By Brian Deakyne
MIDDLETOWN — His words were calming to Middletown South head coach Ryan Spillane.
With runners on the corners, one out and seemingly any type of hard hit away from winning the game, Eagles senior Erik Obsteins told Spillane that he was going to come through.
“I was confident, he told me he’s got it, he told me like three times,” Spillane said. “It was just kind of calming. Sure enough, he came through huge for us. It was great to have him, he’s such a hard worker he deserves it as a senior, getting the game-winning hit against CBA. It’s got to feel pretty good.”
Obsteins’ single to center field in the bottom of the eighth inning drove home Nicholas McGann, giving the Eagles the 4-3 win over Christian Brothers Academy. McGann reached base after being hit by a pitch with one out. He later stole second and moved to third base on an infield single by Perry Kulaga.
“I felt like I needed to hit the ball. If I saw the ball, I was going to hit it. I got the job done,” Obsteins said.
After getting a 3-0 count against Colts senior pitcher Sean Clarke, Obsteins delivered the soft line drive into centerfield with the infield in.
“I knew I was going to hit it, I had to swing,” Obsteins said.
Middletown South came within inches of winning, literally, in the bottom of the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, Mike Grossi hit a line drive in between first and second base, but CBA junior second basemen Mike Caputo made an outstretched dive to end the inning and keep the teams tied at three.
Earlier in the at-bat, Grossi missed an apparent take-sign as senior Brian Healy attempted to steal home to win the game. Had Grossi taken the pitch, Healy would have likely been in safely at home, but Grossi bunted the ball foul.
Healy and sophomore Kyle Brey each singled with one out and the Colts intentionally walked Stefan Poggioli to load the bases for Grossi.
It took a wacky sixth inning for the Eagles to take the lead. After trailing since the first inning, and struggling to get to University of Pittsburgh recruit Matt Pidich, South was able to load the bases with no outs on singles from Kyle Brey and senior Dan Sweeney and a walk to Poggioli. With one out and trailing 2-0, senior Howie Brey, who started on the mound, was hit by a pitch to bring home his younger brother.
One batter later, McGann shot a ground ball to first base, and after touching the bag for the first out, CBA junior Joe Dudek fired the ball to Caputo, who was looking to tag out courtesy runner Michael Mastropolo. Caputo mis-handled the ball, however, allowing Mastropolo to reach second base and Sweeney and Poggioli were able to score, putting the Eagles up 3-2.
CBA stormed back in the top of the seventh, getting a two-out game-tying single from junior third basemen Anthony Critelli. Dudek led off the inning with a double to right field, and three batters later, Critelli laced the base hit to right field off Kulaga, who inherited the courtesy runner, Dave Rosone.
“It just shows what my kids are made of. They never quit, they grind it out until the last out. I’m proud of them. They never stop believing, we never quit. We seem to always give ourselves the opportunity at the end of the game in a position to either tie it up or take the lead,” Spillane said.
The game featured a battle between two future division-one pitchers. The Eagles Howie Brey, who will be playing at Rutgers next year allowed two earned runs on six hits, four strikeouts and three walks in six-plus innings. CBA’s Pidich lasted six innings as well, striking out eight batters and allowing three earned runs on seven hits.
CBA nearly blew the game wide open in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases on three consecutive errors in the infield, but Brey worked his way out of trouble and escaped the inning unscathed.
“It was great. Howie did a great job of picking us all up. If you take away the one bad inning where we made three errors and gave them six outs, I think Howie did a great job to not give up any runs that inning,” Spillane said.
“We have to be better defensively, we talked about that. It was great to see Howie pick us up,” he added. “Early on, he seemed to struggle a little bit, but he wound up settling in to the game and he found a little tempo and he was able to hit some spots and make some big pitches.”
CBA took the lead in the top of the first inning. Leadoff batter James O’Brien reached base with a walk, and later advanced to third on Dudek’s single to left-center field. O’Brien later scored when Caputo grounded into the 6-4-3 double play.
The Colts added a run in the top of the sixth inning when senior shortstop Sean Arnott reached base on an error, and later scored on an error within the infield, catching Eagles first basemen Eric Maynes sleeping and was able to score from third base.
The win is the Eagles second over their A-North divisional rival this season after topping them, 10-5, on April 4 in Lincroft.
“They’re a quality team, I respect them, I started my coaching career under Marty Kenney,” Spillane said. “He’s been a mentor towards me for years. Anytime you can beat a team that has that kind of quality, it’s nice. I’m proud of my guys and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them down the road.”
“I feel good today. I feel great. It’s a good win,” Obsteins said.