Senior right-hander Andrew Cohen, who battled a series of illnesses during the offseason, fought through some uncharacteristic control problems Wednesday while pitching the Monroe High School baseball team, ranked No. 4 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, to a 5-2 comeback victory over ninth-ranked North Brunswick.
The Falcons (2-0) rallied for three runs in the home sixth, winning their second consecutive game in their final at-bat to complete a regular-season sweep of the Raiders (0-2), who had the misfortune of opening the season against one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s best pitching tandems.
A day after ace Danny Marsh struck out eight in a complete-game victory, Cohen fanned 12 and walked seven in another route-going performance.
“He’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever met,” Monroe coach Pat Geroni said of Cohen. “He didn’t have his great stuff early on. His control, which has been great the last three years, started to elude him a little bit. He just kept his composure and did a great job. He made the pitches when he needed to make them.”
The Raiders stranded 11 runners – eight in scoring position – as Cohen pitched himself in and out of trouble.
An offseason of mononucleosis, pneumonia and flu took its toll on Cohen. He lost 15 pounds but showed no sign of fatigue on the mound Wednesday.
Considering 19 batters he faced either fanned or walked, Cohen incredibly threw just 112 pitches. He whiffed two of the last three Raiders to seal the win.
After yielding a two-out RBI double to Victor Konstantinovsky in the first inning and an unearned run in the fourth, Cohen buckled down, giving his team a chance to chip away at the 2-0 deficit.
“My mindset was the same,” Cohen said about pitching through adversity. “I just wanted to make sure all the other guys weren’t getting down on themselves. I just wanted to get them back on track to know that we have one common goal. That was to win this game and sweep the series.”
Zack Gorham – the hero of Tuesday’s 4-3 victory with a two-out game-winning solo homer – capped a two-run rally in the fifth with a two-out RBI single. Chris Hernandez, who plated a run in the fifth with a fielder’s choice groundout, broke the game open with a two-run double in the ensuing frame.
North Brunswick, which struggled at times offensively last season, failed to come up with timely hits Wednesday, a concern for Raiders coach Ryan Lillis.
“They are good arms,” Lillis said of Marsh and Cohen, “but we want to play against good competition. I think it’s a good thing to see good pitching to get your timing down. We’ve just got to hit the baseball a little bit better.”
Geroni allows Marsh and Cohen, who scattered four hits, including two infield singles, to call their own games.
“I have confidence in them,” Geroni said. “They will be playing at the next level (in college). That’s something they are going to have to have a feel for. If they shake it (the sign off) at the next level, and they know that’s what they want to throw, it better be a pitch with the result they want as well.”
Cohen, despite his apparent lack of control, never wavered Wednesday in his confidence to deliver.