TOMS RIVER – It did not take too long for the Mainers of Toms River North to show they were not going to be denied a third straight Ocean County Tournament title and sixth county title in program history.
“I think the fact that we came off a big win the night before against Jackson (Memorial) helped because we just kind of let the emotion roll right into the finals,” Toms River North head coach Andrew Pagano said. “The confidence was high because even though he is very good, we were seeing a pitcher for the third time this season and we kind of knew how he was going to attack our hitters.”
A six-run bottom of the second was more than enough for the Mariners, who defeated Toms River East, 7-1, on May 15 at Ken Frank Baseball Stadium on the campus of Toms River South. Brendan Mullins got the start for the Mariners, allowing one unearned run on five hits and one walk over six innings while throwing 93 pitches. “It was a combination of him and having confidence in our defense to make the plays behind him,” Pagano said. “Anytime you have a kid like Craig Larsen at short and Dylan Feigin at second, they’re very strong up the middle. And our catcher, Justin Schaff, I can’t say enough about him this year. Our coaches usually call pitches from the dugout but for the second half of the year, Justin has been calling his own games. He’s been catching those guys since they were eight years old. He knew the hitters from the first two times we played them, and Brendan was just throwing whatever Justin put down.”
Jared Bellissimo, who was named tournament MVP, went 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.
Jon Giordano got the scoring going with a two-run home run in the second. Justin Schaff and Craig Larsen had RBI singles in the inning, and Bellissimo added an RBI double to cap off the six-run inning.
“It was good because we had an approach to stay up the middle, and I think four of our RBI were up the middle,” Pagano said. “It’s hard to pull the ball off a kid who throws as hard and can locate his pitches like Brush can. It was a very hot day and we wanted to get on the board first and make them chase us because it’s hard to manufacture runs when you’re behind. We were able to take the bunt and steal away from them by getting out to that lead, and that limits what a team can do offensively, because you can’t be giving outs away.”
Toms River North scored their final run in the third, on an RBI single by Dylan Feigin.
Larsen pitched the final inning, striking out two batters and a groundout to clinch the title. This was the third win for Toms River North against their crosstown rivals, having won the other two contests, 3-1, and 3-2.
Toms River North earned the eight seed in the Shore Conference Tournament, which they won a season ago.
“It’s kind of tough playing Shore Conference and states at the same time, because you need to manage your pitch counts and can be playing in one tournament one day and the other the next day,” Pagano said. “There’s so many good teams in the Shore. No team can be taken granted and our guys know that. We will go as far as our seniors take us.”