CRANFORD - When two teams with offenses such as Cranford and Montclair meet, no lead is safe.
That was the case Tuesday morning at TD Bank Ballpark as Cranford edged-out Montclair, 13-9, in the North Region Sweet 16 Round of the NJ High School Lance Dance World Series.
This one looked as good as over heading into the bottom of the seventh with Cranford leading 13-3 after scoring 11 runs in their previous four innings. Rob Salvatore looked to earn the complete game having allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits through his first six innings, but things started to get dicey.
Salvatore got the first two outs in the seventh, but an error followed by three hits and three runs ended his day on the mound.
"I knew I was slowing down a little bit, but I wish I was able to finish the job," said Salvatore. "I think I had one more batter in me, but I respect my coaches' decisions, and we got the win, so that's all that matters."
Things didn't get any easier for Ryan Nicholas who entered in relief. A walk, another error, a hit-by-pitch, and a two-run single pulled Montclair within four. Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery would then bring in his third pitcher of the inning, Dan Abrahamson, who was able to get a quick 4-3 groundout to end it.
"Honestly, I was getting a little nervous, but I had confidence in Ryan and Dan," said Salvatore. "We all knew we had to do a job."
On the offensive side for the Cougars, Mike Murphy and Ryan Jaros led the way. Murphy hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth deep enough to plate runners from second and third base. He would later drive in another three with a double in the sixth. Jaros finished 3-for-5 with a double and four RBI. Jake DiClerico drove-in three runs.
With the win, Cranford plays Ridgewood in the North Region Elite 8 at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at Yogi Berra Stadium, located on the campus of Montclair State University.
"We've got to make the most of the games we've got," said Murphy. "Never know when it's going to be your last, so you've got to play like it's your last."