Monday, April 14, 2014

Baseball: Vikings use seven-run frame to top Braves

NEWTON -- Nothing like a seven-run inning to get a struggling offense -- and a winless club -- on the right track.

Vernon struck for seven in the top of the first and rode the right arm of senior ace Anthony Germinario to a 7-2 victory over Newton in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference crossover clash on Monday at Memory Park.

The Vikings (1-4), who snapped a four-game skid to open the season, had dropped three close games in a row, including one-run affairs against Sparta, 3-2, and Pope John, 1-0 in 10 innings. Coach Scott Berge's team also beat the Braves (2-4) for the third straight meeting following two wins in 2013 -- 6-5 at home in a regular season clash and 6-2 at Memory Park in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex quarterfinals.

"This was definitely a huge win for us," said Germinario, who fired six solid innings for his first win and lost a no-hit bid with two outs in the fourth. "We couldn't have done it any better."

"We have the potential, we just have to play up to it," said Berge, whose team had scored a total of nine runs in its four previous games and came in batting a collective .190. "We've been right there in every game. I told them,' the door is open now and it's your job to take that opportunity.'"  

Newton, which snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday's 11-3 win over Boonton, has struggled despite returning the bulk of last year's team that won 18 games and captured the NJAC Freedom Division title.

Coach John Selitto said it's been a combination of things, but the bottom line is that the Braves' offense continues to struggle -- mustering just one hit -- Jon Bernotas' RBI single in the fourth -- in this loss. Losing pitcher Steve Kelly (0-2) didn't make it out of the first inning as Vernon sent 12 men to the plate and banged out seven hits -- six off of Kelly, who exited after walking No. 9 hitter Joe Roccasanta to load the bases.

"We're too talented to play like this the whole year, but it's getting late," Selitto said. "Something right now isn't clicking and you can see they're pressing. We've had some good starts [from the pitchers], but not today. Kelly pitched five shutout innings against Hackettstown [a 3-2 loss on April 3]. Our relief [pitching] hasn't been great or we're not hitting. We just haven't meshed yet."

After walking leadoff hitter Chris Pontus, Kelly allowed three straight hits, including Dave Baxter's RBI single. With one out, catcher Connor Fitzsimmons ripped a single up the middle to score two more and Vernon grabbed a 4-0 lead. Matt Emerson and Christian Quaranta followed with back-to-back singles and Roccasanta walked to knock Kelly from the game. Kelly was tagged for seven runs on six hits and allowed two walks in two-third of an inning.

Lefty Nate Kolzow entered with the bases full and walked Pontus to make it 5-0. Germinario followed with a two-run single through the box to cap the seven-run first.

That was more than enough offense for Germinario (1-1), who retired seven of the first 11 he faced on ground balls, while striking out two, while working around a one-out error that allowed Bernotas to reach first in the second inning.

"My slider was definitely working for me and I was hitting my fastball right on the outside corner," Germinario said.

After a 1-2-3 third, Germinario issued a one-out walk to Ben Cramer and uncorked a wild pitch to move him into scoring position. Cleanup hitter Nick Grant grounded out to first to move Cramer to third and he scored on Bernotas' single down the left-field line to make it 7-1.

Meanwhile, Kolzow held the fort with five scoreless innings out of the bullpen. After he sent the Vikings down in order in the fifth, the Braves tacked on another run in their half as Kolzow drew a leadoff walk. Courtesy runner Bobby Fehr moved to second on an error and to third on a two-out walk by Defeo. With the bases loaded, Germinario threw another wild pitch and Fehr made a great read on the ball to race home with Newton's second run.

But Germinario retired Cramer, the Braves' best hitter, on a comebacker to the mound with runners on second and third to end the threat and a golden chance for the hosts to get back in the game. Germinario and Emerson, who pitched the seventh, combined to retire the last seven in order, including a great diving catch by center fielder Pontus to rob Charlie Grotyohann of a hit in the final inning.

"We had some bad approaches [at the plate] and with good hitter's counts -- 2-1 and 3-1 -- guys are trying to do too much," Selitto said. "Even with the loss there were some positives. I thought [Kolzow] pitched really well and Defeo [who finished up with 1 1/3 scoreless innings] has a lot of promise."

 (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Pontus cf 3-1-1-1, Germinario p 3-1-2-2, Mike Harboy 2b 4-1-1-1, Baxter 1b 3-1-2-1, Kevin Moran lf-3b 4-0-1-0, Fitzsimmons c 4-0-1-2/Rodriguez cr-lf 0-0-0-0, Emerson 3b-p 3-1-2-0, Ed Battista ph 1-0-0-0, Quaranta ss 3-1-1-0, Roccasanta rf 1-1-0-0. Totals: 29-7-11-7.

NEWTON (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Justin Smith lf 3-0-0-0, Defeo 3b-p 2-0-0-0, Cramer cf 2-1-0-0, Grant dh/Casey Thomas rf 3-0-0-0, Bernotas ss 3-0-1-1, Joe Maker 1b-3b 3-0-0-0, Kelly p 0-0-0-0, Kolzow p 1-0-0-0/Fehr cr 0-1-0-0, Grotyohann c 3-0-0-0/Ricky Izquierdo cr 0-0-0-0, Anthony Brown 2b 2-0-0-0, Fehr 2b 1-0-0-0. Totals: 24-2-1-1.

Vernon (1-4)                      700       000       0  --  7   11   2
Newton (2-4)                      000       110       0 --   2    1    1

E -- Emerson 2; Bernotas. DP -- Newton 2 (Defeo-Brown-Maker, 3rd), (Maker-Fehr-Van Luvender, 7th). LOB -- Vernon 9, Newton 4. SB -- Pontus. CS -- Rodriguez, Pontus.

Germinario, Emerson (7) and Fitzsimmons; Kelly, Kolzow (1), Defeo (6) and Grotyohann. W -- Germinario (1-1). L -- Kelly (0-2). SO-BB -- Germinario 4-3, Emerson 1-0; Kelly 0-2, Kozlow 0-4, Defeo 0-2. WP -- Germinario 2.

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