CALDWELL- Ryan Sanderson has worked diligently on trying to perfect his 2-seam slider while changing speeds and hitting spots. All that effort and execution came to fruition in Tuesday’s North 2, Group 2 first round home game vs. Lodi as the seventh-seeded Chiefs rode the junior right-hander’s 2-hit complete game plus a huge bases-loaded 3-run double from freshman Nick Bergamotto to post a 6-1 victory at Kiwanis Oval.
Caldwell (13-11) will now meet second-seeded Verona 4 p.m., Thursday, in the N2G2 sectional quarterfinals at Doc Goeltz Field in what will be a ‘rubber’ match between the two local rivals who have split their two Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division meetings this spring.
The Hillbillies slipped past 15th-seeded Ridgefield Park, 5-4, also on Monday, and will throw their ace, 6-foot-7 sophomore left-hander Pierce Coppola, vs. Caldwell in Thursday’s contest.
“I know Pierce from Wladyka’s (training facility in Rutherford), he’s a very good pitcher,” said Sanderson, who displayed his own talent on the mound on Monday when he threw 107 pitches vs. Lodi while walking one, hitting one batter and striking out eight. “We’ve faced him twice already this season so it should be a great rubber match.”
Caldwell, under the guidance of second-year coach Dennis Sasso, Jr., has a large senior class (14 on the roster) but only two juniors, including Sanderson, and a couple of freshmen, led by Bergamotto, who started at third base in Monday’s game and had reportedly been in a bit of a hitting slump of late, although that didn’t matter much when he came up in a huge spot with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth and the Chiefs holding a narrow 2-1 lead.
Lodi (11-13) made a pitching change, taking out starter Vincent Vartolone (6 1/3 IP, 10 HA, 1 BB 1 HBP 6 K’s 5 R, 5 ER) with Bergamotto ready to face reliever Chase Geiser.
The Chiefs freshman didn’t waste any time, swinging at the first pitch he saw and driving the ball over third and down the left field line while clearing the bases as Owen Ayers (3-for-3), Ryan Lill and George Petrillo all came around to score to make it a much more comfortable 5-1 lead.
“Coach Sasso really picked me up before with some good encouragement and I just went up there ready to hit the ball hard,” said Bergamotto. “He threw me a fast ball and I was able to pull it down the line and it was great to see all our guys on base head for home plate, that’s for sure!”
“That was a big hit for Nick,” said Sasso, Jr. “He had been struggling a bit and he had a chance to do something really positive in that at bat and he really came through for us.”
Sanderson, who mixed a good curve ball in with his slider, fast ball and even an occasional knuckle ball, was consistently strong throughout, allowing a first inning single to Lodi’s No. 3 hitter, Joshua Inirio in the first inning and then a lead-off double to the visitor’s fifth hitter, Kevin Rodriguez, in the second, but after that retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced with only an infield error allowing Inirio to reach base again in the fourth.