CHATHAM, NJ - A year ago, Peter DeMaria was unable to play because of an injury and all he could do was watch as his Chatham teammates made a state tournament run to the sectional championship game.
DeMaria got his chance to participate on Monday and he made his presence felt from his first-inning slide into home plate, to his two-run homer in the fourth inning and finally in his mound visit to pitcher Tyler Tornberg with the bases loaded in the seventh.
The first baseman finished the game with a double, a home run, three runs scored and two RBI in helping 7th-seeded Chatham post a 9-2 win over 10th-seeded Rahway in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament.
"It feels awesome," DeMaria said. "I was really bummed out I couldn't play last year. This is a second chance and it's really special to plays with these guys and I want to make the most of it."
Rahway (15-6) had the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh when DeMaria called time and jogged in to speak to Tornberg.
"I told him that we have confidence in him that if he puts it right down the pipe, good things are going to happen and you're going to get out of this," DeMaria said.
Seconds later, Tornberg induced a popup that DeMaria squeezed for the final out of the game.
Chatham (16-7) travels to meet No. 2 seed Nutley (18-8) in the sectional quarterfinals on Thursday.
The game featured another brilliant start by senior left-hander Matt Stamford, who allowed one hit in his four scoreless innings, a big double play in the fourth inning and two-run homers by DeMaria and Bergman.
"The middle lineup guys did what middle lineup guys do," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said. "It was nice that they went over the fence, it makes it a little easier. I can be a really good coach when we hit home runs and we put up zeroes when pitching."
Chatham took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Clay Delsandro lifted a fly ball to short right that Rahway second baseman Jayson Gonzalez caught, but DeMaria was able to avoid the tag, sliding in safely (see below).
Stamford (8-1), coming off a no-hitter vs. Delaware Valley on May 14, retired the first nine Rahway batters he faced before Luis Muller singled for the Indians leading off the fourth. That ended Stamford's hitless string at 11 straight innings. A sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners at the corners when Andres Garcia hit a line drive that was caught by second baseman Clay Delsandro, who threw to third for the inning-ending double play.
Muller was originally called safe at third base, but Leathers argued that the runner was obviously out and asked the umpires to talk it over. After a conference between the two umps, the out call was made.
"I felt really good," said Stamford, who had four strikeouts. "I was able to locate my fastball and when I needed to, I could throw my curveball in the dirt on two-strike counts. When you have two pitches like that, it makes it a lot easier. That (double play) was huge. It was really big."
DeMaria, Bergman and Delsandro talk about the win
Chatham took a 2-0 lead in the third when DeMaria doubled (see below) and scored on Ben Gorski's RBI single (see below).
Sean Lee's RBI bunt plated pinch-runner Ben Krill (see below) in the fourth before DeMaria unloaded his two-run homer (see below) to left, making it 5-0.
Bergman belted a two-run homer (see below) to cap a three-run rally in the sixth for Chatham.
Senior Chris Doherty contributed two hits, including an RBI single in the fifth for Chatham.