Monday, May 19, 2014

Baseball: Newton wins; Lenape advances in playoffs

NEWTON -- Nick Grant certainly came up aces when Newton's baseball team needed it most.

The junior left-hander fired a four-hit shutout and delivered the game's only RBI as the Braves posted a 1-0 victory over North Warren on Monday in the opening round of the North 1, Group 2 playoffs at Memory Park.

Newton (14-8), the No. 3 seed, which has won four in a row and six of its last eight, advances to face either No. 6 Lodi -- a 1-0 winner over No. 11 Pascack Hills -- in the quarterfinals. A year ago, the Braves' stellar season -- in which they won 18 games and the program's first NJAC Freedom Division title, ended with a 13-3 loss to Pascack Hills in the sectional semifinals on this field.

Needless to say, the wait to enjoy the sweet taste of success rather than the bitter pill it swallowed in last year's playoffs was worth it.

"I go out every time like it's another game, but this was a big game for us being the first round of states," said Grant, who improved to 4-1 with his second shutout of the season. "The whole season, we've been looking forward to this day. We came out excited, but relaxed. We played good today."

Grant was in complete control, allowing just four singles and three walks while striking out eight. Only three times did an opposing runner reach second base.

"I started to think [that one run might be enough] by the fourth or fifth inning," said Newton coach John Selitto, whose team has yielded 11 runs in its last eight games and had beaten North Warren twice in the regular season -- 16-4 on April 23 and 13-0 on May 6. "Our whole approach was to take the ball the [opposite] way and we ran ourselves out of scoring position a few times. You can't normally get away with that, but we got great pitching from Nick."

This one was a pitchers' duel the whole way as North Warren senior right-hander Alex Hladik (6-1) fired six strong innings in the tough-luck loss. The Fordham-bound Hladik also had eight K's and three walks and scattered seven hits -- all singles. In his seven decisions, Hladik has 71 K's.

North Warren (9-9), which reached the North 1, Group 1 semis last year, had runners on first and second twice -- in the second and sixth innings -- but each time, Grant was able to get a key strikeout for the second out or to end the threat. The Patriots also jumped on Grant's first few offerings, rather than try to make the lefty work and get deeper into counts.

"I was hoping we'd be able to get a run or two," said veteran coach Jim Haupt, whose team had won three of its last four coming in. "We took the approach to try and put the ball in play. The goal for us was to get a good fastball for us to hit. [Grant] lives up in the strike zone and he wasn't getting that pitch [from the plate umpire]. Credit to Grant, he made the pitches when he needed to get a strikeout."

Grant helped himself with an RBI single in the third that scored Ben Cramer with the game's lone run. After Hladik struck out leadoff man Justin Smith and Anthony Brown -- both looking -- to start the frame, Cramer shot a single up the middle, one of his two hits on the day. Grant also finished 2-for-3 at the plate.

With Grant batting, Hladik uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cramer to race all the way to third. The left-handed hitter hit a pitch deep in the hole that shortstop Jason Vuz fielded cleanly, but Grant beat a low throw to the bag that got away from first baseman Nick Meyer, allowing Grant to advance to second. With runners on first and third after a single by Maker, the Pats escaped the jam when Charlie Grotyohann's bouncer to second kicked off Brian Turner's glove and went right to Vuz for the forceout.

Meanwhile, Grant was cruising along. He retired nine of 11 batters from the third through fifth innings, allowing only singles to Hladik and John Vuz. Grant retired six in a row until Meyer's two-out single to left in the sixth. After walking Turner, Grant fanned Vuz to end the inning.

"My curve was working and it was a warm-weather day, so I felt real good," said Grant, who allowed two hits and struck out 12 in his other shutout against Kittatinny -- 3-0 on April 19.

Newton, which had the bases loaded in the first before Joe Maker grounded into an inning-ended double play, threatened in the fourth with runners on first and second, but a forceout ended the inning. In the fifth, Maker reached on a two-out error and went to third after Hladik's second wild pitch of the game. But Grotyohann's pop foul to first ended the frame.

"We got picked off at first [in the first inning] and missed a steal sign [in the fourth] and then we hit a ground ball to second," Selitto said. "But I told them, in tournament play it doesn't really matter how you score. Our defense has been good all year and our starting pitching, other than one or two starts, has been really good. We're starting to play like the team I thought we'd be. I still don't think we've played our best baseball."

Selitto is still mulling over his starter for the next round, which is tentatively slated for Thursday at Memory Park. Rain is in the forecast for the end of the week and the game may be moved up to Wednesday.

Sophomore Cole Van Luvender (5-1) is expected to be on the mound for the Braves, but senior Casey Thomas (2-1) also is in the mix to start.

"I don't know [who will start] yet," Selitto said. "Cole is a very motivated kid and pitches to this ballpark. Casey has been pitching real well for us."

"I think we've got a shot at making not only the sectional finals, but state finals," Grant said. "Cole is a big kid and has definitely filled [the No. 2] spot for us. We're definitely hoping to play Pascack Hills and give them a little payback."

