Editor's Note: The following information was submitted by manager Pete Matarazzo.
The Basking Ridge 15-year-old Babe Ruth district winning team moving on to the state tournament pool this Saturday and Sunday, after the team recently swept its way to a three-game victory at the Babe Ruth District Championship in Edison.
To open the State Tournament Pool Play, Ridge will play Ridgefield at 8 p.m. on Saturday, and then will face Union City at 8 p.m. on Sunday night at Weehawken Stadium, 372 Park Ave. in Weehawken, said Manager Pete Matarazzo.
After the weekend, seedings will be determined among the six teams in the tournament, he said.
The six teams have been broken down into two divisions, American and National, with Ridge in the National divison. The teams will face off in combinations against each other through next Tuesday, July 17, he said. "The Championship for the State Title will be at 7 p.m. on Wed., July 18, for the opportunity to play in the Regional Tournament, which is the last stop before the Babe Ruth World Series," Matarazzo said on Friday.
The Ridge 15U players won the Babe Ruth district championship a few weeks ago, wit the two opposing teams twice invoking the tournament’s mercy rule along the way.
In the opening game of the district championship, Ridge jumped all over host Edison, with an early lead that led the opponents to accept Ridge's first mercy rule victory. Ridge wrapped that game up with a 10-0 shutout.
In the first inning, Ryan McLaughlin started things off for Ridge with a single that set the stage for him to steal second and third, and then score on Ian Solomon’s double. Then T.J. Rusiniak plated Solomon and Peter Matarazzo with a double of his own.
Ridge added three more runs in the second inning to extend their lead to 6-0. Cole Haiback led off with a single and used heads up base running to come all the way around on the ensuing play — a bunt single and two errors. Then two more timely two out singles scored Liam McArthur and Connor Scherzer.
The offensive Juggernaut continued in the third stanza for Ridge. Pitcher Dylan Crowley led off with a single and scored on a double by Don Komondy. McArthur then doubled to score Komondy and Haiback to make it 9-0.
The initial victory was sealed in the fourth with singles by Rusiniak and Crowley and a sacrifice fly by Komondy, his second RBI of the game.
Crowley picked up the win, scattering two hits over three innings and T.J. Rusiniak pitched the final two innings striking out 4 in the process. It wasn’t just offense and pitching as Grant Hellings stood out defensively at third base for Ridge, single handedly cutting off an Edison rally in the fifth.
Second victory not so easy, but grinding match
The next game couldn’t have been more different — a grinding, hard fought, come-from-behind 8-7 thriller in nine innings against Somerset County's Franklin Township.
Things started off swimmingly with Ridge pushing 4 runs across in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Liam McArthur was hit by a pitch, the first of five times he reached base on the afternoon.
Ian Solomon followed with a single to put runners on the corners with no body out. After Connor Scherzer sacrificed Solomon to second, Hellings walked to load the bases. Matarazzo then delivered the big blow of the inning plating all three a single to the left centerfield gap. Dylan Crowley then drove in Matarazzo with a double.
However, Franklin came roaring back in top half of the second, scoring five quick runs. Then they added 2 more in the fourth inning with a home run over the left field wall to make it 7-4. Without Vic Castagno with some stellar defensive play at right, Franklin's lead would have been even an even wider gap.
It stayed this way until the bottom of the seventh – do or die time for Ridge. Pete Matarazzo led off the inning with a single, but Franklin recorded two quick outs on a line out and a ground out which moved Matarazzo to second.
Down to the last out of the inning, Cole Haiback hit an infield single to the shortstop which moved Matarazzo to third. After a walk was issued to Johnny Bligh, Liam McArthur singled to score Matarazzo to bring it up to 7-5 for Ridge.
Grand finale for dramatic second win
Then down to Ridge’s last strike of the game, Ian Solomon delivered a clutch double scoring Haiback and Bligh to tie the game at 7 apiece. Time for free baseball! The score remained deadlocked until the bottom of the ninth, when Johnny Bligh led off with a single and McArthur followed with another single.
Following a perfectly executed sacrifice by Ian Solomon that moved runners to second and third, Connor Scherzer headed to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Scherzer hit a fly ball to center. Bligh tagged up on third. With the catch, Bligh took off for home and beat the throw securing Ridge’s place as the home team for the Championship game as the awaited the determination of who their opponent would be. T.J Rusiniak picked up the win in relief for Ridge in a stellar performance, only giving up 1 hit over the final five innings.
For the final game, Ridge again faced Franklin, after that team had twice beaten Edison to get to a place in the final. In the championship tilt, it was another brilliant pitching outing for Dylan Crowley and the discipline of the Ridge hitters that carried the day in a 15–2 blowout, again invoking the mercy rule at the end of the day.
While only managing 7 hits, Ridge cashed in on nine walks to up the score to 15. Grant Hellings was the offensive star going two for two and driving in 4. Bobby Moskow and Dylan Crowley had two RBI’s apiece and Liam McArthur, Ian Solomon, Connor Scherzer, Peter Matarazzo and Bobby Moscow all scored twice. Don Komondy and T.J Rusiniak each added a run and a hit in the total team effort. Crowley struck out 4 in the five-inning complete game win.