Monday, May 12, 2014

Baseball: Lenape wins Freedom; Central beats PJ

HARDYSTON -- It took a little longer than usual, but Lenape Valley's baseball team was more than happy to work a little overtime considering the championship payday.

Junior first baseman Pat Togno delivered a go-ahead single in the ninth inning as part of a three-hit day as the Patriots earned a 6-4 win over Wallkill Valley on Monday at Hal Sisco Field to secure the NJAC Freedom Division title.

Lenape Valley (14-3, 11-1 division), which has won four in a row and seven of nine, claims its first conference title -- the program's eighth overall dating to 1977 -- since winning the now defunct Sussex County Interscholastic League banner in 2006.

Coach Bob Klinck's club, which owns a three-game lead over second-place Jefferson with two division games to play, also earned the No. 2 seed for the upcoming North 1, Group 2 playoffs.

"This is our fifth year in the NJAC and we've finished second twice [in the Freedom Division]," said Klinck, who is in his seventh season as head coach and is a Lenape alum. "It's not like we haven't been knocking on the door. But this is the first one and it feels good."

A leadoff walk and a hit batsman by Wallkill reliever Travis Hill, who also uncorked a wild pitch in an abbreviated frame, set the stage for a Lenape rally in the ninth. With Brett Hill now on in relief, Togno, who finished 3-for-5 with a run scored, stepped to the plate after a successful sacrifice bunt by Ryan Lindner moved the runners to second and third. Togno laced a single to center to score Nick Sabatini to break the tie and an error off the bat of Tom Armstrong added an insurance run.

"I saw a pitch [fastball] that I wanted to hit and went after it," said Togno, who leads the Patriots in RBIs and is 8-for-16 with five RBIs in his last four games. "I knew he had just come into the game and didn't get too many warmups."

Ace Jim Fluke, who came on in relief in the sixth, retired Wallkill in order in the ninth for his seventh win in eight decisions. The hard-throwing right-hander worked four innings with seven strikeouts -- raising his season total to 73 K's.

Wallkill Valley (8-9, 6-6), which has lost five of six following a season-high six-game win streak, forced extra innings without benefit of a hit in the sixth against Fluke, who replaced starter Dan Rafferty. Fluke walked leadoff batter Wes Walton, who advanced to second on Fluke's wild throw on a pickoff attempt, and then tried to make a play on a ball hit up the box by Kyle Rosencranz, but the ball tipped off the pitcher's glove to shortstop Rafferty, who had no play, and the result was an infield hit and runners on first and third.

A passed ball allowed Rosencranz to move to second and Walton later scored on a wild pitch to make it a 4-4 game.

But the Rangers managed just two singles the rest of the way and stranded runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh. Michael Armstrong provided two strong innings in relief of Colosimo and kept the game tied.

"We left the bases loaded three times and left [12] runners on base the whole game," said sixth-year coach Kevin Lukich, whose Rangers will be either an 11 or 12 seed in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs. "We played well, we just couldn't get a big hit."

Lenape Valley rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to take the lead with a four-run fourth inning against Wallkill starter Joe Colosimo, who went six innings and struck out eight. The lefty created his own trouble by hitting Lindner to start the frame and later made a costly error on a comebacker that loaded the bases with none out. A sacrifice fly by Rafferty made it 3-1 and a single by catcher Rob Sparacino reloaded the bases. Tyler Rogers' single to second made it a one-run game and Fluke fisted a pitch into right field for another RBI single to tie it.

With the bases still loaded, Sabatini pushed across the go-ahead run with a fielder's choice grounder to second. Colosimo retired David DelSontro on a grounder to third as Lenape sent all nine batters to the plate.

"They battled back," said Klinck, now 35-23 overall in Freedom Division contests. "They're tough kids and they never stop fighting. We've won a lot of games this year when we were down. They never give up. It's a great quality to have."

Wallkill jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first as Rich Stecher drew a bases-loaded walk after singles by McWilliams and Brandon Grabkowski. The Rangers added two in the second -- taking advantage of a Lenape error -- as Grabkowski hit a single through the left side to score Walton and Rosencranz, who both reached without a hit.

Rafferty settled down from there and gutted out five innings despite fouling a ball off his left foot while batting in the second inning. The right-hander allowed four hits and three runs (one earned) with five walks and four strikeouts. He exited with Lenape up, 4-3, but received a no-decision.

"He had a pretty high pitch count [around 100], but he threw great," Klinck said. "He's a bulldog and has thrown fantastic all year. Danny gave us five strong innings. He wanted to stay in there, but we had Jimmy on a weeks' rest for relief. He threw four innings and could come back on Wednesday [against Hackettstown]. His pitch count was only in the 40s."

