With first title secure, Cougars look for more

Colts Neck won first baseball title, A North Division

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Colts Neck’s baseball team will be looking to build on what has been the school’s finest season to date this week.

It’s postseason tournament time, and with the Cougars having already won the school’s first baseball championship (Shore Conference A North Division), they are anxious for more.

Mike Yorke’s team got the Shore Conference Tournament off on the right foot Friday when they beat Point Pleasant Beach, 12-0, in the first round.

Dam Hayes pitched as one-hitter over four innings as the Cougars, seeded No. 8, advanced.

Frank Piazza and Pat Spechio led the offense with two hits each and a combined three RBIs

Besides the SCT, Colts Neck has the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs that began Monday. The Cougars (17-6) were the No. 5 seed were home for West Windsor South, the 12 seed. The winner will get the winner of No. 4 Hunterdon Central and No. 13 Middletown North first rounder on Friday.

Last spring, playing in Group III, Colts Neck reached the sectional title for the first time ever.

It’s been a team effort for the Cougars all year. Certainly, four-year starters Hayes and A.J. Rusbarsky have served up their usual productive seasons.

But the offense has gotten sparks from Ashton Jackson, Ethan Jackson, Piazza and Pete Salvati.

“Up and down the order everyone has been contributing,” said Yorke.

Pitching, which was a huge question mark when the season started, has been Colts Neck’s greatest asset. The Cougars were a team with one solid starter, Anthony DeSclafani, when the season began. But they head into the postseason with a strong three-pitcher rotation.

Hayes, who was a closer last year, moved up to starter and has pitched much better than his 2-4 record. The lefty hasn’t gotten a lot of run support like he did against Barnegat, where his eight strikeouts in four innings were an indicator of just how good he can be.

“We feel real good about having Dom Hayes on the mound,” noted Yorke.

The biggest surprise has been Ethan Jackson. Graduation and transfers led the Cougar pitching staff all but bare and it is Jackson who has stepped up and given the Cougars what they needed, another quality arm behind DeSclafani. With a 6-1 record, he’s done that and more, providing the team with the pitching depth required to win a seasonlong championship, as well as a tournament crown.

“Ethan is a pitcher who goes into every pitch with a game plan,” said Yorke. “He knows what he wants to do. He throws hard and is sneaky fast. He has a sharp breaking curve ball that drops and his change-up is outstanding.”

DeSclafani, 5-1, is no surprise. The junior has been dominating lineups with his fastball since his freshman season. As Yorke predicted, as the weather warmed up, so would his ace, who is clearly one of the most polished hurlers in the SC. When he has everything working, hitters are helpless.

“He’s been super sharp,” noted Yorke. “He’s pitched great for us all year.”

In his last outing, DeSclafani held Freehold Borough to three hits and fanned 12 in a 7-1 victory.

Yorke said his Cougars “feel real comfortable” no matter who is on the mound for them – DeSclafani, Jackson or Hayes.

That’s a luxury the Cougars hope to take advantage of this week.