Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hightstown-East Windsor wins 14s title on wild pitch

By Tony Piscotta
For The Trentonian
HAMILTON — Michael Griffin scored from third on a wild pitch with the bases loaded and two-outs in the bottom of the seventh for the winning run and Hightstown-East Windsor defeated Nottingham, 4-3 to capture the championship of the South Jersey Babe Ruth District One 14-year-old tournament.
“This feels great. We’ve been playing them in tournaments since we were nine and to beat them in the semifinals (of the winner’s bracket) and then beat them in the district championship,” said Hightstown-East Windsor catcher Matt Jacobsen. “We knew it would happen sooner or later.”
As was the case throughout the tournament — the winning team received an outstanding pitching performance — though Nottingham made things interesting at the end.
Pitcher Craig Monahan went the distance for Hightstown-East Windsor, shutting out Nottingham on just two hits and striking out six over the first six innings before Nottingham rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to tie it.
“I was throwing a lot more first pitch strikes and my curveball was really working today,” said Monahan, who was lights out for much of the game after struggling in Hightstown-East Windsor’s opening game on Saturday.
After Nottingham’s Steven Moticha’s two-out single in the first, Monahan did not allow another hit until Shane Keledy had an infield hit to short  with two outs in the sixth.
“He was throwing his curveball for strikes,” said Jacobsen. “He was getting first-pitch strikes — either with his curveball down the middle or with fastballs on the corners.”
Monahan was at his best in the middle of the game - retiring Nottingham in order in three straight innings and striking out the side in the fifth.
“I know how the middle of their lineup hits. You have to throw them off-speed pitches and not first-pitch fastball strikes,” said Monahan.
With Hightstown-East Windsor leading 3-0 entering the seventh, it was the Nottingham bench, along with number nine batter Sean McGeehan, who keyed the game-tying rally.
Moticha opened the inning with his second single of the game to get things started. Ken Zahn, who had come on to catch in the fourth, reached on an error to put runners on first and second with no outs. After Monahan got a fly ball out pinch hitter E.J. Skwara came on to bat for Riley Schmitt.
A wild pitch moved both runners up and Skwara then singled to right - just beating the throw from right fielder Andrew Aromando.
“I was just trying to hit the ball to the right side with runners on second and third,” said Skwara, who was batting for the first time in the district tournament.
A balk with pinch hitter Alec Gerasimowicz batting scored Zahn and moved Skwara to second and Gerasimowicz then singled — giving Nottingham runners at the corners. Gerasimowicz stole second and Sean McGeehan hit a bouncer to short; scoring Skwara.
“I was so nervous,” said McGeehan. “I just wanted to put the ball in play whether it was a ground ball or anything. I just wanted to get (Skwara) in.”
With the go-ahead run on third, Monahan got a ground ball out to end the inning.
“It looked like he got away from his game plan,” said Hightstown-East Windsor manager Bill Wilmer. “He had been using his curveball and when they brought the subs in he didn’t. I think he was thinking he just had to get the ball over and get it over with and those guys when they come in are usually just looking for fastballs that they can put in play.”
Despite the rally, Wilmer was confident Hightstown-East Windsor would score — as they had the top of their order coming up.
“I knew we had the hammer with (Griffin) and the top of the order coming up. The top of our order  on our team is good for two or three runs when they’re taking good at bats and as soon as Michael Griffin got on I got even more confident.”
Griffin reached with a walk and then stole second on a 1-1 pitch to Jacob Simon. Nottingham then elected to walk Simon intentionally. Nottingham pitcher Riley Schmitt, who came on in the sixth in relief of Keledy and escaped a jam in that inning, made a big pitch to get the first out of the inning - recording a strikeout on a called third strike.
Monahan’s chopper took a tough hop at third, loading the bases but then Schmitt made another big pitch - inducing a foul pop up for the second out. Nottingham looked like it might take the game to extra innings after the count went to 0-2 against Andrew Aromando but the next pitch sailed over the catcher’s head and Griffin raced in with the winning run.
Hightstown-East Windsor had opened the scoring in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit.
Jacob Simon hit a ground ball to third and ended up on second when the throw to first was off the mark. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Ryan Conlon bounced out to second base.
With Monahan cruising — his team stretched the lead to 3-0 with a pair of runs in the third.
Griffin started things with a seeing-eye single through the middle and then advanced on Simon’s single. Ryan Conlon worked out a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Monahan walked with the bases loaded to score a run and Jacobson drove ball deep to center for a sacrifice fly.
“When I hit it I thought it was over his head. I was looking for a pitch I could hit deep to score the run,” said Jacobsen.
Keledy, who started for Nottingham, avoided further trouble by getting a strikeout and fly ball to end the inning.
Three runs looked like it would be more than enough, until the Nottingham bench got involved.
“It was an exciting game and I’m happy the way we fought back especially the kids off the bench,” said Nottingham manager Anthony Francioso.
Francioso thinks that both Nottingham and Hightstown-East Windsor, which both qualify for the South Jersey state tournament, can do some damage next week.
“It’s July 11th and we know we’ll be playing. Last night it was July 10th and if we’d have lost (in the loser’s bracket final against West Windsor-Plainsboro), our season would have been over,” said Francioso. “They’re a good team and I think both teams will represent District One well.”
Hightstown-East Windsor’s Anthony Linder received the District One tournament’s Sportsmanship Award.
Nottingham     000 000 3 — 3 5 2             
Hightstown-East Windsor     102 000 1 — 4 6 3
WP - Craig Monahan. LP  - Riley Schmitt. RBI - H - Ryan Conlon, Craig Monahan, Matt Jacobsen; N - E.J. Skwara, Sean McGeehan.


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