BRIDGEWATER, NJ — The Ridge baseball team erased a one-run deficit in the fifth inning and put the game away with four runs in the sixth to defeat the GSB Knights, 6-2, Thursday at TD Bank Park to advance to the North Jersey Sweet 16 bracket of the statewide Last Dance Tournament next week.
The Red Devils swept their three pool play games in the Piscataway/TD Bank Park Region over the last three days to earn a trip to the Sweet 16. That schedule is pending.
Seven different Ridge pitchers allowed a total of six runs over three games and 21 innings over the last three days. On Thursday, Brendan Bell, Chris Parker and Jason Arrigo held the Knights (representing Gill-St. Bernard's) to five hits one day after Will O'Malley and Joe Sheh combined to no-hit Franklin.
"A big part of our success is our pitching depth," Ridge catcher Greg Bozzo said. "In a three-game format in three games, everyone questions the arms. We knew coming into the spring we had a lot of guys who could throw well. We have the ability to throw strikes up and down the pitching staff."
Ridge broke a 2-2 tie with four runs in the sixth inning, scoring on a fielder's choice grounder, an RBI single by George Busnach and a two-run triple by Chris Stapleton.
Bobby Parisi of Ridge broke up a scoreless pitchers' duel between Bell and GSB left-hander Jake Sempervive with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jayden Hylton reached on an infield single with one out and stole second before Parisi unloaded his double over the head of the left fielder for a 1-0 lead.
"I was just looking to put the ball in play there," Parisi said. "(Their pitcher) was working his curve and we were trying to jump on first-pitch fastballs. We needed to focus on hitting more line drives instead of trying to hit the ball out of the park."
Sempervive, a crafty southpaw, went five innings, allowed just three Ridge hits, struck out five, walked two and yielded just one earned run.
The Knights went ahead, 2-1, with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth on Zack Wendell's RBI single and Matt Kalinak's sacrifice fly. Ridge tied it, 2-2, with the help of a pair of GSB infield errors.
In the sixth inning, Bell led off with a walk, stole second, Jayden Hylton was hit by a pitch, then both advanced a base on Bozzo's long fly ball to right field. With the infield drawn in, Parisi hit a ground ball to the Knights' shortstop, whose throw home was wide to the first base side of the plate as Hylton scored to give the Red Devils a 3-2 lead. Busnach's ground ball in the hole between short and third drove in another run, and Stapleton broke it open with a two-run triple into the right field corner for a 6-2 lead.
Bell allowed four hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking three. Both of Ridge's starting middle infielders combined for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Parker, the starting second baseman, went 1 1/3 innings, struck out two and allowed one hit. Arrigo, the starting shortstop, pitched a hitless seventh inning, allowing one walk and striking out one.
"Parker pitches in the summer for his travel team, so he is experienced on the mound," Bozzo said. "He came in with two runners on in the fifth to get a strikeout. That's adrenaline. That was pure heart and performing under pressure."
Parisi reflected on the path the Ridge baseball team has taken, from having what was a promising spring season completely wiped out to reassembling to advance through their region with three straight victories this week.
"It feels euphoric," Parisi said. "It's just amazing to be out here with all the guys again. The feeling is out of this world."