JERSEY SHORE - When you play all three aspects of the game of baseball well, you put yourself in a position to win the game.
That was the script followed by Jersey Shore Monday night as Post 36 tossed a 3-0 shutout at Watsontown Post 323 in a West Branch Senior Division American Legion game.
"We were able to play good defense, we pitched well and got some timely hits when we needed them and things worked out in our favor," Shore head coach Todd Rishel said.
While Rishel was happy with the well-balanced effort of his club, Post 323 head coach Harold Raup felt that his team had opportunities, but they just didn't capitalize on them.
Those opportunities came in the second inning when they had runners on first and second with one out and failed to score before failing to score again in the sixth when they had runners on second and third, again with only one out.
"We hit the ball hard in every opportunity we had, but unfortunately for us, we hit it right at them," Raup said. "Some nights you have that. Lately for us, those same balls have found the hole and we have been scoring runs. But tonight, we hit it right at them and when that happens, you aren't going to score."
Providing the pitching for Post 36 was Mika Mertz as the portsider went the distance to pick up the win. For his effort, Mertz only allowed Watsontown three hits, the first one not coming along until one out in the fifth inning. Not overpowering, but effective, Mertz did a good job of mixing up his pitches to strike out five Post 323 batters while issuing a pair of walks.
"Not really," Mertz said when asked if he pitched any differently when Post 323 had runners on base. "I am not making any excuses, but the mound felt uncomfortable to me tonight so I just tried to focus in more when they got runners on. I knew what I had to do and I felt confident in having them hit it on the ground because our defense has been solid all year."
Mertz was quick to point his finger to the Shore defense for its outstanding play.
"We don't get rated as one of the best defenses around for nothing," he said. "They put in a lot of hard work and they perform very well when they have to. As for my effort, I am happy with it. Five strikeouts isn't the most, but it isn't the least. I look at it as not being about striking people out, but rather what we do with the ball if and when they hit it."
Rishel was also happy with Mertz's effort on the bump.
"He (Mertz) did really well tonight," Rishel said. "He was able to hit his spots and he only gave up three hits. He kept the ball down, got a lot of ground balls and his defense played very well behind him."
With Mertz and Post 323's David Hitesman locked in a pitching duel through three-and-a-half innings, Shore finally broke through with a pair of runs in the fourth.
Zach Miller reached on an error and Blake Musser followed with a booming double to left to drive Miller across the plate with the game's first run. Two pitches later, Musser made it 2-0 when he scampered home on a wild pitch offered by Hitesman.
With Mertz keeping the game under control, Shore added an insurance run in the sixth and they did it with two outs.
Zach DePasqua walked and Cody Bradley reached on a Post 323 error. With runners on second and third, Boone Costa rose to the occasion as he drilled a RBI single to left to set the final at 3-0.
In some of their recent wins, Post 36 has gotten off to a slow start. However, slow starts don't seem to bother Rishel as he said that isn't necessarily characteristic of the way his team gets out of the blocks.
"In some of the games we were able to get runs in the first or second and get off to a quick start," he said. "Tonight we had baserunners on in the first couple of innings, but we weren't able to make anything happen because we weren't able to get any of those timely hits we talked about."
With the win, Shore has little time to enjoy the 3-0 shutout because they travel to Watsontown tonight for a rematch with Post 323.
"It will be a different game on a different field," Rishel said. "Most of the big guys will show up for us so that hopefully we can get the same result."