St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Bryce Herman and his teammates knew about Jersey Shore’s proud tradition.
The Bulldogs have won five straight District 4 championships. Though they return just four starters, they still have pitcher Travis Bradley, a right-hander who has pitched in big games during Jersey Shore’s championship run. He pitched a gem in the first round of the PIAA tournament last year, a pitcher’s duel that the Bulldogs lost by one run.
Bradley was back on the mound to open this season against the Wolves.
But St. Joseph’s wasn’t intimidated by the hard-throwing right-hander after watching leadoff hitter Jack Mangene put together a 14-pitch at bat.
“When Jack went out and did what he did,” Herman said, “we all knew that we could all do it.”
The Wolves jumped out to a three-run lead after the first inning and led by five going into the sixth before Jersey Shore stormed back to earn a 13-7 win Wednesday at Shaner Sports Complex.
Herman put St. Joseph’s in position to win with his performance on the mound and at the plate. The Wolves’ starting pitcher allowed two hits and two runs in five innings and finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs.
But St. Joseph’s couldn’t hold on as Jersey Shore scored 11 runs in the final two innings to secure the win.
With the Wolves ahead 7-2 going into the sixth, St. Joseph’s coach Greg Herman ended his son’s day on the mound.
“I had him on a 65-pitch limit,” Greg Herman said. “He was at 65 pitches, so no use stretching him out anymore this year. We had him build up to 65, so he’ll throw a couple games at 65, and he’ll bump up to 85.”
Joe Johnston took over on the mound and struggled with his command.
Jersey Shore’s Lane Hale was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Hale stole second, reached third on an error and scored on a wild pitch. Johnston walked the next two hitters before being replaced by Nathaniel Mellott.
After getting a strikeout, Mellott allowed a bunt single to load the bases and gave up a four-pitch walk to bring in another Jersey Shore run. He followed the walk with another strikeout, but Levi Lorson’s two-out, bloop single drove in a pair of runs and pulled the Bulldogs within 7-6.
The Wolves maintained that lead going to the seventh, but they couldn’t close out the win.
Jersey Shore scored seven runs in the inning, highlighted by a three-run double by Allen Saar.
Still, Bulldogs coach Steve Waldman was impressed by St. Joseph’s.
“I watched how they play the ball and how the kids back up the pitcher and they’re always moving, they’re always doing something,” Waldman said. “I watched the whole field, the infield, the outfield, they’re a very well-coached team. They’re going to be tough.”
St. Joseph’s scheduled the game against the successful Class AAA program to challenge the team.
“We wanted the toughest opponent we could find right out of the gate,” Greg Herman said.
And Mangene set the tone in the bottom of the first inning.
The left-handed hitter swung and missed at the first pitch and fouled off a breaking ball to fall into an 0-2 hole. After taking a ball off the plate, he fouled off four straight pitches. Bradley then missed low, and Mangene fouled off the next two pitches.
That brought Hale, Jersey Shore’s catcher, to the mound for a quick meeting.
Four pitches later, after a high fastball, Mangene had won the battle and stood on first.
“That was awesome,” Greg Herman said with a smile. “We talked about that, we do quality at bats and one of the things we do is a seven-pitch at bat, we consider a quality at bat, so he had two in a row.”
An error and hit batter loaded the bases with no outs, but Bradley recorded two straight strikeouts before Herman stepped to the plate. Herman drilled the first pitch to center field, falling for a double to clear the bases.
St. Joseph’s led 3-0 going to the second inning and maintained control after five innings.
“We have a very, very good team,” Greg Herman said. “And we fought clear ‘til the end.”