By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Christian Brothers Academy catcher Brandon Martorano was discussing pitcher Luca Dalatri. In doing so, he put the Monmouth County Tournament championship game into perfect perspective.
“He did his thing today,” Martorano said. “And we followed suit.”
The result was a 4-0 victory for the top-seeded Colts of Lincroft over second-seeded Red Bank Catholic on May 11 at First Energy Park in Lakewood.
See a photo gallery from the game, here.
By winning a record third straight MCT title, CBA also won a record eighth county crown in improving to 16-6. Dalatri was, well, he was Dalatri.
The senior right-hander, who is headed to North Carolina along with Martorano depending on what happens with the MLB draft, won his fifth championship game by pitching a one-hitter with no walks and 15 strikeouts.
“And I thought he got squeezed (by the ump) a little tonight,” CBA coach Marty Kenney said with a grin.
Dalatri did it on three days’ rest, after pitching a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts against Middletown South in the May 7 semifinal.
Dalatri has now won three MCT title games, a Shore Conference Tournament final and an NJSIAA Non-Public A final.
He wears the moniker of “big game pitcher” as easily as Fonzie wears a leather jacket – both the definition of cool.
“He’s kind of easy going and laid back,” Kenney said. “He’s excited but you wouldn’t know it. He’s got tremendous poise, and he’s had that from day one. It’s his personality. It’s not something he’s developed over the course of the last three or four years. It’s just his makeup.
“He’s a big-game pitcher every time he steps on the mound.”
And therein lays the secret to Dalatri’s clutch pitching; along with an outstanding fastball, change-up, etc.
“He has the same demeanor every single game,” Martorano said. “He’s very intense and he’s very focused on what he needs to do. He goes out there and makes it his business to go out and shut down the other team.”
For Dalatri, a mid-week game against a winless team in April means the same as a showdown with everything on the line.
“I think that’s the thing that separates some guys from others, being able to go out on big stages and performing like they do in normal games,” said Dalatri, who threw 96 pitches and was also 2-for-2 with an RBI. “Not to float my own boat or anything like that, but it’s the game of baseball. You just gotta do the same thing you do every day.”
Dalatri seemingly does the same thing every pitch – throws strikes. After his latest gem, he has won 26 straight decisions since last losing as a sophomore. He is 6-0 this year and in 41 innings he has allowed 16 hits, one run (0.17 ERA) and two walks while striking out 78.
Let that sink in for a minute, because the only time you’ll read statistics like that are when the writer makes a typo. There was no typo. He’s that good.
Since returning from two-and-a-half weeks on the sideline with a hamstring issue, he has thrown 180 pitches – 126 of them strikes.
Jason Groome is being touted as a first-round draft pick, but Kenney feels his guy has an advantage over the Barnegat High hurler.
“Groome may throw harder, but I’ll bet he walks more batters,” Kenney said. “Luca’s always had command. If you’re gonna score on him, you’re gonna have to get some base hits. He doesn’t walk people, rarely hits a batter. Even very good high school pitchers will make a mistake.”
What makes Dalatri different?
“He knows when to take a little off his fastball,” Kenney said. “He wants to make sure it’s a strike, make sure the ball is put in play. He’s phenomenal in that respect.”
CBA got all the runs it needed off Red Bank’s John Poccia when Dalatri was hit by a pitch to start the second and Nick Hohenstein followed with a double to plate courtesy runner Jack Harnisch.
The Colts tacked on in the fifth on singles by Luke Chece and Cid Porter, with Chece scoring on an outfield error. In the sixth, Martorano singled, Dalatri tripled him home and Kenny Campbell singled home Harnisch.
Dalatri finished with a flurry, striking out the side in the seventh for the third time after getting no Ks in the first inning. Pat Leonard’s ground single in the third was the Caseys’ lone hit.
“They put great at-bats on the ball,” Dalatri said. “That first inning was a statement for them they weren’t going to roll over. Lucky for me as the game progressed it got a little different; it kind of flipped in my favor. But they made me really compete. I gotta tip my cap to them.”
Despite pitching well, Poccia was out-dueled by Dalatri for the second straight year in the title game, which ended in the same score the 2015 contest.
“He’s given us a great effort for two years, that’s why he’s out here,” RBC coach Buddy Hausmann said. “He got us to this point. He’s the guy we felt confident in. He pitched two big games like this, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the way he was throwing the ball. Hopefully we see them two more times and see what happens.”
Hausmann was referring to the Shore Conference and Non-Public A tournaments, which begin next week.
Martorano is excited for the coming weeks and feels a record-setting MCT title was a great way to start.
“To win three in a row is incredibly special, especially to come out here and play a game against this RBC team who is obviously our rival,” the catcher said. “I cherish every single one of them and I’m very thankful to be a part of every single one.”
Martorano, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Colts Neck, is loving life these days. His college academic and athletic career is set, although the possibility of being drafted makes his future a little uncertain. Either way, it’s good stuff.
At the moment, however, he’s not thinking of anything but the next two tournaments.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in. I can’t thank everyone enough and thank God for all the blessings I’ve had in my life.
“I’m really just enjoying the moment right now and I’m not trying to think too much where my future is headed. Right now I need to live in the moment and focus on winning games with this team.” As long as he is catching Dalatri, don’t bet against some more wins in the near future.[[In-content Ad]]