NORTH WARREN (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Matt Nicholoff 3b 3-0-0-0, Cam Esposito cf 2-0-0-0, Hladik p 3-0-1-0, Dave Wilbur c 3-0-0-0, Meyer 1b 3-0-1-0, Dale Durling pr 0-0-0-0, Turner 2b 2-0-1-0, John Vuz rf 2-0-1-0, Sean Thornton lf 3-0-0-0, Nick Nicholoff dh/Ja. Vuz ss 3-0-0-0. Totals: 24-0-4-0.

NEWTON (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Smith lf 2-0-0-0, Anthony Brown 2b 3-0-1-0, Cramer cf 3-1-2-0, Grant p 3-0-2-1, Bobby Fehr cr 0-0-0-0, Maker 3b 3-0-1-0, Grotyohann c 2-0-0-0, Jon Bernotas ss 2-0-0-0, Steve Kelly 1b 2-0-0-0, Thomas rf 3-0-1-0. Totals: 23-1-7-1.

                                         123       456      7     R   H  E
North Warren (9-9)            000       000      0  --  0   4   3
Newton (14-8)                    001       000     x  --  1   7   0

E -- Ja. Vuz 2, Turner. DP -- North Warren 1 (Turner-Ja. Vuz-Meyer, 1st). LOB -- North Warren 7, Newton 8. CS -- Smith. Sac -- Esposito; Kelly.

Hladik and Wilbur; Grant and Grotyohann. W -- Grant (4-1). L -- Hladik (6-1). SO-BB -- Hladik 8-3; Grant 8-3. WP -- Hladik 2.

Elsewhere in state playoff action:

Lenape Valley 3, High Point 1 -- Jim Fluke was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, while the ace right-hander improved to 8-1 with seven strikeouts as the second-seeded Patriots knocked off the No. 15 Wildcats in North 1, Group action. David DelSontro had a pair of RBIs for Lenape, which will host No. 7 Hawthorne in the quarterfinals. Matt Musilli was 2-for-3 with an RBI for High Point. Losing pitcher Kyle Adams struck out four.

Ramsey 1, Kittatinny 0 (12 innings) -- Losing pitcher Joe Repasy (1-5) allowed a two-out single in the 12th in relief of ace David Moyer, who took a no-hitter into the six and struck out 12 for the No. 16 seeded Cougars (5-15).

Pequannock 7, Wallkill Valley 1 -- The No. 12 seeded Rangers dropped to 9-10 with the loss in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs.

Sparta 1, River Dell 0 -- T.J. Estanislau went 2-for-3 with a double and winning pitcher Kevin Foulds had 10 strikeouts and hit a solo homer for the sixth-seeded Spartans (16-6), who advance to face No. 3 Montville -- a 10-0 winner over Jefferson -- in the North 1, Group 3 quarterfinals. Sparta split a pair of regular season games against Montville -- winning 8-7 on April 11 and dropping a 3-0 road decision on May 14.

Pompton Lakes 1, Belvidere 0 -- Tommy Madeo, Henry Myerchin and Owen Kaiser had the lone hits for the No. 11 seeded County Seaters (11-9) in the North 1, Group 1 playoffs. Losing pitcher David Woodworth (2-3) gave up three hits and one walk. No. 6 Pompton Lakes scored its run in the bottom of the sixth.

Morristown 2, Warren Hills 0 -- Losing pitcher Anthony Veneziano (3-5) struck out five and Jake Larsen had a double for the No. 11 seeded Blue Streaks (11-12) in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.

Robbinsville 5, Delaware Valley 0 -- Nick Perna went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and losing pitcher Logan Brown (5-3) struck out two and yielded two earned runs for the No. 15 seeded Terriers in the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs.

Sayreville 5, Hunterdon Central 4 -- Bobby Gambardella went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as the No. 16 seed stunned No. 1 in the Central Jersey, Group 4 playoffs in Raritan Township. Henry Hawkins, the MVP in Central's 6-3 win over North Hunterdon in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex final, went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Zac Vacca was 2-for-3 with an double and an RBI for the Red Devils (21-4), who had won five in a row and eight of their last nine coming in. Billy Roethke (5-1) took his first loss.

North Hunterdon 7, Edison 1 -- Tom Schumacher went 2-for-4 with an RBI and winning pitcher Shayne Fontana struck out a pair to lead the No. 5 seeded Lions (19-8) to their ninth win in 10 games. It was North's second win over Edison, coach Mike Kane's alma mater, this season as it won, 9-6, on April 12. North will travel to No. 4 Bridgewater in the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals.

Westfield 6, Phillipsburg 1 -- Matt McAnally drove in the lone run and losing pitcher Billy McAuliffe (2-5) struck out two for the No. 16 seeded Stateliners (5-21) in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs.

Hackettstown 10, Science Park 1 -- The 10th seeded Tigers (9-10) advance to play No. 2 Lyndhurst in the North 2, Group 2 quarterfinals.

No comments:

Post a Comment