Monday, April 28, 2014

Baseball: Braves, Rangers, Spartans advance in HWS

NEWTON -- With one swing, Justin Smith salvaged his personal day at the plate and erased a game's worth of missed opportunities for the Newton Braves.

Smith's single scored the tying and go-ahead runs as the Braves rallied for a three-run sixth inning in posting a 4-2 win over Delaware Valley in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament contest on Monday at Memory Park.

Newton (7-5), the No. 4 seed on the Sussex side of the bracket, will play at No. 1 North Hunterdon in Saturday's quarterfinal round. The Braves are now 3-4 all-time in HWS games and have never been past the quarters in the tournament's five-year history -- dropping a 6-2 decision to Vernon in their first Round of 8 appearance a year ago. Pope John (2011) is the only Sussex school to win a county title.

"It would be good to go far in this tournament -- it's one of our main goals," said Smith, who finished 1-for-3 after striking out twice and popping up into a double play. "We are trying not only to establish Newton [in the HWS] but Sussex County as well."

Smith's hard shot through Del Val shortstop Chris Fiaschetti put Newton up by one run before the speedy left fielder raced home on a passed ball to cap the three-run sixth. All three runs crossed with two outs.

Newton catcher Charlie Grotyohann started the inning with a grounder that took a bounce and handcuffed second baseman Nick Perna for a single. After Joe Maker's successful sacrifice bunt, Steve Kelly grounded out to third, but Grotyohann did not advance on the out. With two down, No. 9 hitter Casey Thomas lined one off Del Val pitcher Logan Brown's leg for an infield hit, putting runners on first and third before Thomas stole second.

Smith, then stepped to the plate and delivered with his only hit of the game. Grotyohann scored easily as the ball kicked into center field and Thomas slid in safely to give Newton its first lead. Smith made a heads-up play by advancing all the way to third as Del Val lapsed by not backing up the throw to the plate.

"I was just trying to hit it up the middle and at least tie it up," said Smith, who is 8-for-20 (.400) with seven RBIs and six stolen bases in his last five games. "We didn't expect there to be many runs. Both pitchers had nice games."

It certainly was quite the pitchers' duel for the first five innings -- a battle of aces with Newton lefty Nick Grant and Del Val's Logan Brown, a tall and lanky right-hander.

Brown, who suffered his first loss in four decisions, had a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth and had worked in and out of trouble in three of the previous five frames. Newton stranded five runners in the first two innings -- leaving the bases loaded in the second -- and had the leadoff batter on in four of the six. Yet, coach John Selitto's team could not get a timely hit -- until Smith came through.

"The first four or five innings summed up our whole season," said Selitto, whose Braves have won five of their last six since a 2-4 start. "We haven't gotten the big hit, and you can see the guys are squeezing the bat too hard. We've been going over situational hitting a lot, but now it's to the point where we are saying to just go up there and swing, and try to hit it hard somewhere. Hopefully, this is the one that gets us going."

Delaware Valley (6-5) struck for a pair of early runs off Grant (3-0), who matched Brown with eight strikeouts. Frank McHugh drew a one-out walk in the first before moving to second on a groundout. With two out, cleanup hitter Joe Chiarino's bloop single to center gave the Terriers a 1-0 lead.

In the third, designated hitter Devin Merritt drew a leadoff walk and stole second after Brown popped up to Grant on a bunt attempt for the first out. After Fiaschetti struck out looking, McHugh's hard ground ball to shortstop was booted and the visitors had a 2-0 lead.

Grant settled in after that, allowing just three singles and four walks. Only one of the runs he allowed was earned. The lefty retired nine of the last 11 batters, yielding just a walk and a single from the fifth inning on.

"Nick wasn't great the first two innings, he was struggling with his command a little bit," Selitto said. "He kind of put the game on his shoulders the last three innings. That's what you expect your ace to do."

After a quick start, coach Marty White's club managed just three hits on the day and only had four baserunners over the final four innings -- two walks and two singles.

"You have to be able to get hits. We started out better than we finished and you're supposed to see the pitcher better as the game goes on," said White, whose Terriers had won four of their last six coming in.

Del Val's defense didn't help its pitcher by committing three errors -- one of which led to Newton's first run in the third. Ben Cramer belted a leadoff double to the left-center-field gap -- the only extra-base hit of the game -- and moved to third on a passed ball. After Grant walked, Brown got Jon Bernotas to pop up to first in foul territory. Travis Scharffenberger squeezed it for the out, but then he made an ill-advised throw to the plate that bounced past catcher Mike Pilone and allowed Cramer, who was maybe a quarter of the way down the line on the throw, to score to make it 2-1.

The Terriers also committed two errors in the second inning -- an errant flip to first after a grounder to second and a booted grounder to first that allowed the first two batters to reach and eventually load the bases -- but Brown pitched out of it.

"Those are plays we should make," White said. "They got a tack on run [on the passed ball] because we didn't back up the play. It was mental mistakes. [Brown] kind of scattered the hits and he was missing with his curve down low, but we have to make some plays on defense."

DELAWARE VALLEY (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Fiaschetti ss 2-0-0-0, McHugh cf 2-1-0-0, Perna 2b 3-0-0-0, Chiarino 3b 3-0-2-1, Pilone c 3-0-0-0, Adam Novotny rf 2-0-1-0, Jake Brogan lf 3-0-0-0, Merritt dh/Scharffenberger 1b 2-1-0-0, Brown p 2-0-0-0, Billy Osmun ph 1-0-0-0. Totals: 23-2-3-1.

NEWTON (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Smith lf 3-1-1-2, Anthony Brown 2b 4-0-1-0, Cramer cf 3-1-2-0, Grant p 2-0-1-0, Bobby Fehr cr 0-0-0-0, Bernotas ss 3-0-0-0, Grotyohann c 3-1-1-0, Maker 3b 2-0-0-0, Kelly 1b 3-0-0-0, Thomas rf 2-1-2-0. Totals: 25-4-8-2.

                                         123       456      7     R   H  E
Delaware Valley (6-5)       101       000      0  --  2   3   3
Newton (7-5)                     001       003      x  --  4   8   1

E -- Scharfenberger 2, Perna; Bernotas. DP -- Delaware Valley 1 (Scharfenberger-Brown, 4th). LOB -- Delaware Valley 4, Newton 7. 2B -- Cramer. SB -- Merritt; Thomas. CS -- Chiarino, McHugh. Sac -- Maker.

Brown and Pilone; Grant and Grotyohann. W -- Grant (3-0). L -- Brown (3-1). SO-BB -- Brown 8-2; Grant 8-4. WP -- Brown. PB -- Pilone 2.

Elsewhere on Monday:

Sparta 5, North Warren 1 -- Thomas Ruddy and Matt Chemis each went 2-for-4, while winning pitcher Gordy Bonker tossed a five-hitter in leading the third-seeded Spartans past the sixth-seeded Patriots. Dillon Mendel also went 2-for-3 with an RBI as Sparta (10-4) advanced to play second-seeded Hunterdon Central in the quarterfinals. Coach Sam Slobodzian's teams are now 8-4 all-time in HWS games and have reached the quarters every year since the tournament's inception in 2010. North Warren (5-5) is now 4-5 overall in county games.

Wallkill Valley 7, Hackettstown 3 -- Nick McWilliams went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Sean Endres was 2-for-3 with an RBIs as the sixth-seeded Rangers, who have won six straight, used a four-run sixth inning to knock off the third-seeded Tigers for the second time in 14 days. Endres and Kyle Rosencranz had doubles, as did Rich Stecher, who hit a pair in finishing 3-for-3 with two runs scored for Wallkill (7-4), which will host 10th-seeded Vernon in the quarterfinals. Wes Walton also had two hits and two RBIs, while Joe Colosimo (1-1) went the distance on the mound with four strikeouts. Jonathan Pezzato hit a two-run homer for the Tigers (6-5).

Saturday's quarterfinal matchups


4B-Newton at 1A-North Hunterdon
10B-Vernon at 6B-Wallkill Valley
4A-Warren Hills at 1B-Pope John
3B-Sparta at 2A-Hunterdon Central

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