A terrific pitchers' duel turned ugly as Point Pleasant Borough squandered a one-run fifth inning lead and fell to Manasquan 6 to 4 at the Wall Municipal Complex on Wednesday.
Manasquan’s two-run fifth and three-run sixth inning ruined what was an absolutely sensational pitching performance by Point Borough’s starting pitcher John Dunbar.
Dunbar was in complete control from the first frame, overpowering one of the better hitting lineups in the Shore Conference. The junior hurler appeared poised to hurl Point Borough to its second straight win.
Dunbar helped his own cause by smashing an offering from Manasquan’s Alex Branch over the center field fence for a solo homerun.
The Panthers held a 2 to 1 lead until Dunbar ran into trouble in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
After Manasquan’s Nick Lustrino reached on an error, slugger Nick Saito belted a Dunbar fastball over the right field fence for a two-run homer. What was once a one lead for Point became a 3-2 Manasquan lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
“It was simply one bad pitch to a great hitter,” said Point Borough head coach David Drew. “In a tight game like this, every play and every pitch is so important. Although that blast wasn’t the only reason we lost, it hurt, no doubt about it.”
Manasquan followed up their two-run fifth inning with a three-run sixth inning with the aid of subpar Point defense. Two crucial errors by shortstop Jimmy DiOrio and third basemen Sam Nelson led to three unearned runs against the ledger of John Dunbar.
Dunbar went the distance, allowing only one earned run and struck out 13 Manasquan batters.
“Johnny gave us an awesome effort today but, we just made way too many mistakes in the field,” said Drew. “Manasquan was able to help out their pitcher a lot better than we did.”
The Panthers scrapped back in the top half of the seventh inning off Branch. After he retired the first hitter, Point was able to cut the four run deficit in half behind RBI singles from Nelson and Dane Gahr.
The rally forced Manasquan head coach Dennis Van Pelt to pull Branch in favor of reliever Jack Capotorto. Capotorto responded by inducing, Point’s Keith Murphy to ground out, sealing the victory for Manasquan.
“I give our guys credit for fighting back in that last inning,” said Drew. “It was nice to finally get their guy (Branch) out of the game. But unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”
Point Borough fell to 1-2 on the young season. But for Drew, many lessons can be learned from today’s defeat.
“We just have to learn from this and keep building confidence,” said Drew. “We know we can play with these guys and we’ll hopefully get them back the next time we play.”