TOMS RIVER – The Point Boro baseball team can say they are the first team in program history to life the Ocean County Tournament [OCT] trophy above their heads after defeating Jackson Liberty 10-7.
Helmets flew as every single Panther headed for Sam Collins on the mound as a routine play sealed Boro’s fate and created history at Toms River East on Thursday, May 16. With two outs to go, Collins forced a ground ball out of Liberty. The ball rolled to Nick Zbikowski on second, who then made the throw to Paul Franceschini at first, cueing the celebration.
“I don’t even know how to react, this is amazing,” Collins said. “We’re bringing it home.”
Boro found its bats early, driving four runs home in the first and another in the second to take the 5-0 lead, but Liberty proved, once again, why teams just cannot count them out and tied the game with a five-run third inning.
The Panthers, however, refused to give the Lions a lead of any kind and made their defensive stance inning after inning. Eventually Sam Young connected for the two RBI double, reigniting his team’s offense, 7-5. Boro went on to bring in three more runs in the fifth to double their runs, 10-5.
“We faced [Liberty pitcher Nick] DeCarlo the second time we played them and I think we had 13 strikeouts as a team … so we were ready for it. We know he likes fastballs … and I was able to put it where they weren’t. It got the adrenaline going, we knew the lead was never safe today but we were ready,” Young said.
In the final two innings, Liberty drove in a run each and threatened late in the seventh. Boro continued to make defensive plays, including Christian Aurin’s jaw-dropping catch at the centerfield wall and Frankie Dominici dominating third base, to go home with the title, 10-7.
Nick Guzzi started on the mound for Boro and earned tournament honors, including the tournament MVP and game MVP. But all the junior ace cared for, was making history and his team.
The win also marks the first over Liberty this season, as both teams battled for ownership of the division title.
“It’s huge to say we’re the first to do this, it’s just insane,” he said. “You know how bad we wanted Liberty, we’ve had some history there, they’re an amazing team but we got it done and I’m really proud of my teammates.”
With the OCT trophy safe in Point Boro, the Panthers now look ahead to other postseason tournaments including the Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 game against No. 7 Wall Township on Saturday, May 18, at 11 a.m. and the state home game against No. 12 Monmouth on Monday, May 20, at 4 p.m.
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