After a shaky first two innings, Rafferty retired Wallkill in order in the third and Togno said that was a big key in getting the Patriots settled in.

"He did a good job after a couple of hard innings," Togno said. "We know we're a good team and were capable of playing better."

With one title in hand, Lenape now sets its sights on a sectional championship. The team's success has inspired an entire school.

"They're excited about it and they're proud of us," Togno said. "We just have to keep playing our style of baseball and stay hot."

LENAPE VALLEY (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Fluke ss-p 4-0-1-1, Cole Swanson ph 1-0-0-0, Sabatini rf 4-1-1-1, DelSontro dh/Adam Varian 2b 3-1-1-0, Lindner 3b 3-1-0-0, Togno 1b 5-1-3-1, Armstrong lf 4-1-0-0, Tyler Shaw pr 0-0-0-0, Rafferty p-ss 4-0-1-1, Kyle Piekarz pr 0-0-0-0, Sparacino c 4-0-1-0, Dan Willoughby cr 0-1-0-0, Rogers cf 4-0-2-1. Totals: 36-6-10-6.

WALLKILL VALLEY (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Rosencranz 2b 5-1-1-0, McWilliams c 5-1-1-0, Michael Armstrong cf-p-3b-rf 2-0-1-0, Grabkowski dh/Colosimo p-rf 4-0-2-2, Stecher lf-cf 4-0-0-1, Sean Endres 3b 2-0-0-0, T. Hill ph-3b-p 3-0-0-0, Larry Ball ss 5-0-0-0, B. Hill 1b-p 3-0-1-0, Jordan Florio pr 0-0-0-0, Walton rf-cf 3-2-0-0. Totals: 36-4-6-3.

                                            123       456      789       R   H  E
Lenape Valley (14-3)            000       400      002  --   6  10  3
Wallkill Valley (8-9)              120       001      000  --   4   6   2

E -- Varian 2, Fluke; Colosimo, Rosencranz. DP -- Wallkill Valley (Ball-Rosencranz-B. Hill, 7th). LOB -- Lenape Valley 11, Wallkill Valley 12. SB -- DelSontro; McWilliams. CS -- Sabatini. Sac -- Lindner. SF -- Rafferty.

Rafferty, Fluke (6) and Sparacino; Colosimo, Armstrong (7), T. Hill (9), B. Hill (9) and McWilliams. W -- Fluke (7-1). L -- T. Hill (1-1). SO-BB -- Rafferty 4-5, Fluke 7-1; Colosimo 8-1, Armstrong 1-1, T. Hill 0-1, B. Hill 1-0. WP -- Colosimo, T. Hill; Rafferty 2, Fluke. PB -- Sparacino; McWilliams. BK -- Colosimo; Rafferty. HBP -- Sparacino, Lindner (by Colosimo), DelSontro (by T. Hill).

Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex semifinals

Hunterdon Central 8, Pope John 2 -- In the continuation of a game that was halted by weather on Saturday, Brett McManus, Christian Carey and Matt Stalter all went 2-for-4 while ace Pat Clare earned the win for the Red Devils (18-3), who advanced to Saturday's championship game at Diamond Nation. Coach Mike Raymond's club, seeking the program's third HWS title, will square off against North Hunterdon, which has beaten Central twice this season, in the first All-Hunterdon final.

McManus belted a solo homer -- his team-leading fourth of the season -- and Stalter went deep to back Clare (6-1), who picked up victories in all three of the team's county games and no-hit High Point in the second round. Central is now 17-2 all-time in tri-county games and has played for the title each season in the tournament's five-year history.

Axel D'Addario went 2-for-4 with a double for the top-seeded Lions (11-9), who were trying to get past the semifinals for the first time since winning Sussex County's only title in 2011. Coach Vin Bello's teams are now 1-2 vs. Central in the HWS, beating the Red Devils, 8-1, in the '11 final before being ousted in the quarters last year, 4-2.

                                                   123       456      7       R   H  E
Hunterdon Central (18-3)             310       040      0  --   8   8   1
Pope John (11-9)                         000       101      0  --   2   6   2

E -- Vacca; Sanford. LOB -- Hunterdon Central 9, Pope John 8. 2B -- D'Addario. HR -- McManus (4), Stalter (2). SB -- Gustites, Hanigan; Kopnick, Young. Sac -- Korn.

Nelson, Cunico (6), Miller (7) and Leach; Clare, Horzepa (8) and Vacca. W -- Clare (6-1). L -- Nelson (2-1). SO-BB -- Nelson 5-3, Cunico 2-4, Miller 1-0; Clare 2-3, Horzepa 2-2. WP -- Cunico 2.

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