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Colts Neck, N.J. - Things unraveled for the Colts Neck High School baseball team at the wrong time in Tuesday’s season opening 6-4 loss against Ocean Township.
Tied 3-3 going into the fifth inning, a base-hit by Ocean’s Ryan Toomey with runners on first and second went from one run scoring for the Spartans to two as Colts Neck committed a throwing error when trying to get the Ocean runner out at third base that put the Cougars into a 5-3 hole.
Later on in the inning, Cole Kelly extended the Ocean lead to 6-3 with an RBI groundout.
Kelly gave Ocean an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, knocking in two of his game-high three RBI on a two-run single.
Just like they did in the bottom of the first inning down two runs, Colts Neck fought back with a rally attempt in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Junior Rob Mannino, who knocked in Colts Neck’s first run of the season on an RBI single in the first inning and scored on a wild pitch to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead in that inning, got the party started with a leadoff single up the middle.
Mannino finished going two-for-three at the plate with one RBI and two runs scored in the three-hole for Colts Neck.
“Tunnel-Vision. Just looking for the ball on the outer half and smoking up the middle where it came from,” Mannino said on his approach at the plate. “I felt I did well at the plate.”
Next up stood senior Reece Horneck, and the future Rutgers Scarlet Knight helped Colts Neck trim its deficit.
Horneck bashed a shot right off the right field fence for an RBI triple, giving him a team-high two RBI in the contest following his sac-fly in the first inning to cut it to a two-run game.
A man on third and zero outs, Colts Neck was back in business but the Cougars’ rally took a big hit when Horneck was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a fly ball out by Dan Cowles to center field.
The Cougars got a runner in scoring position in the next at-bat off a George Zemlanicky double. However, Colts Neck couldn’t get Zelmanicky in and only managed to get one run in the sixth.
Horneck struck out the side in the seventh inning to keep Colts Neck only down two, giving him two scoreless innings in relief.
Colin Kratzer reached on an error with two outs in the seventh inning to give Colts Neck some life, but Ocean’s pitcher Max Winters got Nick Torres to pop up to the pitcher's mound to finish off his complete game performance for the win.
Winters struck out three Colts Neck batters, while also having a hit and a RBI at the dish. His RBI groundout in the third inning tied the game at 3-3.
Torres took the loss in his one inning of work on the mound in the fifth for the Cougars, giving up three runs, two earned with a strikeout. The senior also had a hit and a run scored at the plate for Colts Neck, while also throwing out a runner at home from center field that ended the first inning.
Walter Jordan got the start for Colts Neck and pitched well, giving up three runs (all unearned) on six hits with two strikeouts in four innings pitched.
“We didn’t play well enough to get the win,” said Colts Neck baseball coach Mike Yorke. “We made a few too many mental mistakes. A few physical mistakes. It cost us.”
Colts Neck will get another crack at Ocean in its next contest on Thursday.
A loss to start the season shouldn’t take away from the potential Colts Neck has this season.
Yorke believes the team has the ability to have as good season and make runs at either a Monmouth County or Shore Conference championship.
“If we play good baseball, we can play with anybody in the Shore Conference,” Yorke said. “We have a real great group of kids. They’re resilient. I’m going to push them to play in a championship game of sorts this season. We just need to get better everyday and play better baseball when May comes around.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports