By Andy Loigu
The Hackettstown Tigers’ baseball team reached the sectional final in North 2 Group 2 last season. A couple of close calls did not go their way, keeping them from reaching the state semifinal. They were the regular season champions of the Northwest Jersey Conference Freedom Division.
The Tigers graduated some key players, but the left side of the infield returns and seniors John Franco and Anthony Carida are fine players and team leaders.
Carida is a gold glove worthy shortstop and Franco swings a thunderous bat. Last season Franco registered 27 base hits and batted .375.
You can’t win them all, if you don’t win the first one.
Behind a complete game by Carida, who only allowed one earned run in his seven innings of pitching, the Tigers won their opener 6-3 at Wallkill Valley.
Carida struck out seven batters and walked one, while giving up five hits.
Jake Hall, a talented newcomer playing his first varsity game, led the offense by going 2-for-4 with a double, homer, and two runs batted in. The Tigers rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh to gain a come-from-behind win.
Matt Arcona also went 2-for-4 with a double, run scored and RBI for the Tigers.
Hackettstown has a big week coming up on its schedule. The Tigers visit division rival Lenape Valley on Monday, April 11. They will be home on April 13 against High Point and on April 16 against Morris Hills.
From the Sports Chatter archives, where are they now?
The last time Hackettstown won a sectional championship in baseball, 2007, outfielder Zachary Ulm and shortstop Matt Pezzato were front and center.
“We went as he went,” remarked Head Coach Gary Poyer when Ulm was named Player of the Year and a finalist for Male Athlete of the Year by the Warren Reporter. He was the first team centerfielder on the All-Skyland Conference Raritan Division team, among his numerous postseason honors.
Ulm batted .375 and scored 36 runs as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter that season. “The Zach Attack” was very good at going from first base to third on a single, setting up opportunities for Pezzato, in the middle of the order, to drive in runs.
Pezzato, wearing uniform number 7, reminded this old timer of a young Mickey Mantle, as he drove majestic high-arching drives, which cleared the trees and came perilously close to hitting my car in the Hackettstown High School parking lot.
Whether they were making web-gem catches, firing accurate laser throws, or pounding clutch hit after clutch hit, they were a pair of Tigers fueling Hackettstown’s tank toward a 16-10 record.
Ulm was a member of sectional champion teams in two sports that year. He was 36-7 on the wrestling mats, leading the Tigers to their second straight District I and North Jersey Section 2 Group 2 championships and the 2007 state championship match, a loss to New Jersey’s top ranked team, South Plainfield.
Ulm went on to wrestle at the Division I level in college with George Mason University of the Colonial Athletic Association.
He also excelled scholastically, winning the Dean’s Business Plan Competition.
Now, he is employed in the Washington, D.C. area, as a Regional Manager for Interfolio, Inc.
Interfolio is an innovative, state-of-the-art firm that supports scholars with software products, such as dossier service and assistance for letter writing and faculty search through their ByCommittee platform. Ulm works directly with department chairs and program directors at colleges to improve their workflow processes.
Pezzato is a graduate of Moravian College and works as a small business consultant and sales executive in the Philadelphia area.
The Phillies could probably use his bat.
Someone who should know better once told me he “hates” high school sports and thinks they don’t belong in the schools, because all the athletes end up raking and shoveling for landscaping firms.
I beg to differ.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.