WEST ORANGE, NJ - The bad bounces started early and continued throughout the game for the Millburn Millers as they dropped a key game in West Orange against the suddenly hot Pirates of Seton Hall Prep, 10-3. Millburn head coach Daryl Palmieri's team struggled to find the handle on the horsehide on Wednesday afternoon as they committed four errors en route to a seven-run defeat. Seton Hall Prep starter Steven Silvestri limited the Millers to just one hit over five strong innings and centerfielder John Norwood was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI in the convincing win.
"I feel like we beat ourselves more than anything," Palmieri said of his team's performance after the game. "Obviously Seton Hall [Prep] is a good team. Making errors against a good team is not going to cut it. I don't care how many runs you're going to score, making mental mistakes - and I saw a lot of our errors today as mental mistakes - it's just losing focus and that's on me, but we'll tighten it up."
The Millers' defense was far from tight on Wednesday afternoon at Anthony J. Verducci Field. Although two of Millburn's charged errors came on hard ground balls that were absolutely smoked, centerfielder Tim Swanson dropped a catchable flyball that allowed a run to score and reliever Ben Touger misplayed a pop-up in the infield that later led to two more Pirates' runs. All told, the Millers' fielding negated a gutsy effort by their starting pitcher as Danny Frischman fought his way through four and two-thirds tough innings against a very potent line-up.
"I was a little worried because Frischman's pitch count was getting up there a little bit," Palmieri said of his starter. "At that point, it was a four-run game I think and I was ready to get him out of there if he had nothing left, but he kind of settled down and got through it."
Frischman surrendered five runs to the Pirates in the game's first three innings, but in the fourth, the lefty allowed only a walk before inducing an inning-ending pop-up. Frischman battled hard in the fifth, but was unable to finish the frame as reliever Stephen Near came on and ended Seton Hall's two-run inning with a strikeout of leadoff hitter Matt Cianci. All told, Frischman threw decently against a potent line-up and showed the mental fortitude of a number one starter by consistently working his way out of jams that were mostly created by his teammates' defensive miscues.
Aside from the Pirates putting up seven runs - two of them unearned - against Frishman, Seton Hall starter Stephen Silvestri used an above-average fastball and a slow, bending curve to keep the Millers off-balance for all of his five innings. In total, Silvestri struck out eight Millers - four of them looking - before exiting with a 7-0 lead.
"I think it was good pitching," Palmieri said of his team's anemic offense throughout much of the game. "[Silvestri] is their number one starter and he kept us off-balance, but we had some good at-bats, but we had too many swings and misses. One thing we worked on was our approach at the plate and I thought we were better with two strikes, but that's not always something that is visible."
The Millers finally showed some offensive life in the sixth inning as they got to Pirates' reliever Tom Mahala for three runs, but leadoff hitter A.J. O'Leary struck out swinging with a man on first and second to end the threat. In the inning - which was filled with patient at-bats by most of the Millers who came to the plate - Chris Benedict, Swanson and Dylan Bailey all scored while Swanson, Ian Barry and Dominic Dasti picked up the RBIs. However, in the bottom half of the frame, the Pirates touched up Touger and got the three runs right back, helped in part by Touger himself who muffed a pop-up that would have given the Millers two outs with nobody on base. It was yet another costly error in a day filled with them.
In the seventh, Seton Hall closer Michael Sheppard came on and dispatched of the Millers quickly, allowing only a two-out walk to rightfielder Lex Blum before getting Swanson to fly out to Norwood in centerfield for the game's final out.
The loss dropped the Millers to 5-4 on the young season and had Palmieri trying to get his team back to the basics and fundamentals with which they began the season. "We need to be better and we'll get it together," Palmieri said. "It's a long season and we started out hot and now we've gone a little cold. Like I said to [the players] just now, we need to get that swagger back. We need to get out and win a game and then we have a chance [to get on a roll]."