By BILL ALBRIGHT
JERSEY SHORE - After dropping a tough, 8-7 extra-inning game to Milton in the first meeting of the season, the Jersey Shore baseball team might have had a message to deliver to the Black Panthers.
Following the rematch Thursday afternoon, consider business taken care of as the Bulldogs handled their HAC-I foes by the final of 10-4.
"I think our kids came ready to play today, which is always interesting in high school sports," Shore manager Matt O'Brien said. "The kids were ready to go from the first inning on and they were able to carry the momentum throughout by adding on once we had the lead. They cut our lead to just two runs late in the game, but we were able to score four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and that was huge for us."
With the win, the Bulldogs mathematically clinch the top spot in the divisional standings, showing only one loss in league outings.
"Mathematically, we won the league today," O'Brien said. "We have one loss (in league play) and everybody has at least four losses. We only have two more league games with Shikellamy and Montoursville. The way the district looks, it appears as though only two teams will qualify, so it looks like we are going to be playing an angry Milton team in the district tournament. They will be ready to come back and get a piece of us. But for now, it is congratulations on winning the league, but we still have some good games left, including one with State College. We have to move on and see where we can improve and get better heading into the district tournament."
The Bulldogs wasted no time in getting things started after spotting the Black Panthers a run in their half of the first inning. They went on top for keeps when Colton Potter led off with a single to right, and one out later, Blake Musser belted a two-run home run to right for the 2-1 lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Shore extended its lead to 5-1 with three runs in the second, the key hits in that uprising were a RBI single by Boone Costa and a two-run double to right-center by Kaiden Brungard.
In the Shore third, Ryan Koch led off with a single, and later scored on Costa's second RBI single of the game, for the 6-1 lead that held through the fourth inning.
"They got on top early, but I think we had our chances (to score) early as well," Milton head coach Chace Phillips said. "We had four guys in scoring position with one out and we didn't get anyone in. Against a team like this (Shore), you have to take advantage of those situations when you get them. When you leave guys on in scoring position in the first inning and 11 for the game, you simply aren't going to win."
Milton did manage to score a single run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to cut the Shore lead to 6-4, but not to let things get away from them, the Bulldogs tacked on four insurance runs to set the final at 10-4.
Carrying the big sticks in the sixth for Shore were Koch with a two-run single and Potter with a RBI double. Zach Miller also pushed a run across for the canine crew when he worked Milton relief pitcher Reynaldo Adames for a bases-loaded walk.
"That (scoring the four runs) was important to us," O'Brien said. "What all good teams do when they are pressured is respond so when they chipped away at us, we had to come back and add some (runs) and we were able to do that. When we did that, we chased their starting pitcher (Cody Shaffer) out and then we continued to hit the next pitcher hard."
With his teammates busy scoring runs, senior right-hander Tellef Notevarp, although not operating with his best stuff, was strong when he needed to be. For the game, Notevarp worked 5 1-3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on a half-dozen hits. Notevarp worked his way out of several jams by striking out a total of eight Black Panther hitters. If there was a down side to his effort, it was that he walked a half-dozen Milton batters.
"He (Notevarp) definitely didn't have his best stuff today, but he battled and that is the game of pitching," O'Brien said. "He left a lot of pitches up and they are a good-hitting team, but he was around the (strike) zone enough to make them chase. Even though he didn't have his best stuff, he battled and overall did a great job for us."
Milton stranded 11 runners for the game, and that was largely due to the Bulldog defense rising to the occasion to make plays in key situations.
"I think that (making plays) is the difference in any baseball game," O'Brien said. "The key is do you get two-out clutch hitting, and we were fortunate enough to have good pitching in those situations to keep them from getting those key hits. (They (Notevarp and reliever Travis Eiswerth) really buckled down and threw some good pitches and our defense played well behind them."
Shore will be right back in action this afternoon when they host Bellefonte in a non-conference game slated for a first pitch at 4:30 p.m.
JERSEY SHORE 10,
MIL 100 012 0 - 4 7 1
JS 231 004 X - 10 9 1
MIL: Cody Shaffer, Reynaldo Adames (6) and Brady Chappel. JS: Tellef Notevarp, Travis Eiswerth (6) and Ryan Koch. WP: Notevarp. LP: Shaffer. 2B - MIL: Chappel, Damian Moyer 2, Taylor Porter. JS: Colton Potter and Kaiden Brungard. HR - JS: Blake Musser. SF: MIL: Jordan Bordner. DO: Milton 1.