By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
MAYS LANDING — Freshman right-handed pitcher Evan Taylor proved in the span of two hours on Thursday afternoon how simple a game baseball can be.
Through the first four innings against host Oakcrest, the Ocean City rookie allowed just one hit, one walk, one hit batsman and had just one strikeout. He was throwing first-pitch strikes, pitching to contact and trusting his fielders to make plays. That simple approach added up to a tidy 10-0 Red Raiders win, a day after the Falcons scored a 6-5 win over Ocean City to end the Red Raiders’ seven-game winning streak.
Overall, Taylor threw 96 pitches in six innings — an average of just 16 pitches per inning — allowed just one hit while striking out five. It was a great bounce-back win after he got roughed up a little bit in Ocean City’s 13-12 win over Holy Spirit last Friday.
“I was just trying to hit my spots, throw strikes, and let my players make plays,” Taylor said. “I just tried throwing a first-pitch fastball a lot, sometimes a curveball, and just let my fielders do their work. It felt great. I felt like I was on a roll.”
“He’s been great all year, just working hard every day in practice. It’s tough coming in as a freshman, but he’s really working hard and grinding. That’s not anything you’d expect from a freshman, typically, but he’s been doing great. I trust him a lot. He’s a great pitcher and he’s really been stepping up for us,” said Ocean City senior catcher Ricky Urban. “It’s great to get ahead in the count and power through. I have a lot of faith in him and so does the coaching staff. We’re excited about what he’s been doing out there. I was just telling him (between innings) to keep throwing strikes and that he was doing a great job. Just hit spots and you’ll be good.”
Taylor got all the run support he would need early on, as Ocean City (13-6, 8-5 Cape-Atlantic League National) scored a run in the top of the first on a first-and-third double steal featuring Dylan Oliver, who singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, and Duke McCarron, who had walked. The Red Raiders plated two more in the second when Dante Edwardi singled and later scored on an error, and Jack Hoag reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored an on infield error.
Ocean City then exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth to jump out to an 8-0 lead and put the game away. That rally featured a two-run single to left by freshman third baseman Colin Thompson, who went 4-for-4 with a double, stolen base and two runs scored.
“Colin is a freshman and he went 4-for-4 today, so the two freshman are really stepping up for us,” Urban said. “It’s great to have two freshman we can insert into the lineup after losing so many guys from last year. They’ve come in and made an immediate impact and that’s been awesome.”
Shawn Repetti chipped in an RBI single during the five-run sixth, and Hoag had an RBI groundout that pushed the lead to 7-0. Oliver then laced a run-scoring double down the left-field line to make it 8-0. In the seventh, Ocean City got an RBI single from Repetti and a run-scoring double from Hoag. Edwardi came on in the bottom of the seventh to lock things down, allowing just one hit while striking out two.
Ocean City — last year’s Group 3 state champion — has been on a tear since April 12, winning 12 of its last 14 games to vault into first place in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference standings. They’re battling with Absegami, Mainland and St. Joseph Academy for one of the three automatic bids to the inaugural Cape-Atlantic League Tournament, which features the three conference leaders and one wildcard team. Right now, Buena has locked up the CAL United and St. Augustine Prep is on its way to winning the CAL American, meaning Ocean City and the other CAL National contenders have to fight it out with Egg Harbor Township, Millville and Hammonton for the two remaining spots. The field will be decided at the end of next week.
“We’re doing great right now,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we’re at our peak right now, but we’re getting there. We just have to concentrate on baserunning, throwing first-pitch strikes, and infield defense.”
Added Urban, “we started off a little rough, but we went down to Florida (over spring break) and had a great team bonding trip and really got close down there and played some great baseball. That translated to when we got back to New Jersey. We all have trust in each other and can be a great team, we just had to rediscover that.”
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Absegami on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Oakcrest travels to Mainland on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays