By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
The seeding was a little different, but the result was fairly usual.
The Christian Brothers Academy baseball team entered the Monmouth County Tournament seeded at No. 8, rather than one of their usual top-four perches. But when it all played out, the Colts sealed their fourth MCT title in six years by taking an 8-1 win over sixth-seeded Ocean on May 8 at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood.
“As a staff, we never actually spoke to them about the seedings,” said veteran coach Marty Kenney, one of just two New Jersey coaches with more than 800 wins. “Maybe the players did, but I didn’t hear anything. At that time we were hoping we were seeded ninth or 10th and got to play an extra game. But seeding didn’t make much of a difference. We knew our side of the bracket would be tough, and it was. I gotta give the kids credit. They played good baseball throughout the tournament.”
CBA (15-4 as of May 14) opened with a 6-1 win over Marlboro, took a 1-0 victory over Wall, claimed a 5-2 decision over Manasquan in the semis and had its most convincing win in the finals. Joe Escandon pitched six innings of four-hit ball with nine strikeouts against Marlboro. Pat Reilly followed with six innings of three-hit ball with 12 Ks against Wall; while Braedin Hunt (who has verbally committed to Rutgers) and Reilly combined on a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the Manasquan win.
Escandon returned to the hill against Ocean, which is where he would have gone to public school. Facing a lot of old friends, the senior left-hander had a perfect game entering the sixth inning and a no-hitter entering the seventh before yielding two hits. He finished with five strikeouts and allowed one unearned run in giving CBA its ninth MCT title overall.
“You don’t know how some kids can handle [pitching against their hometown team]; but I thought he had the make-up and he would be fine, and he proved me right,” Kenney said. “He just knows how to pitch. He mixes up his fastball, his curveball – he’s got an outstanding change.”
Escandon (4-0 record, 0.60 ERA) is part of a solid staff that includes Reilly (5-0, 0.74), Hunt (2-2, 2.07), Evan Mahns (1-0, 0.31), Anthony Pillari (1-1, 0.28) and Declan Hoverter (1-0, 0.00). Pillari is the back-up catcher, and since leadoff man Mason Wolf does most of the catching, the Colts successfully took a shot at letting Pillari pitch.
“We’re pretty deep on the mound, that’s one of our strengths,” Kenney said. “Pat Reilly struggled a little in March with command, but all of a sudden he started to settle in and throw the way we hoped. Same thing with Braedin Hunt, who was struggling with his command in the early going, but since then he’s been throwing well.”
The coach also had praise for Reilly at the plate, saying, “He’s hit pretty well for us in the clean-up spot; he’s got 15 RBI and he’s done a nice job offensively as well as on the mound.”
Shortstop Tommy DiTullio, a Bryant commit, is hitting .378 with 20 RBI as the number three batter.
“He’s been solid, game in and game out, and he’s an outstanding defensive shortstop and just gives you tremendous leadership on and off the field,” Kenney said.
The coach also lauded the play of Wolf, who has reached base often as a leadoff hitter; Jason Arnott, who switched from second to third base and has played well while hitting .305, and centerfielder Ben Settino, who is hitting .360.
The Colts have dug out of a hole, having won 13 of 14 since a 2-3 start. Kenney felt it was a case of numerous new varsity players coming together.
With the Shore Conference and South Jersey Non-Public A tournaments approaching, CBA is feeling good about itself after claiming the MCT.
“It gives them some confidence,” Kenney said. “The one thing I noticed is that in big games, they’re ready to play. They’re self-motivated, they’ve got a lot of determination; they’re dedicated and committed to being successful. They’re kind of quiet in their approach, but you know the effort will always be there, game in and game out.”