By Brian Deakyne
EATONTOWN — With the Jersey Shore Bucks in need of a sweep, manager Andrew Roth turned to his pitching.
The two starting pitchers he went to in Sunday’s doubleheader with the Monmouth Brewers didn’t disappoint, giving the Bucks two big wins, propelling them past .500 and giving them a chance to make a charge for first place in the National League.
The Bucks leaned on their starters — who threw 13 of the 14 innings Sunday — to take the games, 3-1 and 9-2, respectively.
Cory Hawes threw a complete game three-hitter in the early game, striking out six batters and walking one for the Bucks, who scored runs in each of the first three innings to get the win. Andrew Pollina drove in leadoff batter C.J. Pratt in the first inning, blooping a single to left field after Pratt reached base by being hit by a pitch.
In the second inning, Pratt drove in Pat Boyle, who walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. He scored on Pratt’s screaming line drive to center field, moving the Bucks’ lead to 2-0.
The Bucks added more two-out magic in the third inning, when Brian Blaney drove in a run with two men down. Dan Parra — who went 3-for-3 in the early game — reached base on a single to right field, moved to second when Mike Sevilla drew a walk and scored on Blaney’s single to left field.
That cushion would be more than enough for Hawes, who worked through the Brewers’ lineup rather easily, allowing an unearned run in the top of the sixth inning.
“It’s awesome,” Roth said of the pitching he received Sunday. “We’ve got a lot of exciting things going on.”
In the second game, Evan Smith — a redshirt freshman at defending Division-two national champion Westchester University — was brilliant as well, going six innings, allowing three hits, striking out four batters and allowing one run in their 9-2 thumping of the Brewers.
The Bucks’ bats came alive in the later matchup, scoring nine runs over the first four innings to quickly take control of the game.
Designated hitter Keith Weinkofsky blasted a two-run home run to left field in the top of the first inning, and the Bucks never looked back. Chris Lewnes belted an RBI double in the left-center field gap and recent Middletown North graduate Tim Rhatigan drove in a run with a ground out in the second inning, extending the Bucks’ lead to 4-0.
They were still far from done.
Joe Panchak drove in a run in the top of the third inning, and Pratt followed that with a two-RBI single to center field in the next at-bat.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Bucks used their speed to take advantage of the Brewers. Parra, making his way to third base, scored when Brandon Pollina attempted to steal second base and the throw flew into center field. Later, Pollina scored from third base on a wild pitch, pushing their lead to 9-0.
The Brewers were able to scratch across a run in the fourth inning and a run in the seventh, but that would be all they would get.
“That’s the way you want to hit the ball. Our pitchers showed up all day long. When you throw strikes and get timely hitting, that’s the name of the game,” Roth said.
Ryan Jeffrey pitched the seventh inning of game two, walking two batters, striking out two more and allowing one run on no hits, closing out the sweep for the Bucks.
The sweep means a lot for the Bucks, who in their inaugural season, are looking to top the Sea Girt Supersonics in the National League.
“We’ve been splitting a lot of doubleheaders,” Roth said. “So to get a couple wins and push us up over .500 was big. We really needed this sweep today for sure.”
The Bucks were able to display their versatility in both games, using pitching and defense in their low-scoring first game, but bringing out the lumber in the late-afternoon battle, something Roth believes can push his team to the top.
“It’s nice to see us scratch out a tight one and the way we hit the ball in the second game, I think we can match anybody with the sticks,” Roth said.