Millburn High School's Momentous Baseball Season Ends with Tourney Loss

Pitcher Dave Talpalar and catcher Jorge Solodkin Credits: Aaron Friedman
The team lines up after a game Credits: Aaron Friedman
The team together after a game Credits: Aaron Friedman
The Millburn Baseball team Credits: Aaron Friedman
The team huddling up  Credits: Aaron Friedman

MILLBURN NJ - The Millburn Millers baseball team’s season came to an end on May 23 with a loss to North Hunterdon in the quarterfinal round of the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 tournament. The Millers, who were the fourth seed in the NJSIAA tournament faced off against North Hunterdon High School in the quarterfinal round.  The Millers defeated Barringer 6-0 in the first round of the tournament before they lost to North Hunterdon.

The Millers had a 3-0 lead  until the fourth inning, when North Hunterdon scored its first run. They scored again in the fifth inning,  but Millburn maintained its lead  until the last inning, when North Hunterdon rallied to earn three runs and win the ball game by a score of 5-3.

Starting the game, Millburn pitcher Evy Ruibal came out hot. Ruibal pitched four innings while only giving up a single run, and also struck out three batters.  Additionally, Ruibal  had a hot bat, going 2 for 3 on the day with an RBI. Other notable play came from senior, Milo Freeman, who went 2 for 4 and supplied the Millers with a run and a triple. Junior, Nick Meo assisted the Millers by going 2 for 4 on the day and stole a base.

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The North Hunterdon Lions came out slow, but  then gained momentum to defeat the Millers. North Hunterdon’s juggernaut came from many contributors including CJ Rasile who went 2 for 4 and had 2 RBIs.  Robbie Young helped the Lions by going 2 for 2, as did Thomas Schumacher, who supplied the Lions with an RBI while going 1 for 3 on the day. Pitchers, Tyler Smith and Griffin Hatton helped lead North Hunterdon to victory. 

Despite this unfortunate loss, the Miller’s 2013 season was highly successful. Its 2013 accomplishment would not be possible without the Miller’s coaching staff.  Constructive, optimistic, and great role models, the team’s staff provided its players with traits to admire and follow. The team’s coaching staff consists of head coach Brian Chapman and assistant coaches Dave Drechsel, Chris Drechsel and Tyler Pittenger.

The season-ending loss was a lowlight in the Miller season, which had great highs. The Millers' accomplishments included  winning their conference, as well as their impressive 23-5 record. On the books, the Millers had a far better year than in those past. In the categories of hits, runs, RBIs, and homeruns the Millers surpassed the status quo set in the last two seasons.

Other lows of the season included losing early in both the county and state tournaments. The Millers lost a heartbreaker in states last Thursday, and were eliminated from the county tournament after a loss to Montclair Kimberly on May 4 by a score of 6-4. Coach Chapman discussed some of things that didn’t exactly go the Miller’s way this season.

“Unfortunately, we didn't fare as well as we would have liked in our county and state tournaments. I think we all feel that we had the talent to go much further than we did in both tournaments. Hopefully, with so many kids returning next year, we will have the opportunity to prove ourselves in those tournaments,” Chapman said

One player who will try to help the Millers win a state championship next season is junior Aidan Favia. Favia said, “We have a lot of unfinished business that is for sure. We had a lot of success as we were 23-5 and we won the conference. That was the first time we have won this conference, so that is something to be proud of. So it would be foolish to say we didn’t accomplish anything. But yes we left a lot on our table that we are looking forward to next year. It is unfortunate for our seniors to go out the way we did they, but they were true leaders and I couldn’t of asked for better ones. but next year we know we still have a great opportunity to accomplish our goals. Milo, Evy, David, Nick Meo, and me are some, but the list goes on and on and we are all back, and we are ready for the challenge. But the new season has already started and we’re all hard at work.”

The Millers expect to have a successful season next year as well. There are many strong contributors that will be returning for Millburn next year. Juniors, Milo Freeman and Evy Ruibal both had an impressive number  of hits, each providing the Millers with 30 hits this year. Freeman, who also led the Millers in homeruns will be one of the great assets that the Millers will have next season. Another player who will be returning next season is Nick Meo, who led the team in hits with 35 and had 17 stolen bases, the most on the team.

