CLARK, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders found themselves in the 2019 Union County Tournament Baseball Finals, looking to take their incredible run through to the championship.
The Crusaders took out 13-seeded Brearley, fifth-seeded Union Catholic and eighth-seeded Summit to reach the county championship game.
In the end, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Raiders got a few key hits and kept Johnson off the scoreboard as the night went along. The sixth-seeded Raiders knocked off the fourth-seeded Crusaders 4-0 Wednesday night at Kean University in Union.
In a span of two batters, Scotch Plains-Fanwood got on the board first. Dean Kirian took first base after being hit by a pitch from Johnson junior starting pitcher Shane Mulroy and stole second base, getting in scoring position. Michael Dieu drove home Kirian with a single, giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Johnson would put runners on first and second base in the bottom of the first inning but couldn’t capitalize as the game shifted to later innings. The score remained 1-0 Raiders over the Crusaders for four innings.
The Raiders broke it open in the top of the fifth inning. Angelo DiNizo led off the inning with a triple and scored on a Josh Canavan single. Kirian drove home his second run of the game later in the inning to make it 3-0 Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
Another run scored on an error in the top of the seventh inning, the final run scored on the evening. Johnson loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, but junior Pat Brennan flew out to center field, ending the game.
“These experiences are huge for a young team and we have to learn from them. The most important thing is we’ve got to get up,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We’ve got to get up and do something.”
Johnson got six hits on the evening, with two of them coming from Brennan and one hit each from sophomore Kyle Adorno, junior Max Carmino, sophomore Joe Greenbush and junior Steve Harrington.
The Johnson Crusaders (11-9) return to action today to face Linden HS, where the team will hold their Senior Day ceremony at 4:00 p.m.
The Crusaders travel to Elizabeth HS Friday afternoon for a 4:15 p.m. game-time start and open the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 state tournament as a projected four-seed. They also face Summit HS Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., where they look to clinch the UCC- Mountain Division title.
The team is hopeful the experience of the run in the county tournament helps them down that stretch.
“We have games tomorrow and Friday and we have the state tournament, so there’s a lot of baseball left,” Kennedy said while looking ahead. “I think we have a good team and it’s going to be up to us where we go from here.”
“We have to grow with the game,” he added. “If we want this opportunity again, we’ve got to work and fight to get there. You hate to lose, I’m still proud of these guys. We’ll be fine.”