saturday Howell continued their hot start to the season with a 5-3 win over Manchester at Howell High School.  As part of the Strike Out Autism Challenge, the two teams were locked in a tight contest until the Rebels took a two run lead in the bottom of the six and Donovan O’Malley shut the Eagles down 1-2-3 in the seventh for the complete game win.

Howell entered the game following their first loss of the season to Christian Brothers Academy 5-4, dropping their record to 5-1 in A-North and 6-1 overall.

Manchester opened the game in the first inning with a leadoff single to center from Steven Rodriguez who also wasted no time on the bases when he stole second on the first pitch.  After a passed ball on strike three to Ryan Vanderham, the Eagles were in business with runners on the corners with no on out.  Vanderham stole second after a Darrius Garcia pop out setting up Manchester with runners on second and third with one out.  Cleanup hitter Jon Meaney put Manchester in front 1-0 on an RBI groundout to second scoring Rodriguez.

Howell would go quietly in the bottom off the first inning going three up and three down on just seven pitches from Manchester’s P.J. Martinez.  The Rebels would get on the board in the bottom of the second on two doubles with two outs.  First Grant Hackett drove a two out double off the left field wall that saw Manchester’s Kirk Montanye make a valiant effort crashing into the fence.  With Hacket on second, Mark Iacobino followed with another double to left scoring Hackett to tie the game at 1-1.

Howell would add another run in the bottom of the second for a 2-1 lead after Hackett go on after a fielder’s choice and moved to second after a single down the line from Iacobino.  After a Russell Quinlao walk loaded the bases with one out, Eddie Morales hit into an RBI fielder’s choice to score Hackett.

Manchester bats woke up in the top of the fifth when they combined for three hits and retook the lead 3-2. Montanye  led off the inning with a single to left followed by Matt Migliaccio hitting into a fielder’s choice. Migliaccio scored three pitches later when Rodriguez doubled to center and later scored when Vanderham singled to center.

Howell would answer once again when Troy Miller powered his first home run of the season to dead centerfield to tie the game at 3-3.  After a scoreless sixth from Manchester, the Rebels would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.

After Manchester’s Martinez pitched five innings of 4 hit ball, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts and 2 earned runs, he was pulled for Matt Bryant who would finish with the loss on 3 walks and 2 earned runs.  The Rebels would lead off with Iacobino who opened the inning with a walk and advanced to second after another walk to Quinlin.  After a fielder’s choice from Morales got Iacobino out at third, Christian Gedell would follow with another walk to load the bases with one out.

After a balk was called on Bryant scoring Quinlao and advanced Morales and Gedell, Justin Steel picked up and RBI scoring Morales on a fly out to left.  This would be all the insurance runs O’Malley would need as he shut down the Eagles offense with three straight groundouts for the complete game victory.

Afterwards when asked about the shaky start to the game and regaining his composure, O’Malley added “the first inning was a little rough but I was able to regroup and finish strong thanks to the rest of my teammates that picked me up offensively and defensively…we have a strong veteran group here so falling behind was not what I wanted but had confidence in my teammates we would bounce back.”

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