Perhaps the only people more eager than Chase Stopyra for his first start were those calling his pitches and intently observing inside the Christian Brothers Academy dugout.
With the news on Tuesday that Colts’ senior ace John McCarren was lost for the remainder of the season with torn ligaments and a bone bruise to his ankle suffered last week after awkwardly hitting first base attempting to leg out a hit, the coaching staff viewed Stopyra as a potential candidate to lengthen an already deep staff.
The senior right-hander passed his audition in a rather efficient fashion. Having only thrown three innings prior this spring, Stopyra made it clear he had no intentions of surrendering the mound on this occasion, tossing a crisp three-hit shutout to spur streaking Christian Brothers, No. 10 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings, to a 7-0 triumph over Marlboro in Lincroft.
Already into the quarterfinals of the Monmouth County Tournament, the third seed for the upcoming Shore Conference Tournament and anticipated to get a favorable place in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A playoffs, CBA (15-3), which extended its winning streak to 12, can entertain lofty expectations for a busy final month of the campaign. That translates into the necessity of having a stable of reliable pitchers at its disposal and Stopyra made a passionate case for consideration at the back end of the rotation that already boasts Pitt-bound Matt Pidich, North Carolina pledge Joe Dudek and freshman standout Luca Dalatri.
“It’s huge,” CBA coach Marty Kenney said of Stopyra’s outing. “He was going to get an opportunity even if John was healthy. But, now, he’s going to have to eat up more innings. We’re going to get backed up and play four or five games in a week, hopefully. And, he’s going to have to throw and he’s going to have to be effective. I told him before the game that he’s worked awfully hard. This is his opportunity. Go out there with confidence and do what you’re capable of doing and he did. I was happy for him.”
Stopyra needed only 88 pitches to mark his first time getting the ball. The 6-3, 200-pounder allowed one single in each of the first three innings and not one baserunner advanced beyond first base. He finished strong, retiring the final seven batters he faced.
“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” Stopyra said of his chance to start. “I just wanted to go out and do what I know how to do. It worked out really well. I knew I could let them put the ball in play and my defense would pick me up.”
Picking things up has become a forte for CBA, which has only committed 21 errors in 18 games and whose impeccable defense went a long way toward settling any nerves Stopyra may have experienced.
He was beneficiary of double play in the third and displayed his own athleticism agilely fielding a pair of slow rollers in front of the mound.
Yet another accommodating luxury for Stopyra was provided courtesy of the batting order.
The Colts backed their power display from Monday when they unloaded five home runs during a 13-0 victory over Msgr. Donovan with a rash of line drives, counting four extra-base hits among the 10 they collected.
Second baseman Mike Caputo led the attack by going 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and two RBI. He opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a double to dead center that scored designated hitter Steve Forlano, who reached on a single.
One batter later, shortstop Anthony Critelli laced a two-run double to right and CBA was staked to a 3-0 lead.
“The offense has come around and now, we know what we’re capable of doing,” said Critelli, who was 2 for 4 with two RBI. “We expect this out of our offense. We’re more relaxed and confident.”
Pete Papcun connected for an RBI triple in the fifth and Ryan Ramiz followed an RBI double from Caputo with a two-run single in the sixth.
“The loss to Red Bank Catholic was an eye opener for us,” Caputo said, referring to CBA’s last taste of defeat, 5-1 loss to neighboring rival and fifth-ranked Red Bank Catholic. “After that game, we thought we played a pretty good game, we just didn’t hit in the clutch situations. We’ve worked hard at improving that and that’s why we’re on this 12-game winning streak.”
Jeff Goldrosen, Justin Trochiano and Matt Nelson had one hit apiece for Marlboro (10-10), which saw starter Corey Goldstein toss six quality innings, scattering eight hits, walking three and striking out two.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner