MONTVILLE, NJ - The players, coaches, parents and fans of the Montville 11u travel baseball team experienced some exciting baseball during the last week in July. The Mustangs entered the playoffs of the Summer League sponsored by Cedar Grove as the #1 seed after going 7-0 in regular season league play. That top seed gave Montville the opportunity to host all of their playoff games but it did not make the road to a title easy.
Montville was losing to #8 seed Denville on Tuesday, July 26 by a score of 9-1 in the fourth inning before the Mustangs battled back to a 19-13 victory in the quarterfinals.
In the semi-finals on July 27, solo home runs by Hunter Force, Michael Fedele and a grand slam by Justin Vogt were only enough to tie the game against the #4 seed, NJ Bandits. Christian Zurawlow had to save the day with a two run, walk-off home run in the 7th inning to advance his team to the championship game against Verona. The NJ Bandits were a club team with players from all different towns. The Bandits also gave the Mustangs all they could handle in the regular season game before Zurawlow stole home on a wild pitch in the 8th inning to give Montville a 7-6 walk-off win on July 20.
Verona, the #2 seed in the playoffs, traveled to Montville on Friday, July 28 to find a crowd of over 100 fans ready for an 11 year-old baseball battle. Montville’s famed Muni 1 – Sponsored by Lincoln First Bank - was looking full, green and almost perfectly manicured for the big game.
“We had great fan support throughout the playoffs,” said Montville’s Assistant Coach, Shane Force. “We have such a great group of Montville baseball and softball fans in our program, right now. Our fans really helped to pick us up and energize the kids to play at a high level for three tough games on three consecutive nights,” added Force.
The teams were announced just before 7 p.m., Ava Zurawlow sang the national anthem and Verona jumped out to 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Verona’s star hitter Chris Baratta drove in a run in the first inning and also allowed Matt Zembrowski to score.
Montville managed to strike back in the bottom of the first inning as lead-off hitter, Hunter Force, only needed to see two pitches before he hit a home run over the center field fence. It was the second home run in two consecutive nights for Force.
In the bottom of the second inning, Jason Vogt bunted and used his blazing speed to beat the throw to first base. Vogt stole second before Jesse Kirschner, Montville’s catcher, singled to allow Vogt to score and tie the game at 2-2.
Verona led the game 3-2 for the 4th and 5th innings as Eli Kaufman pitched three shut-out innings for the Mustangs. Then, Chase Tarnoff scored on a ground ball hit by Matt Trifari in the bottom of the 6th. Trifari was out at first base but he still earned the RBI and tied the game at 3-3. The game would normally end after seven innings but the two teams were tied after the 7th and 8th inning. In the bottom of the 9th, Montville’s fans were still cheering with all their might and Verona had Zembrowski on the mound and he was blanking the Mustangs for the last two innings. Zembrowski is one of the best 11 year-old pitchers in Morris and Essex Counties but he walked Jason Vogt to start the bottom of the 9th. Vogt stole 2nd and 3rd base with no outs to increase the drama. With one out, Trifari bunted and Vogt scored to give Montville the win and the Summer League Championship. Montville's parents and fans stormed the field and celebrated like a big family that just won the lottery.
Other players recording hits for Montville in the Verona game were Christian Zurawlow (2), Justin Vogt, Logan Force, Eli Kaufman (2), and Chase Tarnoff.
The Montville 11u travel baseball team finished the spring and summer seasons with a combined record of 31-6. They advanced to the Championship Games of the Montville Spring League, the Mt. Olive Tournament and the Cal Ripken District 7 Tournament. Combine that with the fact that Montville’s 12u travel team just won their third consecutive District 7 Title and the 10u travel baseball team also advanced to the District 7 Finals this June, Montville Baseball fans have a lot to look forward to in the years to come.
Photo - A recent picture of the Montville 11u Travel Baseball Team:
Front Row from R to L - Assistant Coach Shane Force, Christian Zurawlow, Jesse Kirschner, Connor Martin, Eli Kaufman and Chase Tarnoff.
Back Row from R to L - Head Coach Eric Kirschner, Joseph Agnoli, Matt Trifari, Logan Force, Justin Vogt, Jason Vogt, Michael Fedele, Hunter Force, Assistant Coach Mark Fedele, and Assistant Coach Adam Kaufman.