Patriots playing above their seed in conference tournament

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By Jeff Appelblatt

Freehold Township High School’s baseball team prepared for the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament (SCT) knowing it was an underdog. But that didn’t matter for the lower-ranked No. 18 seed.

In the game May 20, Ryan Ford gave up only one hit to Monmouth Regional High School, and the Patriots defeated No. 2-seed Monmouth Regional, 9-1.

Ford also helped his own cause with the bat, driving in a pair of runs at the plate.

It was clear rankings never meant a thing to Freehold Township. In the tournament’s first round, the team’s ace, Mike Pirrotta, threw five scoreless innings, and the Patriots beat No. 15-seed Middletown High School South, 5-2.

At 4 p.m. May 24, the Patriots play in the next round of the SCT at Toms River High School North against the No. 7-seed Mariners.

Two days earlier, Freehold Township also began its run in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey, Group IV tournament against Old Bridge High School.

Manalapan High School was stopped in its tracks in round two of the SCT. After a 7-3 victory over Marlboro High School in the opener, the Braves fell to Red Bank Catholic High School, 13-2. Colts Neck High School lost, 7-5, to Wall High School. Freehold High School, the No. 6 seed in the SCT, found itself playing Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) for the fourth time of the year.

“I think we’re going to be seeing the pitcher we saw the first two times, so I’m sure the game will be a lot tighter than it was in the Monmouth County [Tournament (MCT)],” Freehold coach Jon Block said before the May 20 contest.

When the fourth game between the teams was played, the coach was correct. It wasn’t a 10-1 game like it was May 7 in the MCT, and CBA went with Nick Hohenstein — the winning pitcher in each of the first two games between Freehold and CBA — on the mound.

However, the Colonials didn’t have the same luck seeing CBA’s ace for the third time. Once again, he defeated Freehold, 5-1, and while CBA will face Wall May 24 in the next round of the SCT, Freehold hopes it’s preparing for the second round of the Central Jersey, Group IV tournament May 25.

Freehold took on Hightstown High School in the first round of sectional play May 22. The Rams entered that game coming off a loss that would have earned them the Colonial Division title, which was won by Notre Dame High School.

If Freehold and Freehold Township each won May 22, the local rivals would would face off in the second round of the sectional tournament May 25.

Freehold won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, 5-1, while Freehold Township took the second game, 6-2.

“Their record is deceiving,” Freehold Township coach Todd Smith said about the team from Old Bridge before taking it on in the first round. “[They play] a super strong schedule.”

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Block said. “It’s the second season.

“All we’re playing now is tournaments. One and done.”