It was a situation that called for having a bulldog mentality.
Toms River North, which had been no-hit on 34 pitches by Jackson Memorial senior left-hander Anthony Rocco through the first four innings on Thursday at Ryan Field had loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fifth.
“I just had to fight through it. I couldn’t let them up,” Rocco said.
Rocco then swiftly closed the door on the Mariners by striking out the next three batters.
“That was a big turning point in the game,” Rocco said.
Jackson Memorial, which led by two runs at the time of Rocco’s heroics, went on to record a 7-0 win in a key early season Shore Conference Class A South game.
Rocco, who will play collegiate baseball at Pace University, wound up with a nifty two-hitter on just 81 pitches as the Jaguars (2-0, 2-0), No. 4 in the preseason Asbury Park Press Top 10, extended their winning streak over the No. 2 Mariners to eight since the start of the 2011 season.
Rocco, who went 3-0 last season, showed he has both the stuff and the toughness to replace the graduated Brandon Holup as the ace of the Jaguars’ pitching staff.
“Something like (pitching out of a jam as Rocco did) gives you a charge,” said Jackson Memorial coach Frank Malta. “It gives everybody a charge.”
Toms River North (1-1, 1-1) had loaded the bases on a bloop single to center by Anthony Ferlise, a single to center by Sal Smith and a fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Silvestri on which a throw to third base was late.
“I took it one out a time,” Rocco said.
He got Carmen Sclafani swinging on a 2-2 low fastball down the middle.
“When I got the first out, I felt the momentum go toward us, and they just dropped,” Rocco said.
He then got his opposite number Ron Marinaccio, Toms River North’s leadoff batter, swinging on a 1-2 curve.
“I executed a good pitch,” Rocco said. “I was saying, ‘Just one more.”’
The one more came when he got Cory Cordasco swinging on a 2-2 low fastball down the middle.
“It was a pretty awesome feeling. I felt like the whole world was cheering and everything,” said Rocco, who struck out seven and walked three.
“He showed heart. He showed guts,” said Jackson Memorial senior catcher Matt Thaiss, who helped Rocco get out of a first-and-second, nobody-out jam in the third by picking a runner off first. “He let it all hang out and bulldog down and shut them down in a key part of the game.”
Toms River North had just one baserunner over the final two innings. Rocco, who admitted he did not have his best stuff throughout the game, got eight fly-ball or pop-up outs and five ground balls. He had just one inning in which he threw more than 13 pitches and that was the fifth when he threw 23.
“Anthony really took the bull by the horns (in the fifth) and attacked the strike zone,” Malta said. “In that inning, he was really able to locate.”
Jackson Memorial did not exactly hit the cover off the ball, itself. The Jaguars collected just four hits, and two of those came in the seventh when they scored five runs. Marinaccio, who was 5-0 last year. certainly deserved better. The Mariners committed eight errors, including five in the seventh inning. Seven of those errors contributed to all of Jackson Memorial’s runs. Ed Guippone gave Rocco the only run he needed on an RBI ground out in the third. Joe Demaio added a run-scoring single in the fourth.