UNION, NJ – The magical run for the Madison Dodgers this season, that included their first sectional championship in nearly 20 years and winning the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference, came to an end when they were defeated by Mahwah High School 12-2 in the NJSIAA Group 2 semi-finals on Tuesday afternoon at Kean University.
Starting pitcher senior Mike Wallace (10-2) did not have his usual shutdown stuff against the high powered Mahwah offense as he gave up 9 runs on 12 hits through five innings en route to dropping his first decision since late April.
The bats for Madison (21-8) did not lend him much support either. As a team they only mustered two runs on six earned hits against Mahwah starter Chris Baldi and got only one hit in the bottom of the seventh against closer Ian Curry.
“We really thought that this could be a 3-2, 4-2 type of game and it just didn’t work out that way for us. (Mahwah) was a much better club then us today,” Madison Head Coach Mickey Ennis said. “They just extended the lead and didn’t give us a chance,” he added.
Down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the third, Madison was able to score a couple of runs to set up a seemingly interesting second half of baseball.
Leading off, Wallace was able to reach first on a grounder to short that could not be scooped up by Mahwah first baseman Matt Krupa on a low throw across the diamond.
Daniyal Chaudhary, pinch running for Wallace, was able to reach second on a wild pitch and then Connor Higgins belted a one out RBI double to left.
Batting cleanup, first baseman Joe Gratto hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Dilan Kluge, who walked earlier in the inning, from third.
Centerfielder Cameron Dias next worked a two out walk, but then John Costa flew out to center to end the inning with two men still left on base. Still, Madison got to within one and trailed only 3-2 going into the top of the fourth.
“Our plan was, in the first couple innings, to build his (Baldi’s) pitch count up and then cut it loose a little bit in the third inning, which we did. We scored two runs in the third and we hoped raising his pitch count like that would maybe give us a little more of an opportunity to get better at bats against him,” Ennis commented.
“We got back in the game. Once we got back into it, 3-2, we needed to hold them at that point. We needed to put a stop to them in the top of the fourth,” he added.
Unfortunately for Madison, Wallace and the rest of the defense were unable to hold Mahwah in their next turn at bat which ultimately ended up being the turning point of the game.
The Bergen county squad was able to tac on two more runs when Costa misplayed a ball at short (one of the five Madison errors on the day) and Wallace gave up a double to left center as Mahwah had runners on second and third with no outs.
C.J. Musumeci then hit an RBI sac fly to deep left field before Shane Woelfel hit a grounder through the right side of the infield as Madison trailed 5-2.
Three straight fly outs to center from the Madison offense in the bottom of the fourth quickly brought up the dangerous Mahwah offense in the top half of the fifth.
Wallace then gave up four more runs on six hits and Madison trailed by seven runs with just three more turns at the plate.
“They’re certinaly the best hitting club that we have seen throughout the course of this year. They scored (nine) runs against one of the best pitchers in the county who, albeit, didn’t have his best stuff today,” Coach Ennis told The Alternative Press.
“He (Wallace) just didn’t have the movement on his sinking fastball. Today, it just didn’t happen for him. There was more balls hit in the air then I’ve seen all year. They hit him well. We needed to play a good defensive game and that didn’t happen either.”
Madison had a chance to score in the bottom of the sixth inning when Costa belted a single to left and catcher Nick Lucas hit a ball to right, but, with two outs, Wallace left both runners on as he grounded out to short to end the inning. They trailed 10-2 heading into the seventh.
While the loss certainly stings now, Ennis maintains that his club should be proud of their north 2, group 2 sectional win and capturing a conference crown. Along with those two accomplishments, they were given the Frank Sayer award for sportsmanship, character and success on the field in the 2012 season.
“Terrific season; we’re very proud of our guys,” Ennis said. “I could very comfortably say that it was the best year in the history of Madison baseball.”