LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Millburn Millers had the spring baseball season stolen from them because of the pandemic.
On Tuesday night at Okner Parkway Field, the Millers responded by stealing everything in sight.
Millburn stole 10 bases and racked up the same number of runs to defeat South Orange-Maplewood (Columbia), 10-0, in five innings in the first game of the statewide Last Dance Tournament that Millburn head coach Brian Chapman was heavily involved in helping to organize.
The senior tandem of Jason Berg and Zach Dorfschneider combined to limit the Cougars to two hits over five innings. Berg struck out four batters and walked one, allowing two hits in three innings. Dorfschneider fanned two batters in two hitless innings without a walk. Dorfschneider also roped a pair of long RBI doubles to left field -- a standout performance at the plate for a 2020 graduate who says he wouldn't have even been in the batting order in the spring season had there been one.
"I went into the spring thinking I was not gonna hit except maybe for getting an at-bat on Senior Day," Dorfschneider said. "We had a couple of scrimmages last week and, although I didn't get a hit, I got some swings and felt good at the plate."
Ironically, Dorfschneider did not feel good about his curve ball on the mound prior to Tuesday night.
"My curve the last three weeks has been terrible," Dorfschneider said. "I came into this game thinking I would only throw my fastball and my changeup, but our pitching coach (Chris) Drechsel said, 'No, you're throwing your curve.' And my curve was miles better tonight than it's been in weeks. In the bullpen, coach Kyle Mazer told me to just get on top of (the curve)."
Berg, a classmate of Dorfschneider's, came out throwing electric stuff in the first three innings, and the Millers plated two runs apiece in each of the first three innings to take a 6-0 lead. Ben Sinins and Copeland Culp had singles in the first inning, when Millburn scored two unearned runs. Dorfschneider's double was the lone hit in a two-run second. In the third inning, Ben Chrzanowski and Jake Zirlin started the frame with consecutive singles and each came around to score.
Jake Delidow's RBI triple highlighted the fourth inning before Millburn scored three runs in the fifth inning to wrap up the game. Ethan Axelrod singled, Alex Wilson doubled him in, Matt Chan walked and stole second, Mike Cioffi knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly and Dorfschneider finished the game with a long double to left.
"It felt great to go out and play with all the seniors. Everyone here gets to play this week," said Dorfschneider, whose first reaction to the notion that a Last Dance Tournament might take place was anxiety. "I was nervous at first. The coronavirus stopped all baseball activity, but once we got back on the field I felt excited by the idea of (the tournament)."
Chapman said the structure of this summer's roster is unique in that it includes seven 2020 graduated who all would have played an integral part in the team last spring, as well as a number of players who just completed their freshman academic year.
"I'm very lucky as a coach to have the quality of seniors that these seven kids are," Chapman said. "With these seven seniors, it wasn't like I needed to do anything creative to wedge them into the lineup this week. They were gonna play anyway. With the makeup of our roster, it is easy to showcase the seniors.
"This group was devastated when they lost their season in the spring. But their legacy in this program was never going to change even without there being a spring season. They were leaders in the program who set an example. Look at the way tonight they ran out grounders and beat a couple of them out for infield hits. The freshmen see that kind of hustle, and then they're running out ground balls the same way. I love to see that."
Millburn will play Hanover Park Wednesday at Okner Parkway Field at 4:30 p.m.