Schild pitches Eagles past Lions in Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals

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The Middletown High School South baseball team celebrates defeating Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown 3-0 to win the Richard Veth-Walter Woods Memorial Trophy and advance to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South designated hitter Will Christopher celebrates hitting a double during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Middletown South won 3-0 to advance to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South starting pitcher Ben Schild fires in a strike during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Schild pitched a complete-game shutout to help Middletown South defeat Middletown North 3-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North starting pitcher Danny Frontera tosses a pitch towards the plate during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown. Frontera had a game-high 12 strikeouts in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South first baseman Joe Stanzione tags out Middletown North's Matt Adamson to end the fourth inning of a game played on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South third baseman Evan Wood fields the bunt and throws out the runner at first base during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Wood had an RBI single in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South designated hitter Will Christopher smacks a double into the gap in right-center during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North catcher Andrew Lombardi fields the bunt and throws out the runner at first base during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North first baseman Colin Dowlen smacks a base hit to left field during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Middletown High School South baseball team celebrates defeating Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown 3-0 to win the Richard Veth-Walter Woods Memorial Trophy and advance to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South designated hitter Will Christopher celebrates hitting a double during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Middletown South won 3-0 to advance to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South starting pitcher Ben Schild fires in a strike during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Schild pitched a complete-game shutout to help Middletown South defeat Middletown North 3-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North starting pitcher Danny Frontera tosses a pitch towards the plate during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown. Frontera had a game-high 12 strikeouts in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South first baseman Joe Stanzione tags out Middletown North's Matt Adamson to end the fourth inning of a game played on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South third baseman Evan Wood fields the bunt and throws out the runner at first base during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown. Wood had an RBI single in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South designated hitter Will Christopher smacks a double into the gap in right-center during a game against Middletown North on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North catcher Andrew Lombardi fields the bunt and throws out the runner at first base during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School North first baseman Colin Dowlen smacks a base hit to left field during a game against Middletown South on May 22 in Middletown. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

It was a week many baseball fans across Middletown had been waiting for during the past two years.

The Middletown South and Middletown North high school baseball teams renewed their rivalry on the diamond with a three-game set during the past week.

The third game, played on May 22, would determine which school was going to advance to the semifinals of the 2021 Shore Conference Tournament.

The Eagles and the Lions split the first two games of their series. The winner of the May 22 contest would remain alive in the conference tournament and take home the Richard Veth-Walter Woods Memorial Trophy.

The game was played at Rich Veth Field at Middletown North and Middletown South’s Ben Schild pitched a complete game as the Eagles (13-5) defeated the Lions, 3-0, to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

“It’s a really nostalgic day,” Middletown South Coach Chris LeMore said after the game. “To have the opportunity to be in a rivalry game and have the chance to advance in the Shore Conference Tournament is a credit to the players. I’m really proud of the way they battled. We have continued to climb the staircase every day and put ourselves in position to win big games.”

Schild was brilliant on the hill for the Eagles as he outdueled Middletown North’s ace Danny Frontera. Middletown South’s sophomore righthander allowed three hits and struck out seven Lions to secure his first career complete game shutout.

The only time the Lions (10-5) had two runners on base was in the sixth inning with one out, but Schild “kicked it into another gear” by retiring the next two batters to escape the jam.

“I felt really good going into that inning,” Schild said after the game. “As soon as they got a couple of runners on, I knew I had to lock in, throw strikes and make good pitches to get my team back in the dugout.”

Schild’s gem earned him the 2021 Richard Veth-Walter Woods MVP Award as he became  the second straight Middletown South pitcher to receive the honor. In 2019, Chris Lotito pitched a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts to win the award.

The 2020 season was cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s really exciting,” Schild said about being named MVP. “I just went out there and competed on every pitch. I had good command of my fastball and tried to dot it up in some spots and throw it up in the zone where they couldn’t hit it.”

The Eagles gave Schild a one-run lead in the second inning as sophomore Evan Wood singled through the left side of the infield to drive in Will Christopher for a 1-0 lead.

In the third inning, senior Matt Pontari gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead with an RBI single. Pontari was tagged out as he tried to turn the single into a double.

It was Pontari’s first experience of the rivalry at the varsity level and the senior enjoyed helping his squad get the victory.

“I’m just trying to make plays to help the team get the win,” he said. “We are playing as hard as we can every game and seeing where it takes us.”

In the top of the seventh, senior Tom DeMarco scored from third on Frontera’s throwing error as he tried to pick off a runner at first. Leading 3-0, the Eagles had all the runs they would need.

Frontera did his best to keep the Lions in the game, despite not having his best stuff. The senior struck out 12 hitters to raise his total to 60 K’s in 2021.

Middletown North will begin a two-game series against Freehold Township on May 24.

The Lions received the No. 3 seed in the Monmouth County Tournament and believe they can get back on track to make a run in the county tournament and in the upcoming state tournament.

“We have to go out every day and play every game like it’s our last,” Frontera said.

Middletown South will play Rumson-Fair Haven in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals on May 26.

The Eagles are the No. 7 seed in the Monmouth County Tournament and are looking forward to that competition.

Seeing his players holding the trophy after defeating Middletown North and celebrating a trip to the conference tournament semifinals was a welcome sight for LeMore.

The Eagles’ first-year coach knows how tough it was for his players to lose the 2020 season to the pandemic. He said it has meant a lot to this year’s players to make the most of their opportunities in honor of the 2020 seniors who did not get to play their final year of high school baseball.

“They are a fun group to be around every day,” LeMore of the 2021 Eagles. “In the back of our minds, we know our season can be taken away from us at any time. I am really excited they had the opportunity to hold that trophy.”