MADISON, N.J. - Madison head baseball coach Mickey Ennis meant business on Wednesday against rival Chatham.
The Dodgers were willing to put it all out against Chatham in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NWJAC) game as they had their top pitcher on the mound.
And behind pitcher Mike Wallace, Madison broke out to a 10-1 lead and eventually held on to a 14-7 win at home.
"We are looking at the conference and this was such a big game that we had our ace on the mound today," said Ennis, who added that Wallace injured his foot earlier in the game and was affected for the last few innings of throwing a complete seven-inning game.
Offensively, it was Dodgers first baseman Joe Grato who hit for the cycle including a third-inning two-run home run. Overall, Grato went 4-for-4 for the day along with five RBI and with a double coming in the fifth inning. A cycle includes collecting a base hit, double, triple and home run in one game.
In Grato’s last bat he did know that he was a double away from getting the cycle, but he did not want to hear it.
"One of my teammates told me that I needed a double," said Grato, who is a transfer from Seton Hall Prep, but he didn't want to think about that. "I just wanted to drive in as many runs as I could to win."
The RBI double gave Chatham a 12-7 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Ennis lauded his senior first baseman. "He not only has a great bat, but he is a great field at first base and a great leader," said the Madison head coach about his first baseman.
Grato's home run came in the bottom of the third inning as he took a Chatham pitcher Bobby Miele curve ball over the centerfield fence to give the Dodgers a 10-1 lead.
And for Madison, it seemed that they needed each one of Grato's hits.
Chatham sliced the one-time nine-run Dodgers lead down to three, 10-7, in the top of the fifth inning.
But with the help of Grato in the bottom of the fifth, Madison was able to increase the lead to seven, 14-7, in the bottom of the inning and put the clincher on the Cougars.
The victory raised the Dodgers record to 6-3 while Chatham dropped to 5-4 for 2012. For both teams this could be the first of three meetings this season. The two teams are scheduled to play May 9 in a night game at Shunpike Field at 7 p.m. in Chatham, and both could play in the second round of the Morris County Tournament. Madison is the eighth seed and Chatham is the ninth seed. If both win this week in the county opener, they would play next week in the county tourney.
On the Chatham side, head coach Ed Collins gave credit to Madison for the victory, but also credits his team from coming back, down by nine runs.
"You can't spot a good team 10 runs," said Collins whose team faces Butler on Thursday in the first round of the MCT. "I'm not down on this team. We came back and cut the lead to three."
For Chatham senior pitcher Miele, it was not his day as the Cougars starting pitcher gave up 10 runs in the 2 2/3 innings. His day ended after Grato hit his home run. Miele came into the game 2-0 on the season on the mound.
Chatham senior designated hitter Brett Huelsenbeck led the Cougars offense going 2-for-4 on the day including a three-run home run that went over the right field fence in the fifth inning. The dinger allowed Chatham to get within three, 10-7. The Cougars shortstop Drew Ballard also went 2-for-4 on the game with a double and a run scored.
In addition to Grato shortstop John Costa was 3-for-4 with three runs scored, an RBI and a double and triple. Dodgers right fielder Cameron Dias chipped in three RBI and was 2-for-3 for the day.
Before Chatham got its offense going Madison had already put 10 runs on the board.