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West Orange players begin the celebration pile moments after walk-off 2-run double by Christopher Walker in bottom of the ninth inning gave Mountaineers a thrilling 6-5 win vs. Montclair in North 1, Group 4 quarterfinal. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Andrew Scholz (23) gets ready to greet Rob Parisi who is heading home with West Orange first inning run after ump ruled that the Montclair pitcher committed a balk.

West Orange starting pitcher Paul Casolaro delivers to the plate vs. Montclair

(continued from page 1)

The Montclair rally in the top of the seventh also produced its own drama, including a tag play at the plate that prevented the go-ahead run from scoring on Booker’s RBI single to right. The Mounties loaded the bases in the seventh inning with no outs against Walker, who had relieved West Orange starter Paul Casolaro (six innings, four hits, one earned run and one BB) after Casolaro gave up a single to junior catcher Dylan Scarfo and a bunt single to center fielder Isaiah Rodriguez.

Walker then proceeded to dig the hole a little deeper by hitting with a pitch Montclair first baseman Willem VanderMeulen.

As momentum shifted for the umpteenth time in the game, the left-handed sophomore struck out left fielder Nash Greene and then got a force out at home plate when sophomore shortstop Danny Banks hit a hard chopper back to the mound for the second out of the inning.

“He was able to get us out of a jam and he was able to minimize the damage and force the game into extra innings,” Zichella said.

Montclair reliever Mark Uehlinger also earned his coach’s praise by working three scoreless innings (sixth, seventh and eighth) to stretch the game. Although he walked five he did not allow a hit to the potent West Orange offense.

The Mounties' starting pitcher, the impressive freshman Conor McGrath, worked the first five innings allowing three hits and three runs, two of which were unearned.

In the ninth inning for Montclair, senior Rodriguez led off by drawing a walk from Walker (3 strikeouts, 1 HBP and 1 base on balls), and he moved to second base on a fielder’s choice. Greene (who doubled in the fifth to drive in Montclair’s first run) hit a comebacker to Walker on the mound, who unsuccessfully threw to third base in an attempt to get Rodriguez out. (Rodriguez slid into the base safely on the play.)

With No. 9 hitter Banks at bat and still only one out, Walker made an errant pickoff throw to first base and Rodriguez, moving on the throw, easily scored from third base to give Montclair a 4-3 lead. Greene advanced to third base on the play.

Walker, a hard-thrower, recovered to strike out Banks on a swing and a miss, but the ball scooted away from the West Orange catcher, which allowed Banks to reach first base and Greene to score the second run of the inning.

The Montclair threat continued when lead-off hitter Booker hit a sharp ground ball to second baseman Aaron Puryear, who was able to tag Banks running to second base for the second out of the inning. Booker proceeded to steal second and third base, and a base on balls put another Montclair runner on first base before Walker could end the inning with a fly ball to right field.

At that point, with the game getting close to three hours old and Montclair holding both the momentum and a two-run advantage, it looked a little bleak for the Mountaineers. “We hadn’t scored since the fifth inning and … they had all of the momentum,” Zichella explained. “But going into [the bottom of the ninth inning), we knew we had the heart of our team up. I believe this team is very special and I believe there is always hope.”

That hope surfaced with one out as designated hitter Liam White singled to left field off Montclair’s Van Berg, who had come on in relief of Uehlinger to start the inning. No. 3 hitter Doug Hughes, who had driven in West Orange’s second run in the third inning, followed with a single to left field.

Berg then got a ground ball to third base by cleanup hitter Andrew Scholz, but all West Orange runners were safe on the play when the throw to second base was high and Hughes was able to slide in safely.

With the bases loaded, West Orange’s Jordan Stennett lofted a popup that fell in the no-man’s land between shortstop and left field and the ball glanced off one of the fielder’s gloves, which allowed White to score on the play and bring West Orange to within 5-4.

“You have to make the routine plays,” Montclair coach Anthony Genchi said following the game. “If you make the routine plays, you will win most high school baseball games. We couldn’t make the routine ones in the bottom of the ninth.”

Trailing now by one run, West Orange’s Walker stepped to the plate with a chance to redeem himself for the errant pickoff attempt just a half inning earlier.

Zichella said he had told Walker earlier in the game that the team needed a hero on this night, and as fate would have it, the coach proved to be prescient. “That last inning in which [Montclair] scored two runs, he didn’t allow a hit,” Zichella noted of the pressure-tested Walker.

The blast the sophomore hit to right field, undoubtedly the hardest hit ball of the game, left no doubt about the outcome.

“What he did to come up [to bat] with two strikes and hit that bomb, and I don’t know if it even landed yet,” Zichella said. “It would have been out at 90 percent of high school fields…. For him to hit that was so fitting. It’s just something that he is going to build upon and the team is going to build upon. ”

NORTH 1, GROUP 4 QUARTERFINAL

5-Montclair (16-12)  0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 2 – 5 5 2

4-West Orange (18-5) 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 – 6 9 4  

WINNING PITCHER:

West Orange sophomore Chris Walker (in relief)

LOSING PITCHER:

Van Berg (who entered in relief)

 

Essex County Teams Still Alive In NJSIAA Tourney:

Tuesday, May 31, Public School State Sectional Semifinals:

North 2, Group 1:

(4) Brearley at (1) Bloomfield Tech

(11) Secaucus at (2) Glen Ridge

 

North 2, Group 3:

(8) Nutley at (4) Cranford

 

North 2, Group 4:

(4) Millburn at (1) Watchung Hills

 

North 1, Group 1:

(8) Cedar Grove at (4) Wood-Ridge

 

North 1, Group 4:

(4) West Orange at (1) Morristown

 

Tuesday, May 31, Sectional Quarterfinals:

Non-Public, North B:

(6) Dwight-Englewood at (3) Newark Academy

 

Non-Public, North A:

(7) Paramus Catholic at (2) Seton Hall Prep

 

Friday, June 3, Sectional Semfinals:

(4) MKA vs. Tuesday's (1) Morristown-Beard vs. (8) Marist winner

Follow Mark Tosh on Twitter @MarkWrites1

West Orange head coach Stephan Zichella will now lead his Mountaineers in Tuesday's state sectional quarters looking to see magic carpet ride continue in NJSIAA tourney.

Montclair run is about to score run as West Orange reliever Christopher Walker covers plate as the frenetic action continues in Thursday night's North 1, Group 4 quarterfinal.

 

 

 

 

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