Toms River North junior pitcher Steve Slagmolen was asked three direct questions by Mariners’ head coach Ted Schelmay in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday night.
“He said, ‘Do you want to do your part? Do you want it bad?’ ” Slagmolen said. “I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Do you want to go to the bullpen?’ I told him, ‘This is my game to finish.’ ”
Finish it Slagmolen did. After he walked the bases loaded to begin the seventh, he proceeded to strike out the next two batters and then got a 6-4 force out at second to preserve Toms River North’s 2-0 win over No. 1 seed and defending champion Jackson Memorial in the Ocean County Tournament championship game at Toms River East’s Raider Ravine.
It was Toms River North’s first OCT championship since 2002, third in its history and also enabled it to snap a nine-game losing streak to Jackson Memorial dating back to the start of the 2011 season.
The Mariners (14-5) did not allow a run in their four games in the tournament as they showed off their pitching depth that consists of seniors Ron Marinaccio, Tuesday night’s starter, and Karl Blum and Slagmolen.
Marinaccio (five innings) and Slagmolen (the final two) combined to pitch a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
But, both the shutout streak, as well as the win, were in grave danger when Slagmolen walked the seven, eight and nine hitters to begin the seventh.
It was that same part of the Jaguars’ order that began a remarkable rally for them on April 24 against Toms River North when they rallied for four runs to record an 8-7 win after there were two outs and nobody on. Schelmay said when he went to the mound for the second time in the seventh, he was leaning toward not making a pitching change. Slagmolen had come into the game to begin the sixth after Marinaccio experienced some soreness in his elbow.
Schelmay admitted to asking Slagmolen, whether he should make a pitching change.
“He (Slagmolen) said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Good because you’re the man I want out here. I have the confidence in you to do this. Do you have the confidence in yourself?’ ” Schelmay said. “He said, ‘I do coach.’ All the players said the same thing. I don’t know if that hit a nerve. But whatever it did, he did the job after that.”
Slagmolen struck out pinch-hitter Nick Dabrio on a 2-2 fastball.
Jaguars’ senior catcher Matt Thaiss was next. A left-handed hitter with tremendous power, the short right field porch of 300 feet down the line made Thaiss even more of a threat.
Slagmolen had also not had a good history against Thaiss.
“Coming into the game, Matt Thaiss was 2-for-3 off me with two home runs,” Slagmolen said. “As soon as he stepped into the box, I knew it was just me and him. I wanted him bad.”
Slagmolen got Thaiss to swing and a miss at 1-1 inside curve ball and then struck him out on a 2-2 fastball.
“I knew coach was going to off-speed. I wanted a fastball up and in. Got him on a fastball up and in,” Slagmolen said.
Slagmolen then got Spencer Young to ground out to shortstop Carmen Sclafani to end it..
Toms River North scored in the first and fourth with the aid of errors. A two-out throwing error plated the first run. Sclafani delivered a two-out RBI single for the second run.