Mainland pitcher Max Bell was on the mound for six full innings at Lower Cape May Regional, where he threw four strikeouts and led the Mustangs to a 6-0 shutout.
First-year head coach Billy Kern said Bell threw close to 90 pitches in the game and he couldn’t be prouder of his effort. This was Bell’s first game of the season, after suffering a freak leg injury and sitting out the first three games. Those games included a 4-3 loss to Holy Spirit, a 1-0 loss to Oakcrest and a dominating 12-5 win over Cedar Creek. Kern said the Cedar Creek victory instilled some confidence in the team.
“After the win over Cedar Creek, we started to feel a bit more comfortable,” Kern said.
The Mustangs (2-2) had nothing short of a dominating performance against Lower as well. Mainland jumped off to a 2-0 lead in the second inning and scored the other four runs in the third.
Mainland’s first run came on a Brian Khoury RBI when he brought Kyle Sadreameli home on a base hit. Sadreameli was on second base following a base hit and an Alex DeNafo bunt. Denafo was thrown out at first on the bunt, but Austin Clock was walked by Dan Whalen immediately after. Khoury cracked a single up the center, giving Sadreameli just enough time to round third and make it to home. Whalen walked two more batters to bring Clock in for a run and make it a 2-0 game.
The inning ended on a double play.
In the top of the third, Lower (0-2) put themselves in an even bigger hole by continuing to walk batters. Colin O’Shea and Sadreameli were walked, while designated hitter Joe Fortunato picked up a base hit to load the bases.
Lower head coach Mike Kuemmerle then made the decision to pull Whalen off the mound and relieve him with Josh Pennington.
Pennington threw one strikeout before Clock stepped to the plate and hit a grounder toward right field for an RBI. Clock was tagged out at first base. Pennington walked back-to-back batters, bringing Fortunato to home plate for another Mainland run. With the score 4-0 and the bases loaded, the Mustangs felt comfortable enough to start swinging away, leading to the biggest offensive play of the game.
Matt Eagan stepped to the plate with two outs on the board. On the third pitch, he took a swing and ripped one up the center for a two-run single. Eagan picked up the two RBIs on the hit as Sadreameli and Khoury hustled home to make it 6-0.
Eagan was 1-for-3 against Lower.
Kern said his team did an outstanding job defensively, backing up Bell and making big plays to keep the Caper Tigers from getting on the board. Kuemmerle said his team couldn’t get anything going from an offensive standpoint and gave Mainland a great deal of credit for their performance.
“My hat’s off to Mainland – they’ve got a really good ball club,” Kuemmerle said. “Bell was in control out there and they simply outplayed us.”
Mainland will be back on the field on Monday, April 16, when they host St. Augustine Prep following spring break. Kern said the team will still be practicing during the holiday break and hopes the Mustangs improve, as there are several tough games ahead.