WESTFIELD, NJ – Millburn pitcher David Talpalar did not have a set role going into his team’s chase for a North Jersey 2, Group 4 title.
Following the Millers’ 3-0 victory over defending champion Westfield in the section final on Friday, head coach Brian Chapman may have some tough decisions ahead of him regarding his pitchers.
Pitching in relief of Max Jacobs, Talpalar retired 10 Blue Devils in a row, shutting the door on Westfield over the final four innings to give Millburn the section title.
“David was terrific,” Chapman said. “What can you say, he’s struggled. He has had his up and downs this season. He was absolutely phenomenal today against an unbelievable team. A red-hot team, a great lineup.”
Perhaps Talpalar’s biggest out that he had to get was the first one. Taking over for Jacobs with Westfield’s Anthony Perconte on third and Matt Storcks on first, Talpalar threw one pitch to get clean-up hitter Chris Arena to hit an inning ending ground out.
Talpalar said he had to change his mentality with his new role in the bullpen, but was confident he would be able to succeed.
“Max [Jacobs] did a great job to start,” Talpalar said. “Coach told me to stay ready. I have a great defense behind me so I knew if I just threw it over the plate, they’d be able to make the play. Fortunately enough, we were able to get out of the jam and keep it going.”
Jacobs and Talpalar combined to allow only two hits in the game, both in the third inning. Only one Blue Devil runner reached third base, also in the third.
Millburn’s low scoring offense got to Westfield starter Michael Androconis early in the game, which was the Millers’ plan from the start.
After Nick Meo worked a one-out walk, he quickly stole second to get into scoring position. Meo then scored on Milo Freeman’s two-out infield single. L
Leading 1-0 in the third, both Talpalar and Milo hit RBI doubles to give Millburn pitching all the runs support they needed.
“That was definitely a focus of ours to get out to a good start,” Talpalar said. “We have good hitters all throughout the lineup. I thought the guys at the top did a great job getting on…It was good to get those couples early to keep the pressure off the defense.”
With the victory, Millburn advances to Tuesday’s Group 4 semifinal where they will face Roxbury at East Brunswick Tech.
Talpalar said the team’s hard work and dedication has finally paid off, being one of the final 24 teams left playing in the state.
“It’s a huge honor,” Talpalar said. “New Jersey is a great state for baseball. I would’t say that we did’t expect it or did expect it, we just knew that if we worked hard everyday, we’d be in a good spot. We’re definitely glad to be here and hopefully have one or two games left in us.”