2009-07-22 / Sports

Colts Neck captures District 19 crown

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Little League baseball changes when players reach the age of 13. They move to a regulation size field where the pitcher's mound is 60 feet from home plate, not 40, and the bases are 90 feet, not 60 feet, apart.

As Kevin Clark, the manager of the Colts Neck Little League 13-year-old allstar team pointed out, games can go from pitcher's duels to high-scoring affairs.

"Pitching gets neutralized and there is a lot more hitting," he said.

Clark's players were more than ready for the way the game changed: they scored 51 runs in four games on the way to winning the District 19 championship.

"We had good athletes who were aggressive running the bases and good hitters," he said.

While hitters may be ahead of pitchers at this age, and Colts Neck was as good as anyone when it came to offensive production, it was still solid pitching and defense that carried the all-star team to the crown.

Colts Neck won the District 19 title on July 1 at the Tinton Falls Little League Complex with an 11-1 victory over Freehold Township. Colts Neck was 4-0 in tournament play.

Colts Neck outslugged Middletown in its opening game, 20-15, and then beat Eatontown, 15-1, in the second game.

In the winner's bracket final, Colts Neck had its biggest test to date, beating Freehold Township, 5-4, with a seventh-inning rally. That win put Colts Neck in the championship game, where they awaited the winner of a game between Freehold Township and Middletown.

Freehold Township won that game to advance to the final vs. Colts Neck. The rematch between the teams would not require a last-inning rally.

With pitch counts on every manager's mind, depth on the mound would be critical. Colts Neck used as many as four pitchers in a game and averaged three pitchers per game. Throwing fewer pitches was the key and to do that, Clark said, Colts Neck's coaches stressed control.

Vincent Vitarelli and Brendan Mongiovi were the team's strongest starters. Mongiovi started and earned the win in the championship game against Freehold Township.

Matt Golden, a power pitcher, was the team's closer. He shut the door against Freehold Township in the seventh inning of Colts Neck's 5-4 win over Freehold Township earlier in the tournament.

Kyle Murrin, Adam Saeger and Joe Di- Croce all contributed when they were handed the ball. In relief, DiCroce earned the win in Colts Neck's 20-15 victory over Middletown. Colts Neck was trailing and it was DiCroce who shut down Middletown and gave his teammates a chance to come back and win the game.

"We told them to throw strikes," Clark said. "All six of our pitchers had good control."

The pitchers had something else working for them: defense. They could afford to throw strikes and let their opponents hit the ball because behind them, the Colts Neck defense made the plays. The all-stars were strong at every position in the field.

In the 5-4 victory over Freehold Township, Colts Neck trailed 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on first and third, Colts Neck tied the game, 4-4, on a squeeze play. Will Hoffbauer scored from third on Jake Mullaney's bunt. Golden's single made it 5-4 and he closed out the game by pitching a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning.

Throughout the tournament, Connor Smith was the team's most consistent hitter.

The 2009 Colts Neck 13-year-old allstars are Brendan Clark, Vincent Vitarelli, Joe DiCroce, Matt Golden, Christian Wagar, Connor Smith, Will Hoffbauer, Kyle Murrin, Chris Thomas, Jake Mullaney, Nick Daniele, Adam Saeger and Brandon Mongiovi.

Clark's assistant coaches were Joe Vitarelli and Mike Fitzgerald.

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