This past weekend, the Cumberland Dukes Baseball team (15-3) faced perennial contender, the Ocean County College Vikings (7-5), in a 3-game series that illustrated the grind that is the Region 19 season. The two teams were separated by just 4 runs total over the course of the 3-game set as runs were tough to come by. In the end, this classic battle came down to the final swing as Luke Turner, who entered as a pinch-hitter, drove the first pitch he saw over the centerfield wall to clinch the series sweep for Cumberland. However, there was much drama from the first pitch in game 1 to the final swing by Turner.
In Game 1, the weather played a central role as gusty winds that was followed by brisk temperatures put both teams out of a typical baseball element. Despite the tough conditions, Jarrett Quinn took the ball as the starting pitcher and continued his 2018 dominance as he kept the Vikings in check for 6 2/3 innings. In another strong performance, Quinn scattered 4 hits, gave up 1 earned run, and struck out 5. The Dukes offense used a selective approach and agressive baserunning to charge out to a 4-run 1st inning lead. Patrick Meenan, Ryan McIssac, Dyland Scaranda, and Nicholas Milhan all reached base and scored for the Dukes in the 1st inning. Later in the 5th inning, McIssac, who was 3 for 5 on the day scoring 2 runs, reached base and was driven in by an Ivan Solis double that sailed over the centerfielder's glove. Sophomore OF Misael Castillo followed that up with a double of his own which sailed into deep right-centerfield.
The Vikings would score 2 in the 9th, but Nick Hillesheim would shut the door for his first save of his career. The win was one for the record books as Quinn would win his 17th win which puts him atop the pitching wins list at Cumberland as he surpassed both Cody Stashak 14' (15) and Justin Smith 17' (16). Stashak played for St. John's University (NY) following his career at Cumberland and is now pitching in the Minnesota Twins organization after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Justin Smith is now pitching at Rowan University.
Game 2 was a tale of timely hitting as baserunners reaching scoring position were scarce. Anthony Capasso was the starter for the Dukes and was brilliant for all but the first inning. Ocean County came out aggressively to the tune of 6 first inning hits, but only scoring 2 runs. For the remaining 6 innings, Capasso held the Vikings to just 1 hit keeping the Dukes in the game. The Dukes offense had their struggles early as they were unable to string together the hits they needed on Ocean starter Tom Corragio. The big hit came in the 5th inning with the Dukes trailing 2-1. Nicholas Milhan drove the ball deep to left field for a double that put himself and Ryan McIssac in scoring postion. Ivan Solis then followed with a single that would score the go-ahead run, which is all Capasso would need to close out the Vikings for the 3-2 victory. Capasso would finish the day giving up 7 hits and tallying 8 strikeouts. Dylan Scaranda would add a double and score a run of his own to highlight the Dukes offense in game 2.
In the final game of the series, Ocean County would again control the early portion of the matchup as they would carry a 2-1 lead late into the game. Similar to game 2, runners in scoring position would develop into a hot commodity as Ocean starter Don Zellman and Cumberland hurler Steve Bowley would scatter 6 hits apiece and carry 2 earned runs into the final frames. Bowley would go 6 1/3 innings giving up just 6 hits and allowing 3 runs to cross. Freshman RHP Jose Rodriguez would relieve Bowley in the 7th and strikeout two batters with the bases loaded to keep the Vikings from adding to their 3-1 lead. Rodriguez's performance would prove crucial as the Dukes would mount a comeback to add to an already exciting season. After a leadoff walk, Ivan Solis would drive a double down the left field line for a double. Head Coach Keith Gorman would make a move and have Luke Turner pinch hit with hopes to drive in two runs to tie the game. Turner would proceed to drive the first pitch he would see over the center field fence for a walk off 3-run home run as the Dukes would win 4-3. It was his first career home run as he sent the Dukes dugout and home crowd into a frenzy.
The Dukes next take the field on Friday as they host Bergen County in another tough Region 19 Matchup. First pitch is scheduled for 3 PM.