Middletown, N.J. - On the mound under the bright lights in the Richard Veth-Walter Woods Memorial game against rival Middletown North, starting pitcher Chris Lotito couldn’t have shined brighter for the Middletown South baseball team in his first career start.
Lotito threw a gem to help the Eagles take home the Richard Veth-Walter Woods Memorial Trophy, racking up 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout to help Middletown South defeat Middletown North 4-0 and improve to 14-4 on the season.
“I was ready to play,” Lotito said. “I struggled a bit in the first few innings, but my teammates kept backing me up and I was able to finish it out.”
It was a pitchers duel between Lotito and Middletown North starter Sean Gardiner as the two battled back and forth to keep the game scoreless through the first three innings.
Gardiner was perfect for the Lions through the first three innings.
Lotito helped break the scoreless tie in the fourth inning, giving himself some run support by ripping an RBI single with two outs to help give Middletown South a 1-0 lead.
Middletown South provided more run support for Lotito by adding to its lead in the fifth inning.
After Robby Zega drew a one-out walk, Jack Kinsella ripped a double to set the Eagles with runners on second and third with Jack Sheridan coming to the plate.
Instead of putting on a safety squeeze play with a bunt to get Zega in from third, Middletown South baseball coach Ryan Spillane let Sheridan swing away and the junior made his opportunity count.
Sheridan rocketed a two-run single the opposite way to right field to put Middletown South up 3-0.
“You love coming through in a big spot in a big game like that,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan later came around to score on a wild pitch to extend the Middletown South lead to 4-0 going into sixth inning.
That was plenty enough for Lotito who continued to get stronger as the game went on in the last two innings on the mound.
Getting his eighth strikeout of the contest to strand a runner on second in the sixth inning, Lotito closed the game out in style in the seventh, striking out the side for his first career complete game shutout.
“It’s always good to beat your rival,” Lotito said. “It was a fun game. Everybody on the team is playing for each other. We’re all just having a ball playing with one another. We’re all having fun.”
Lotito gave up only four hits and had a hit batter to go along with his game-high 11 strikeouts on the night.
Gardiner struck out nine and issued one walk in the complete-game loss for Middletown North.
The Lions drop to 5-14 on the season.
Middletown South improves to 14-4 on the season and has won a season-high seven straight games after being knocked out of the Monmouth County Tournament by Monmouth Regional.
Locking up the Shore Conference A-North Division title on Wednesday with a 6-0 win over Long Branch as well, the Eagles are riding high right now and are looking strong going into both the Shore Conference Tournament and states.
“We’ve been playing great baseball,” Spillane said. “We’re a very deep team. We’re resilient. We play hard every game. There’s a lot that I like about our team. I know this team has what it takes to win a championship. It’s been an exciting ride so far. We’re going to try to keep it going as long as we can.”
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