SPRINGFIELD, NJ - The Dayton baseball team got off to a good start in the state tournament Monday.
Senior Vinny Pulice (6-1) scattered five hits over four innings with four walks and five strikeouts and had an RBI double in the first inning to provide all the offense needed as second-seeded Dayton edged fifteenth-seeded Whippany Park, 1-0, in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 tournament at historic Ruby Field in Springfield.
“Vinny showed a lot of toughness getting the win on the mound for us. He had to battle all day without his best stuff and that is the true reason why he has won so many games this year for us as a pitcher. He competes every time he gets the ball,” Dayton head coach Michael Abbate said.
Dayton (13-5), which has won two straight and six of its last seven games, advanced to the quarterfinals and will host tenth-seeded Shabazz on Thursday with first pitch set for 4:00 p.m.
Juniors Zach Gelo and Michael Cacioppo came on in relief, allowing two walks and two strikeouts over the final three innings to help secure the win.
“Zach came in and really settled the game down for us by pounding the strike zone and getting us through a tough stretch of the game. He also has been our best hitter the last two weeks and makes great plays at first base on a daily basis,” Abbate said.
“It is nice to have a weapon on the mound now late in games with Michael [Cacioppo] getting healthy for us at the right time," he added. "Pitching and defense wins big games for you and that is why we preach the importance of both each day in our program. When you can throw strikes and make the routine plays you can compete each game.”
Gelo had two singles of the team’s four hits on the day.
Whippany Park (2-16) has lost three straight and 10 of its last 11 games.
Next up: Shabazz (10-9) has won two straight and three of its last four games, highlighted by a 9-8 nine-inning victory at seventh-seeded Secaucus in the first round on Monday. Senior Lamont Oliver, who went 3-for-4 with four runs scored, hit a ground-rule double to center field, which was his 100th career hit. Senior Anthony Rodriguez drove Oliver home with a bloop single to right field, which proved to be the game-winning run.
“We are just trying to survive and move on, which we are trying to do against another good team in Shabazz. Baseball is a funny game where anybody can win on any day and you do not get a second chance so we know we have to be ready from the first pitch to the last,” Abbate said.
“We work really hard as a program to be ready at this time of year, which is why we have won so many state games since assistant coaches Jason Mullman and David Steinman, along with myself have started in 2010," he added. "We are looking forward to another challenge on Thursday.”
Bulldog Bites: In nine of its last 11 games, the Bulldogs have held opponents to three runs or less … Dayton is 7-2 at home.