“We had a successful season on some fronts this season with a total of 23 victories, including some notable ones over highly-regarded programs like Middlesex, Seton Hall Prep, Delbarton, and Monroe. We also won the Super Essex Conference American Division for the first time in school history by going 13-1 in conference play. Seton Hall Prep, which had won the SEC American title the past two years, finished second,” said Head Coach, Brian Chapman, discussing some of his team’s greatest accomplishments and successes throughout the year,

A Junior who will be returning next season is David Talpalar. David went won 4 games on the mound for the Millers this season and struck out a total of 24 batters this year.  

“Although we fell short of the goals we wanted to achieve this season, we showed a lot of potential. we finished first in a really difficult conference so there’s something to be said about that. it's going to be incredibly hard to replace the leadership of our great senior class like Ian Riddell, but we have a lot of really experienced juniors and hopefully as a team we can collectively fill that role and be even more successful next year,” Talpalar said. 

As this season closes, the team can only put their hard work towards next season when they hope to step on the diamond with the aspiration of holding a championship ring. 

“We return most of our starting lineup and all but one of our starting pitchers next season. Expectations should be high once again and I feel confident that this group will handle their business and will accomplish great things. In order to put ourselves in position to be successful, though, our kids know that we have to work extremely hard this off-season on the field and in the weight room. Our kids learned this year that nothing comes easy and I believe they will respond by working as hard as they ever have this off-season in an attempt to put themselves in a position to be successful next spring,” Chapman said.

The season started off strong when the Millers thrashed West Orange High School 11-1 to open the year. From there, the Millers' triumphs continued as they defeated Seton Hall Prep on April 29. Unfortunately, every game was not a success for Millburn and they lost a close one to Montclair in the Greater Newark Tournament, also known  as the Essex Tournament. This was Millburn’s first heartbreaker during the season. At that point, they focused their attention to the state tournament.  Overall, the Millers had a very good season, losing only 5 games all year.  They have every reason to be optimistic for next season with  most of their stars coming back.

Evy Ruibal is an example of a Miller who will be back next season. The selfless pitcher for the Millers said, “Honestly, I don't allot any success to myself. I really enjoyed playing with the incredibly talented group of kids around me. I am just upset that some of those kids won't be there next year.” After the conclusion of his senior year, Evy will play ball for Notre Dame University.

In every high school sport it is difficult to see the players that you watched leave and go on to college. Seven players on the Millers' versatile roster will be going on to college next year. The dynamics of any team that loses its leaders will definitely miss them. Chapman said, “The seven members of this year's senior class will be sorely missed. They brought a professionalism to all of our games and practices and were leaders in every sense of the word. Although their careers ended a few weeks sooner than they had probably hoped, they can leave Millburn High School safe in the knowledge that they helped us to add another layer to the foundation of the program we are trying to build here. Their many contributions are appreciated and will not soon be forgotten.”

In particular, one senior shines out from the class. Ian Riddell, who has a 64-21 record as a Miller will be moving on from his high school career and will be attending Rutgers next year. Riddell has had great contributions on and off the field for the Millers. As a varsity player for the past three seasons, Riddell has adapted to become a star on the diamond. 

“From a statistical standpoint, our biggest loss from this senior class will be right-handed pitcher Ian Riddell. Ian is a three-year varsity performer that finished with a career record of 16-1. That career mark ranks him among the all-time winningest pitchers in MHS history and his winning percentage is the highest in school history for any pitcher with 10 or more decisions. Ian went 6-0 this season for us. In a pivotal victory over Seton Hall Prep, Ian gave up only 3 runs and struck out 5 batters. That victory that put us in position to win the SEC American Division title. He also had our only state tournament victory this season, a 6-0 shutout of Barringer in the first round. Ian has been a huge part of our success (64-21 record, one conference, one section and two Krug Tournament titles) the past three years and he will be missed dearly. At this point, he is planning to attend Rutgers as a preferred walk-on where he was told that he has an excellent shot to make the RU roster,” Chapman said.

Many of the Millers' best assets will be returning next season, and their coaching staff will be back next season. 


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