POINT PLEASANT – Instincts would’ve had Sam Young inclined to look for a first-pitch fastball. Wisdom encouraged the Point Pleasant Boro junior to anticipate something else.

“I asked one of our coaches who does the pitch chart for the opposing team what should I be looking for,” Young said of a quick briefing prior to his at bat with a runner on second in the bottom of the eighth. “Usually I look for a fastball and adjust. He said every single batter he started off with a curveball, so I was ready to put a good swing on it.”

And, that he did. Equipped with what to foresee, Young lined a breaking ball from inside the left-field line, scoring Nick Guzzi from second with the winning running that stamped a textbook walk-off rally and vaulted fifth-seeded Point Boro to a dramatic 2-1 triumph over seventh-seeded Robbinsville on Friday for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 title.

A year after bowing to Haddonfield, 2-1, in the South Jersey, Group 2 final, the Panthers (22-6) claimed a sectional crown for the first time since 2006 to add to their Ocean County Tournament trophy and will catch West Deptford in the state semifinals on Monday at Toms River North at 4 p.m. And, they did it before an enthusiastic, overflow crowd that pumped endless energy into its hometown nine.


The Panthers’ decisive uprising was hatched through sound execution within a blinding sequence of a mere four pitches. Junior third baseman Nick Guzzi ignited it with a first-pitch single laced into center and senior first baseman Paul Franceschini dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance Guzzi into scoring position, setting the table for Young to feast.

“It almost went foul because I was so excited to swing,” Young said. “This was the chance. I wasn’t going to let it pass.”

“Big base hit by Nick, big bunt from Paul and Sam couldn’t have placed that ball any better,” noted Point Boro coach David Drew. “It was a perfect inning. We keep those charts for a reason, to learn from previous at bats and get some tendencies. It’s a credit to Sam coming through with that clutch hit.”

Young’s educated and timely swing made a deserved winner of Sam Collins. The senior right-hander was gritty and ceaseless in going the distance for the Panthers to run his mark to 6-2. His command of the curveball was instrumental in a tidy six-hitter that featured seven strikeouts, no walks and an unearned run.

Robbinsville crafted threats in first, third and fourth innings only to have Collins slam its fingers in the door. The Ravens stranded a total of five runners during those frames, including four in scoring position.

“He is a bulldog,” praised Drew of the Kean-bound Collins. “It’s tough to line up you pitching, especially having to play Gov. Livingston (on Thursday) in the semifinal round. We were very happy that we had Sam Collins in this game because we knew he was going to compete. That’s exactly what he did.”

Point Boro grabbed a 1-0 edge in the fourth. Franceschini was hit by a pitch to lead off, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Young and scored on a base hit from junior catcher Ryan Jasaitis, who was locked in all afternoon, going 3 for 3 with three well-stung singles.

Collins got into a groove, retiring six straight before senior Nick Matt broke the string with a two-out single in the sixth. Frascella ensued with a base hit and Joe Barnaba connected on a wicked ground ball that eluded the backhand of Guzzi and darted inside the third-base line, scoring Matt with the tying run.

“Anything hit near me that I don’t field I consider an error,” said Guzzi. “I was 0 for 3 at the plate and had two errors. You try to flush all that stuff out and I did. I was able to atone with the single in the eighth.”

“Can’t let that get to you,” Collins said of surrendering the tying run. “Gotta stick to being a bulldog and just get outs. I was pitching for contact and the defense had my back. We knew Nick would pick us up and he did by starting that rally.”

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