Brick Memorial continues its amazing run in Central IV

Brick Memorial continues its amazing run in Central IV

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Brick Memorial continues its amazing run in Central IV

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JACKSON

One year ago, Brick Memorial saw first-hand how a team with a low-seed when the state tournament began could get hot and go on a Cinderella run.

Manalapan’s 2012 Group IV state championship run started with a win at Brick Memorial.

“Ironically, before the tournament started, we tried to compare ourselves to Manalapan,” said Brick Memorial coach Evan Rizzitello. “We said, ‘We’re coming into the state tournament with not a good seed, right around .500 record. We tried to instill in them (his players) that it is possible. If they (Manalapan) did it, why not we?’ ”

Brick Memorial, which was 11-12 when the state tournament began, is now one win from its first sectional championship. Senior right-hander Brian Cottrell pitched an efficient four-hitter on just 75 pitches as the No. 14 seed Mustangs defeated No. 2 seed Jackson Memorial, 2-0, on Wednesday in an NJSIAA Central IV semifinal at Larry D’Zio Field.

The result snapped a 13-game Brick Memorial losing streak to Jackson Memorial, dating back to a 4-2 win on April 30, 2009.

The Mustangs (15-12), who have advanced to a sectional final for the first time since 1996, when they were defeated, 1-0, by Rancocas Valley in the South IV final, will play at No. 9 seed Hunterdon Central on Friday. Hunterdon Central defeated Marlboro, 11-1, in five innings on Wednesday.

Brick Memorial was 8-10 after an extra-inning loss at Toms River South on May 6. That loss concluded a five-game in five-day stretch. The Mustangs went 1-4 in that stretch with three losses by a run. All the games during that stretch were low-scoring affairs.

Seven of the Mustangs losses during the season are by a run, and another was a seven-run loss in eight innings to Jackson Memorial on April 2. Brick Memorial also lost by a run to Jackson Memorial on April 22.

So, in reality, the Mustangs were probably a solid team that had played in some tough luck during the season.

“I knew we were going to be here,” said Cottrell, who has pitched shutouts in both of his state tournament starts and allowed just seven hits combined in those starts. “I felt (during the season) everything didn’t go our way. We knew if we came together at the end we could put this together.”

“We kept instilling in the guys, even if it’s not working for us now and didn’t work for us in the OCT (Ocean County Tournament) and Shore Conference (Shore Conference Tournament), ‘that this is the big one. We really want to go after it,’ ” Rizzitello said.

And with Cottrell (6-1) on the mound, Brick Memorial is capable of beating just about anybody.

“The last two years, outside of one start, he’s been pretty dominant,” Rizzitello said.

Cottrell, who has set a Brick Memorial single-season record for strikeouts with 81, only struck out four on Wednesday, but his change-up was a pitch the Jaguars (23-4) could not deal with. Cottrell said he threw just one curveball the entire game. He had three innings where he threw less than 10 pitches.

“I knew I had it today. I knew they weren’t going to score off me,” said Cottrell, who got a no-decision against Jackson Memorial in the season-opener and was a hard-luck 1-0 loser to the Jaguars and Asbury Park Press Player of the Year Brandon Holup last year in the OCT championship game.

Jackson Memorial only threatened once. Kyle Johnson and Ed Guippone singled with two out in the third, but center fielder Kyle Cala caught Matt Thaiss’ sinking line drive to end that threat.

“That was awesome. He’s (Cala) been there all season,” Cottrell said.

Jackson Memorial, which was defeated by two-time Group IV state champion Manalapan in the state tournament the last two seasons, had just two base-runners the final four innings.

“He (Cottrell) had a lot of confidence and he was throwing a lot of strikes,” said Jackson Memorial coach Frank Malta. “He was throwing ahead of counts. He’s very good. He’s a guy who can do just this to a lineup and just take control of a game. He made us look silly at times, but that’s just a credit to him.”

Brick Memorial scratched out nine hits against Jaguars’ starter Anthony Rocco and scored in the second inning on a two-out RBI bloop single to center by Tyler Hobbs and an RBI double to center in the third by Cala.

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