PISCATAWAY, NJ — Will O'Malley and Joe Sheh combined to pitch a no-hitter as the Ridge baseball team defeated Franklin (Somerset), 7-1, in the second pool play game of the statewide Last Dance Tournament on Wednesday night.
Ridge (2-0) will play Gill-St. Bernard's Thursday at 1 p.m. in TD Bank Park, with the winner advancing to the bracket portion of the tournament that begins next week.
The Red Devils fell behind when Franklin scored an unearned run in the first inning, then squandered several opportunities by stranding multiple runners on base before finally breaking the game open with five runs in the fifth inning.
O'Malley, who is heading into his senior season, went five innings. Sheh, who partook in Ridge High's in-person graduation earlier in the day, pitched the last two and struck out five batters in a row.
"Both of us are all about executing our pitches," O'Malley said of himself and Sheh, who are both right-handers. "My curve is something that I have worked on for years to get it to where I want it to be now."
O'Malley struck out five batters and walked two in five-plus innings. Sheh, coming in with a man on base and none out in the sixth, got a long fly out from Rutgers commit Joshua Kuroda-Grauer, then proceeded to strike out the next five batters he faced, although one of them reached on a passed ball. O'Malley and Sheh both did much of their damage with sharp curves that both were able to consistently throw for strikes.
"Our coaches scouted Franklin last night and told us that their batters were sitting breaking ball and late on the fastball," Ridge catcher Greg Bozzo said. "So while we went with a lot of fastballs against them, we still wanted to throw the curve in the right moments. We didn't use change-ups. Both of their curves were working."
Of O'Malley, Bozzo said, "He may have only had limited varsity experience, but he is a pitcher who is never rattled. He's a big, tall guy, and in pressure spots, he has a face like stone."
Bozzo said that Sheh was a pitcher who opened a lot of eyes in the pre-season this past March before the pandemic put an end to spring sports before baseball teams had a chance to start scrimmaging.
"Joe did get much time, but we knew he was someone who could be very good, and he did not disappoint," Bozzo said. "We noticed that there was a big jump in his stuff in the pre-season."
While Ridge's two pitchers Wednesday were talented arms who just hadn't had much of a chance at the varsity level to this point, the Red Devils' offense was spearheaded by many of the same hitters in an experienced lineup that helped the team reach the Section 2, Group 4 championship game in 2019. Jayden Hylton was 2-for-3 with a double that started the fifth-inning uprising, and he just missed a home run down the left field line in the first inning. Jason Arrigo and Lukas Goodman each delivered two-run singles in the fifth inning, and right fielder Chris Stapleton went 2-for-3. Robbie Rutkowski also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and also ripped a hard outfield line drive that was caught.