Matt Nunan Helps Ocean City Bounce Back from Diamond Classic Loss
EGG HARBOR CITY — What’s the best way to bounce back from a frustrating loss in the Diamond Classic? Throw one of the better left-handed pitchers in South Jersey out on the mound and let him do his thing.
Matt Nunan, younger brother of professional pitcher Dan Nunan (L.A. Angels of Anaheim organization) and a Boston College commit, sliced his way through the Cedar Creek lineup in less than two hours as Ocean City beat the host Pirates 11-1 in five innings. The Red Raiders rebounded from Thursday’s 5-4 loss to Williamstown in the 47th Annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
“We knew we had him on the mound today, so we felt good, but we had a little come-to-Jesus moment after that game yesterday. We said it, and I said it in the paper yesterday, we’re just tired of losing close games against good teams,” said Ocean City coach Andrew Bristol, who has seen his club fall 2-0 to Bishop Eustace, 2-1 to EHT and 8-3 against Mainland Regional, all teams in the nj.com Top 20 poll. “We have to find a way to win against those good teams. Before we (look ahead) we have to play the next game, and today was the next game, so I said to the guys, ‘show me what you have today.’ And they got together and realized there is more to winning than just talent. They talked about that and they were ready when they got off the bus. They couldn’t wait to get at it today, and they showed that.”
“That was actually my first win of the season because the first three games I pitched were against top-20 teams (in the state),” Nunan said. “It felt good to just get out here and get a win. My mentality coming in was to just pound the zone because I had a few walks in other games that hurt me, so my mentality was get back on track for the big games coming up and the playoffs.”
Nunan was pretty much untouchable after allowing a run in the bottom of the first. He finished with nine strikeouts on 90 pitches — including striking out the side in the bottom of the fifth to end the game via the mercy rule — and allowed just four hits and one walk in the complete game effort.
He also got plenty of support as the Red Raiders (9-5, 5-1 Cape-Atlantic League American) erupted for eight runs in the top of the third to blow open a 1-1 game. The rally started innocently enough as Jack Perry reached on an infield error, and then things started to snowball for the Pirates (8-4, 7-2 CAL National). Gannon Brady singled to put runners at the corners and Ben Hoag followed with a run-scoring bunt on a safety squeeze. Joe Repetti followed with an RBI single and Hoag came around to score on a wild pitch to push the lead to 4-1. An RBI walk with the bases loaded by Dylan Oliver made it 5-1, and then Ben Liebrand was hit by a pitch to drive in another run. After a two-run single by Brady — batting for the second time in the inning — the lead had swelled to 9-1. Tom Finnegan added a two-run double in the fourth, and that was all she wrote for the Pirates.
“I’m feeling really good. I’ve thrown 90 to 95 pitches every game, so I’m definitely getting stronger every outing,” said Nunan, who has allowed just nine earned runs in 26-plus innings. “Today I was just pounding the zone with my fastball, but as we get into these other games (the next two weeks) I’ll have to start to incorporate my off-speed pitches more. After we scored all those runs it was the same mentality, just pound the zone. That’s what you have to do when you’re up by that many runs.”
Ocean City’s best win so far this season was a 3-2 win on the road at Millville on Monday, but coach Bristol believes we haven’t seen the best from his Red Raiders yet. They’ll get a chance to prove what kind of team they are during the next two weeks with some big-time Cape-Atlantic League matchups.
“There was a lot of fanfare for this team, and it’s a team that hadn’t played in over a year — and there is a lot of talent here, and they are starting to figure it out. Hopefully we peak at the right time. We’re working toward a bigger goal, but you have to learn how to win. Today was a good sign, they hit the ball hard and they were hungry today. We played five games in a row this week, and I saw a lot today where these guys are starting to get it. There was a lot of camaraderie today, there were a lot of hard-hit balls, their approach was better today at the plate. We haven’t had a lot of extra-base hits lately and we got a couple today and that helped us,” Bristol said. “Next week we have Shawnee, EHT and St. Augustine Prep and then the following week Holy Spirit and Hammonton, so we have some tough games coming up. We have to be ready for every one of them, and we will be.”