By Andy Loigu
That’s why they play the games.
The Hackettstown baseball team was the 10th seed and Delaware Valley was seeded second and playing at home with their ace on the pitcher’s mound, as the teams prepared to take the field in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament on Saturday morning.
The visiting Tigers defeated Delaware Valley (now 9-3), by a 3-1 score.
The Tigers, now 8-4, move on to the semifinal and visit rootin’ tootin’ Newton in Sussex County on Saturday, May 7, at a time to be determined.
Anthony Carida pitched a four-hit complete game gem to earn his second win of the tournament and fourth in five decisions, walking just two and keeping the hitters in the yard. He only started twice on the mound last season.
Matt Arcona caught seven fly balls in center field. John Fogerty would have been proud. Mike Castellano caught five “cans of corn” that were batted into left field, including the final out with a runner at second base.
Delaware Valley’s only run scored in the first inning, when Castellano was about to catch a fly ball but lost his footing on the wet grass, and fell down.
“In a morning game, the grass was still wet, so we got a bad break,” said veteran Hackettstown coach Gary Poyer. “Anthony is a real mentally tough kid and did not let it bother him. In my book, he pitched a shutout. He works fast, which keeps the fielders alert, and he throws strikes to good locations.”
The 10th seeded Tigers faced a legitimate ace pitcher in Delaware Valley’s C.J. Schaible. “Just like last week (in a first round 2-0 win over Vernon) we knew we would have to play lock-down defense today,” Carida said. “I threw strikes and pitched to outs, knowing my fielders were focused and would back me up.”
Carida gave up no hits in the last four innings. His fielders played errorless baseball until the seventh and final inning, when a booted ground ball allowed the potential tying run to come up.
“We struggled with our fielding early in the season, lots of errors, with lots of guys being new to playing at the varsity level,” Arcona said. “Coach Poyer has taught us to take the games day by day, each game starts with a clean slate, and to keep working to improve. Lots of drills in practice.”
The Tigers scored two runs on two hits to start the game in the top of the first inning.
Carida led off with a single and Arcona sacrifice bunted. Jake Hall, a power hitter being pitched outside, adjusted to where it was pitched, for a single going the other way to right field. So much for defensive shifts. Castellano then drove in the second run, from third base, with a ground ball.
In the top of the second, the Tigers scored their third run by playing more “small ball.”
Although they only got five hits, the Tigers made things happen, with their biggest hit producing an important insurance run. Joe Renne drove in Dom Desiderio with a one-out single. Desiderio had bunted his way on and then advanced on a wild pitch.
“It’s nice to get RBI hits from your ninth batter in back to back tournament games,” Poyer said. “Renne and Carida both are wrestlers, and I hope the wrestling program keeps sending me players. They are mentally tough guys. Joe didn’t care that he was only batting .200 when he came up. There was a potential run at second base and he rose to the occasion.”
Carida pitched out of trouble several times, because Delaware Valley stole four bases against him.
Matt Chiarino had three of those stolen bases. He was 2-for-3, drew a walk, and scored the Terriers’ only run.
“I need to work on holding those base runners,” Carida said. “Fortunately, my fastball was there when I needed it. I had a good cut fastball going, too, to keep them off balance.”
It does not get easier for the Tigers from here. It is not supposed to get easier as you reach the semifinals of any tournament.
Newton reached the semifinal with a shutout of Pope John, a nifty four-hitter with eight strikeouts and just two walks by Scott Price, who pitched a complete game. The Braves of Newton won at Hackettstown by a 6-5 score on April 8.
However, as Arcona said, each game starts with a clean slate. That’s why they are not played on paper.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.