Saturday, May 3, 2014

Baseball: Vernon, North Hunterdon gain in HWS

HARDYSTON -- With each victory, Vernon's baseball team adds another chapter in tri-county tournament history.

No matter that previous No. 10 seeds went a combined 0-8, the Vikings became the first No. 10 seed to win a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex contest and they haven't stopped there -- rolling off two additional wins including a thrilling 5-2 victory in eight innings over No. 6 Wallkill Valley on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Vernon (5-8), now 3-0 in this tournament, has made back-to-back trips to the semifinals for the first time in program history. In the five years of this event, only one Sussex County team (Pope John in 2011) has won the championship. Coach Scott Berge's Vikings are now just two wins away from adding another page to the history books.

Up next in the semifinals is top-seeded North Hunterdon, a 2-1 winner in nine innings over Newton in another quarterfinal. Pope John -- a 10-0 winner over Warren Hills -- and Hunterdon Central -- an 8-4 winner over Sparta -- will meet in the other semifinal next Saturday. The winners will play for the title on Saturday, May 17 at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

"[The media] is motivating us. I was unhappy that we were a No. 10 seed, but I liked our bracket and I knew what we were capable of," said Berge, whose 2013 squad earned a 3-1 decision in eight innings over North Hunterdon in the semifinals to reach its first title game. "We're happy to be back in the semifinals."

After dodging two huge bullets in the sixth and seventh innings, Vernon's No. 9 hitter Joe Roccasanta broke the tie with an RBI single to left with the bases loaded. Three batters later, Mike Harboy capped the scoring with a two-run single through the left side for a three-run eighth inning. Harboy finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs.

The inning was set up by Dave Baxter's leadoff single to third and bunt to third that Josh Rodriguez beat out for a hit. Another bunt by Brady Keenan loaded them up and set the stage for Roccasanta's heroics.

"We have a lot of confidence," Harboy said. "Any guy in the lineup can come through for us."

Winning pitcher Anthony Germinario, now 4-1, retired Wallkill in order in the bottom of the eighth to seal it. The right-hander went the distance, allowing just five hits while walking four and striking out six.

"We survived ... I don't know how else to put it," Berge said.

Wallkill Valley (7-6), which was making just its second appearance in the quarterfinals, has now lost two in a row following a six-game win streak after a 1-4 start. The Rangers were a hair away from taking a lead and potentially winning with runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth and seventh innings.

Both times, coach Kevin Lukich opted to bunt -- in the sixth with No. 5 hitter Travis Hill and in the seventh with leadoff hitter Kyle Rosencranz. But each time, Germinario pitched his way out of trouble and made a game-saving defensive play in the seventh on a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded.

Joe Colosimo and Jordan Florio started the seventh with singles, and After Rosencranz moved the runners over, Germinario walked Nick McWilliams to load the bases with one out. Michael Armstrong laid down a nice bunt in front of the plate, but Germinario hustled in and made a diving flip of the ball to catcher Connor Fitzsimmons for the forceout. With the bases still juiced, Brandon Grabkowski flied out to center to send the game into extra frames.

"That was a great play by Anthony," second baseman Harboy said.

In the sixth, back-to-back Vernon errors put Wallkill in business, but after Travis Hill bunted the runners over, Germinario got Sean Endres to foul out to the catcher and retired Rich Stecher on a flyout to right.

"I didn't [intentionally walk the runners both times] because of Anthony's junk. He didn't flinch at all," Berge said. "We had him throw everything offspeed. We didn't want to give [the hitters] fastballs. That popup was huge."

Germinario is now 3-0 in three HWS starts, including the team's 10-0 preliminary win over South Hunterdon and the ensuing 5-1 upset of No. 2 Lenape Valley in the second round.

"My slider was really working for me today," said the Vernon ace, who also struck out the side in the second with a runner on second.

Wallkill Valley grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Endres' RBI double, but he was stranded after a flyout by Stecher and a grounder back to the mound by losing pitcher Colosimo.

Colosimo, a lefty, gave up the lead in the fifth as Vernon rallied with two outs. Harboy doubled to the gap in right-center and scored on Germinario's single to left.

Colosimo (1-2) allowed nine hits and five runs (four earned) with one walk and four strikeouts.

VERNON (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Pontus cf 4-1-0-0, Moran 3b 3-0-0-0, Harboy 2b 5-1-3-3, Germinario p 5-0-1-1/Grifone cr 0-0-0-0, Fitzsimmons c 4-0-1-0/Lavorini cr 0-0-0-0, Baxter 1b 4-0-2-0, Rodriguez lf 4-1-2-0, Keenan ss 4-1-0-0, Emerson ph 1-0-0-0, Roccasanta rf 4-1-1-1. Totals: 37-5-10-5.

WALLKILL VALLEY (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Rosencranz ss 3-0-0-0, McWilliams c 2-0-1-1, Armstrong cf-p 4-0-0-0, Grabkowski rf 3-0-0-0, T. Hill 3b 3-1-0-0, Endres dh/B. Hill 1b 4-0-1-1, Stecher lf 4-0-0-0, Colosimo p 2-1-1-0, Walton cf 0-0-0-0, Florio 2b 2-0-1-0. Totals: 27-2-5-2.

                                             123       456      78       R   H  E
Vernon (5-8)                          100       010      03  --   5  10  2
Wallkill Valley (7-6)              001       100      00  --   2   5   3

E -- Moran 2; Rosencranz 2, T. Hill. LOB -- Vernon 11, Wallkill Valley 8. 2B -- Harboy, Baxter; Endres. SB -- Moran, Harboy; Grabkowski. CS -- McWilliams. Sac -- Moran; T. Hill, Rosencranz.

Germinario and Fitzsimmons; Colosimo, Armstrong (8) and McWilliams. W -- Germinario (4-1). L -- Colosimo (1-2). SO-BB -- Germinario 6-4; Colosimo 4-1, Armstrong 1-1. WP -- Colosimo.

In other quarterfinal games:

North Hunterdon 2, Newton 1 (9 innings) -- Marc Monks was 2-for-3 and Tom Schumacher drove in a run to lead the top-seeded Lions (12-7) to their third straight semifinal and fourth overall. Ben Cramer drove in the lone run for the Braves (8-6), who were making just their second quarterfinal appearance. Newton ace Nick Grant walked five and struck out two in a no-decision, while Griffin Hatton got the win  in relief for North after starter John Wilson struck out seven. Cole Van Luvender (3-1) took the loss. North will host Vernon in one of next Saturday's semifinals.

Pope John 10, Warren Hills 0 (6 innings) -- Jack Nelson went 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs and tossed a two-hitter to lead the top-seeded Lions (9-6) to their first semifinal since winning the championship in 2011. Coach Vin Bello's team had been ousted in the last two quarterfinal rounds and had lost five of six coming into this one. Axel D'Addario had a double and two RBIs and Michael Young was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Nelson (2-0) had six strikeouts. PJ will next face No. 2 Hunterdon Central, which beat the Lions, 4-2, in last year's quarters. The fourth-seeded Blue Streaks, now 4-5 all-time in county games, dropped to 9-7 on the season.

Hunterdon Central 8, Sparta 4 -- Brett McManus went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs and Sean Hanigan was 2-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the second-seeded Red Devils (15-2) to their fifth straight semifinal appearance. McManus tripled during a decisive four-run fifth. Thomas Ruddy was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Dillon Mendel had a pair of hits, including a double, for the Spartans (11-5), who had their five-game win streak snapped after being eliminated by Central for the second straight year and three times in tournament history.

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