Staff Writer

MEDFORD — Lenape High senior right-hander Matt Corda may want to think about a career as a firefighter after graduating next month considering the way he put out the flames of red-hot Mainland Regional, winner of 10 of its last 11 games.

Corda was superb on Wednesday afternoon, dealing six innings of shutout baseball to help Lenape beat Mainland, 1-0, in the opening round of the 48th Annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic — a 16-team tournament that unofficially crowns a South Jersey champion. Lenape travels to second-seeded Northern Burlington today for the quarterfinals.

To say the game between the No. 7 Indians and No. 10 Mustangs was a pitcher’s duel would be an understatement. Cordo went toe-to-toe with Mainland’s Brandon Sharkey, each posting zeroes until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Lenape scratched across a run when Grant Hunter walked, took second on an errant pick-off attempt and scored two batters later on an infield error off a high chopper from Andrew Shank. That was all Lenape needed, as Jon Adelmann came on in relief of Corda, who had reached the single-game pitch limit after the sixth. Adelmann set Mainland down in order in the top of the seventh on a flyout and a pair of strikeouts.

“I just knew from the start of the game that if I just kept my team in it, we’d get the bats going at some point. That was my mentality the whole time — fill up the strike zone, let my fielders make some plays. I knew my hitters would get it done at some point,” said Corda, who struck out 11 and allowed just four hits and four walks. “I go by the philosophy of pitching backwards. I trust my off-speed stuff more than anything. I like to flip in my slider, which makes my fastball look a lot different to a hitter. I knew in my warm-ups (the slider) was going to be good. I was spotting it up in the bullpen, and I love this mound and this field, so I knew I was going to pitch well.”

Lenape’s Max D’Alessandro reacts after hitting a double during the Indians’ 1-0 win over Mainland in the Diamond Classic. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“Cordo was great. I can’t say enough about him. He’s super composed all the time. He’s the type of guy who, when he’s not pitching, he’s sitting with me and we’re talking pitching the entire time. He’s a great leader for the young guys. And all his hard work showed today,” said Lenape coach Mike Wasienko. “He’s a pitcher. I see a lot of guys who get up there and just throw, but he’s a pitcher. He takes his time, he takes it one pitch at a time, he’s very composed and I think that helps him.”

Mainland coach Billy Kern said it was a gut-wrenching way to lose considering Sharkey was every bit as good as Corda, registering eight strikeouts and allowing just three hits and three walks in six innings.

“Brandon was fantastic. I thought the key to the game, for us, was not coming through with the big hit offensively,” Kern said. “We had a couple of chances — we had the bases loaded one inning, we moved somebody to third on a bunt in another inning and just couldn’t come up with the hit. And that’s a credit to their guy, he threw fantastic. We didn’t make enough positive outs today, there were a lot of strikeouts. And that’s something we need to work on, our two-strike approach, recognizing where the strike zone is and where it’s going to be all game, and adjusting to it.”

Each team had its scoring chances, but couldn’t cash in. In the top of the third, the Mustangs (11-3, 4-2 Cape-Atlantic League National) — winners of 10 of their last 11 — loaded the bases with two outs on and infield single by Nick Wagner, a walk to Cole Campbell and an infield single off Corda’s glove by Sam Wood. But Corda averted damage by striking out the next hitter to keep the game scoreless. Lenape (9-2, 3-1 Olympic American) put two runners on in both the third and fourth innings, but Sharkey responded by working out of jams both times.

“I got in trouble in the third inning with the bases loaded, but we played Delran here not too long ago and we were down early before our bats got hot near the end, so I knew that if I kept throwing strikes — my focus wasn’t on throwing up zeroes, but it happened that way. I knew we had to score one to win, so I just tried to keep it close for as long as possible,” Corda said.

“Our biggest problem was expanding the zone with two strikes,” Kern said. “We kept seeming to come back to the dugout talking about how far off the plate the ball was. But that is what it is, we have to make the adjustment to the zone. It was the same zone for both teams.”

Brandon Sharkey was outstanding for Mainland, registering eight strikeouts and allowing just one run in six innings. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“I wish we could have gotten a run earlier and that’s on me, that’s my fault, but these guys picked me up and that’s the good thing about this team — they are in it until the end, there’s no giving up, there’s no feeling sorry for themselves,” Wasienko said. “We emphasize putting pressure on the other team, putting the ball in play and good things happen, and they did.”

While Mainland left Medford with a loss, the Stangs may have gotten a win in respect to the depth of its pitching staff, knowing Sharkey is a guy who can be relied on in big-game situations. Sharkey had pitched only in a relief role prior to Wednesday.

“It’s been a good week, we got Holy Spirit back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday, and this game was our third one in a row. I was extremely proud of Brandon Sharkey. That was his first start of the year; he’s been a reliever all year for us. It was our third game in a row and it was kind of that ‘next-man-up’ mentality, and he stepped up and threw fantastic,” Kern said. “That gives us another option, knowing he can come out and pitch like that. I was frustrated for him, I would have liked it to be a big double or a big hit, but that’s baseball sometimes. Putting the ball in play is the key, and they put the ball in play and made us catch-and-throw. Sometimes in high school baseball you don’t get the execution you’re looking for.”

Wasienko said beating a team that is a combined 34-7 the past two seasons provides a big lift for his squad.

“This is a big confidence builder for our guys. We’ve had some tough games (recently) but they stay with it. They go to practice and work hard,” he said. “Billy does a phenomenal job. We love going down to their place for the Coaches vs. Cancer. It’s been awesome getting to know those guys. We knew today was going to be a battle, especially with the run that Mainland has been on. But our guys were up for the challenge. We look at our recent losses as learning experiences and that’s helped us get better and get some things done in this game. We’re a game-by-game team, always.”

What’s next: No. 7 Lenape travels to No. 2 Northern Burlington today at 4 p.m. for the Diamond Classic quarterfinals. Mainland hosts St. Joseph Academy on Friday at 4 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays