Behind Paytas, Wall blanks Jax Liberty
Harry Paytas has a tendency to inquire often about his pitch count. It’s nothing more than a habit now for the Wall ace, at most, to gain a piece of mind.
You see, when the right-hander is dealing, no numerical data outweighs his own evaluation of what’s left in his arm. Furthermore, such numbers can’t measure the degree of competitive nature that drives the senior to finish whatever he starts.
“I like to know my pitch count, it’s something I like to do,” Paytas admitted. “But, I want to go out in the seventh inning and get a win. The pitch count wasn’t a concern. I was fired up to get it over with.”
Paytas had more than enough left in the final inning to finish they way he began. He registered a pair of strikeouts to stamp a five-hit shutout and Wall relied on the attention to offensive details that has long been a staple of the program to post a 4-0 victory over Jackson Liberty, No. 11 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 on Monday in Wall Township.
Despite falling behind hitters early, Paytas, who is heading to Monmouth, struck out the side in the top of the first en route to fanning eight against three walks and two hit batters. His commanding change of speed and sharp location never allowed Jackson Liberty hitters to get comfortable at the plate as he effortlessly tossed 115 pitches in the season opener for both squads.
“That’s the first time in the three years he’s been here that he didn’t ask me what his pitch count was,” Wall coach Todd Schmitt said. “He is just a bulldog. I don’t know if he had his best stuff but everything he threw, he threw it with a purpose. He battles on the mound no matter what it is. He threw a lot of pitches the first couple of innings, but he never let it fluster him. He was loose and easy.”
“He must have just not heard me,” Paytas said with a laugh as he admitted to asking for his pitch count after the sixth inning. “I knew what it was but I wasn’t worried about it. I wanted to go out and get the win and make sure it was secure. I wanted it to be in my hands.”
What is going to make Wall extremely formidable this spring revolves around a lineup with no holes and hitters willing to embrace any opportunities they are afforded. That was exemplified by seniors Conor Mulholland and Scott Duncan.
Mulholland, who hit .265 with seven RBI as a junior, produced a two-out, two-run single in the second and Duncan lined a single to center that scored two more with two outs in the fifth to supply some insurance.
“That was big for me because I struggled last year at the plate,” said Mulholland. “The guys and the coaching staff had a lot of confidence in me. Doing it for each other is a lot of fun.”
“When you know there are two outs and bases loaded, you kind of got to forget about that stuff,” Duncan, who batted .275 with nine RBI a year ago, said. “Basically, you have to concentrate on hitting the ball and doing your job.”
In the new era of the BBCOR bats (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution), Wall’s institutional value in execution of small ball could play in its favor, as it did in the sixth.
After Tyler Block drew a leadoff walk and Alex Taylor ensued with a single, senior catcher Connor White, who hit a school record .513 last season, was asked to bunt and dropped the perfect sacrifice to move the runners up to set the stage for Duncan.
“He doesn’t bat an eye when you give him a sacrifice bunt with two runners on.” Schmitt said. “You gotta do the small ball and we’ve never been afraid to do it. With the new bats, it plays into our hands.”
By working low in the strike zone and in on hitters’ hands, Paytas induced eight ground ball outs with none perhaps bigger than the one that senior third baseman Jim Guiliano dove to his left to snare before rolling over to fire to first for the final out with the bases loaded in the sixth to defuse a late Jackson Liberty rally.
“We’re talented but we have the P word right now…we have potential,” Jackson Liberty coach Jim Rankin said. “We can’t quite figure out how to get over that hump. We want this program to be on the map. We don’t want to fly under the radar. We were 17-7 last year and did a lot of great things but, we were 1-6 against the top 10 in the Shore. You want to be a top team, you have to start beating top teams. That’s the next step.”
Jackson Liberty, which stranded 10 men on base, including six in scoring position, got two singles from Vin Sica and a double by James Sofield. Duncan and senior second baseman Chaz Salvo, the No. 9 hitter, each went 2-for-3 for Wall, which accumulated seven hits, all singles.
No. 15 Middlesex 13, Middletown North 0: Tyler Heisch went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI and Chris Petiya added two hits and two RBI for Middlesex. Tom Marcinczyk also drove in a pair of runs.
Point Pleasant Beach 3, Neptune 1: D.J. Pfefferkorn tossed four scoreless innings with three strikeouts and Anthony Capodanno collected a single, double, RBI and a run scored for Point Pleasant Beach. Colin Daley supplied a solo homer and Paul Fiorentino had a sacrifice fly in the victory. Tyler Daly struck out seven and Bobby Knee finished 2-for-3 with a double for Neptune.
Christian Brothers 11, Freehold Township 3: Joe Dudek, snapped a 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the top of the eighth that touched off an eight-run outburst for Christian Brothers. Sean Clarke tossed three innings of relief to pick up the victory.
Marlboro 3, McDowell (Pa.) 1: Evan Hilla struck out seven and allowed three hits over five innings to secure the decision for Marlboro. Hilla aided his cause by going 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Pat McLaughlin had two hits and drove in a run.
Marlboro 7, Seffner Christian (Fla.) 2: Chris Frometa picked up his first varsity win while Anthony Asta was 3-for-3 with two doubles, three runs scored and three stolen bases for Marlboro (2-0). Adam Ashenfarb and Evan Hilla had two hits apiece and combined for five RBI. Eric Katz also finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI.
No. 6 Millburn 1, No. 3 Seton Hall Prep 0: Sophomore David Talpalar fired a two-hit shutout with four strikeouts and five walks for Millburn. Will Fitzgerald drew a walk in the top of the fourth, stole second and moved to third on an infield single by Milo Freeman before Evy Rubial delivered an RBI single to left on a first-pitch fastball to put Millburn in front.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner