Freehold Twp. blanks cross-town rival
The culture of aggressiveness that’s been building within Freehold Township can undoubtedly trace its origin to the long-standing daringness it subscribes to on the basepaths.
Speed merchants like leadoff batter Nick Cardamone have always taken great delight in wreaking havoc, whether pursuing the extra base on a hit or stealing a bag. But, that style has gradually begun to branch out.
You can see it on defense, in the effortless range of shortstop Ryan MacFarlane, who attacks every ground ball in his vicinity with a conviction that nothing is outside of his radius, and in the confident strides of right fielder Vito Iannuzzelli as he races into the gap to track down a line drive, certain he can make a play on it.
But, where this blossoming sense of assertiveness spread on Monday was squarely atop the mound. Junior right-hander Steve Ginter painted himself into a corner in the top of the third only to orchestrate an inspiring escape that transcended to the offense of 14th-seeded Freehold Township, which supplied its starting pitcher with ample support en route to an 8-0 victory over 18th-seeded Freehold Borough in the semifinal round of the Monmouth County Tournament at FirstEngery Park in Lakewood.
“I took a deep breath and thought about the situation,” Ginter said of wiggling out of a tenuous moment. “I had to make pitches and let my defense pick me up on the back side and that’s what they did.”
Freehold Township advanced to the MCT final on May 30 at 7 p.m. at FirstEngery Park, where it will face top-seeded Red Bank Catholic, a 6-5 winner over fifth-seeded Christian Brothers in the second semifinal.
With Freehold Township (10-12) clinging to a 1-0 lead, Ginter gave up a leadoff triple to Michael Bolton before walking the next two batters in the top of the third. He roared back, inducing an pop up to first and ringing up a strikeout before completing the difficult task with an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
“It was the one time we had bases loaded and no outs and that could’ve have been the ball game right there,” said Freehold Borough coach Jon Block, whose team went 3-1 in a span of 24 hours, including consecutive 6-3 wins over second-seeded Wall and seventh-seeded Colts Neck on Saturday in the first round and quarterfinals, respectively. “If we get that early lead, maybe we’re out in front playing with a little more confidence. That’s what we did all weekend. It just didn’t happen, but we had a good run.”
Cardamone got the offense moving for Freehold Township in the bottom of the first. The senior center fielder lined a triple in to the left-center field gap and scored on senior catcher Josh Lodi’s single over third base.
“It’s monumental when you can grab the extra base,” Cardamone said of what his effortless strides can create on the bases. “If we can get runners in scoring position, it makes the job that much easier to knock them in.”
Following Ginter’s magnificent comeback in the top of the third, the Patriots responded with three runs in the bottom half to open a 4-0 cushion. Once again, Cardamone, who finished 2-for-4, was the igniter, reaching on an infield single. With one out, McFarlane lined an RBI double, followed by run-scoring singles from Chris Talbott and Nick Cardace.
Freehold Township tacked on four more runs in the fifth, keyed by a two-run single from Iannuzzelli, whose hitting contribution was trumped by to marvelous defensive gems.
In the top of the first, Matt Holtz made a bid to score from second on a single by Anthony Vazzana only to be erased at the plate on a pinpoint strike by Iannuzzelli to Lodi, who put on the tag. Freehold Borough worked out a leadoff walk to start the fourth but Iannuzzelli sprinted into the right-center field gap to make a sliding grab on a liner by Dan Kvedaras and fired to first to double the runner off.
Freehold Borough, which left 12 men on base, including six in scoring position, loaded the bases again in the fifth with two outs only to have Ginter extinguish the rally with a strikeout on the final batter he faced.
Ginter (4-1) gave up four hits, walked six and fanned five over five innings before Chris Talbott came on to pitch the last two innings.
Holtz ended 2-for-3 and reached base all four times for Freehold Borough. MacFarlane went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, Mike Patti had an RBI double and Ryan Talbott scored twice for Freehold Township.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner