By Andy Loigu
Oh, thank the heavens, for Wayne Evans.
With a bases loaded double that drove in three runs, Evans gave the Hackettstown Tigers a 3-2 lead after they had been shutout for five and 1/3 innings at Jefferson Township on Tuesday afternoon.
With John Franco pitching two scoreless innings for the save (not the same John Franco who saved over 400 major league games for the Mets, Reds and Astros in the 90s), Hackettstown captured a come-from-behind road victory by a 4-2 score.
Coming a day after defeating the Warren Hills Blue Streaks’ ace pitcher Anthony Veneziano, the victory gave the Tigers a pair of impressive wins over quality opponents and momentum for the upcoming state tournament.
Hackettstown only got one hit in the first five innings at Jefferson and trailed 2-0 as Franco came to bat with one out in the sixth. The Tigers were down to their final five outs.
Franco singled up the middle and walks to Mike Castellano and Dom Desiderio loaded the bases for Evans.
“I was thrilled for the opportunity to come up with the bases loaded in such a big situation,” Evans said.
Jefferson made a pitching change, before Evans stepped up, so he faced a pitcher (Vince Mattone) who he was not familiar with.
“I like fastballs better than curves, so with the count 1-1, I was looking for a fastball,” said Evans, who was a pull hitter as a JV player. “I got the fastball, but it was on the outside edge, so I just went with it and hit the other way, to left field. I’ve been working in batting practice on going the other way.”
His coach, Gary Poyer, appreciates Evans’ learning to adjust. “He hits to all fields now. His last couple of hits have gone the other way, and I like that. Teams can’t shift the defense on him.”
Matt Buchanan was the Tigers’ winning pitcher. In his five innings, he gave up six hits, walked two, and struck out four Falcons. Jefferson (now 18-6 overall) stranded nine baserunners in the game.
Buchanan followed Evans’ bases clearing shot with an RBI single for an insurance run. Anthony Carida got his second hit of the game, but the Falcons put out the fire after the Tigers had batted around in the inning, meaning all nine players in the lineup came to bat.
The win improved the Tigers’ record to 12-6.
Buchanan, playing third after the pitching change, made a fine play to snuff out a possible Falcons’ rally in the bottom of the sixth. With a runner at second and two out, Buchanan knocked down a hot smash and calmly picked it up and threw to first to retire the side.
Centerfielder Matt Arcona made a catch of a deep drive hit to the fence in the seventh and final inning. Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play.
Hackettstown 3 Warren Hills 1
Joe Renne, a three-sport athlete, drove in two runs with a single, Buchanan also drove in a run and the Tigers defeated Warren Hills on Monday, even though the Blue Streaks’ ace, Veneziano, held them to three hits.
“We’ve been putting our hits together and getting run production from the bottom of the order,” Poyer said. “We’ve also improved defensively since the beginning of the season. We still make an occasional flub in the field, but when we do, someone picks us up with a fine defensive play.
Veneziano, who will pitch at Division One Coastal Carolina next spring, struck out six Tigers.
Carida, the winning pitcher, implemented a masterful three-hitter.
The Blue Streaks now are 12-10.
Slugging Hackettstown right fielder Jake Hall has tied a school record with eight home runs this season. As of this writing, he is tied for the state lead in homers, with a South Jersey player.
Angels for Mark
The Somerset Patriots and Angels for Mark have partnered for a fun-filled awareness and community night on Wednesday, May 25, at TD Bank Ballpark, in Bridgewater, prior to a baseball game between the Patriots and the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters. A post-game fireworks display is also part of the night.
The pre-game Little League and Community Night will commence at the Lawn Seating area of the ballpark at 6:30 p.m.
A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit Angels for Mark, which raises funds to battle Choroideremia, a disease that causes progressive loss of vision. Mark DeVoe, an 11-year old Washington youth, has this retina eye disease. His father, Mark, is the owner, president and managing director of DeVoe Funeral Services, Inc., in downtown Washington.
To order tickets, at $10 each, contact Mark DeVoe at (908) 619-8260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org online. Community Night t-shirts, available for six dollars, can also be purchased at the above phone number and email address. Visit www.angelsformark.com for more information.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.