CHESTER, NJ - For six innings, the Chatham baseball team performed like one of the best teams in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament. Unfortunately, the seventh inning was a different story.
The ninth-seeded Cougars were three outs away from the upset win over top-seeded West Morris when the Wolverines scored two gift-wrapped runs to tie the game and eventually won, 3-2, on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth on Friday.
Chatham held a 2-0 lead heading into the last of the seventh as senior Tyler Tornberg tried to close it out for starter Ben Gorski, who was in control for 5 2/3 innings in out-pitching West Morris ace Connor Staine.
But two throwing errors and a base hit had cut the deficit to 2-1 for West Morris (23-6) in the seventh before the pivotal play of the game. With runners on second and third with one out, Tornberg induced a high popup in the infield between third baseman Luke McCorry and shortstop Gorski. Both thought the other had called for the catch and it dropped untouched, loading the bases.
"We both saw it, it was pretty high up there and it was windy," Gorski said. "The kids behind us started saying 'mine, mine, mine' and that threw us off. We shouldn't have let it happen, but it did."
After the pop landed safely, a walk forced in the tying run before Tornberg escaped the jam with a popup and a grounder.
"We gave them six outs in one inning," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said. "They scored only two runs with us giving them six outs. That's a helluva job by Tyler (Tornberg) to get out of it tied."
Through the first six innings, Chatham (9-11) had the upper hand, with Gorski facing the minimum nine batters through the first three innings. Cougar catcher Ryan Drum threw out a runner trying to steal in the second with second baseman Dennis "Moose" Moynihan making the diving tag of the sliding runner.
In the third, Gorski teamed up with first baseman Andrew Bergman to pick a runner off first.
Gorski struck out seven (see a strikeout in the video below), allowed four singles and walked two.
Gorski didn't give up his first hit until the fourth inning. He pitched a clean fifth before leaving in the sixth with two outs and two men on. Tornberg came on and walked the first batter he faced before the next batter grounded to third and McCorry fielded it and stepped on the bag (see video below) to preserve the 1-0 lead.
Chatham had taken the lead in the fifth. Ryan Krill hit a one-out single to center and Sean Lee was hit by a pitch. A wild pitched moved the runners up before Drum's shot off the pitcher's leg scored Krill from third (see the video below).
The Cougars made it 2-0 in the seventh when Krill drew a walk and moved to third on two wild pitches. Lee's RBI single to right plated Krill (see below).
"That's a really, really good baseball team right there," Leathers said of West Morris. "We pride ourselves in being prepared. We saw them play and we got our scouting reports. We knew what they did well and what they didn't, and we found a way to hold a really, really, really good team down for six innings."
COUGAR NOTES: Freshman Owen Walewander had three of Chatham's 10 hits ... senior leadoff batter Sean Lee had two hits and an RBI and also reached when he was hit by a pitch ... Gorski had the only extra-base hit for the Cougars, a double in the first ... Ryan Krill, who scored both runs for Chatham, was robbed of a base hit and an RBI in the second when his line drive was snared by the West Morris shortstop.