MONTVILLE, NJ - Preceding the commencement of Montville Baseball’s State Tournament expedition, the Mustangs "Played It Forward" in their fundraiser game against Nutley on May 10.
Montville took an eye for an eye approach drawing on strong at bats to combat against Nutley’s superb defense. “Eventually some of our hits would start to drop,” Head Coach Joseph Cardinale said. The competitive nature embedded in this Montville lineup radiated in the bottom of the seventh with two homerun's allowing the Mustangs to walk away with the “W.”
"Playing it forward" in the bottom of the seventh was a reflection of the evening's chorus of song as the mission was to honor this incredible organization.
“Lets Play it Forward” is a not-for-profit organization that donates used sports equipment to various organizations and children that are in need. The organization was founded in 2012 and to date they have collected 39,000 pieces of gently used sports equipment.
Coach Cardinale dedicated “all of the credit in the world” to Junior Mike Touma for being the lead organizer for the team’s philanthropic endeavor. Cardinale said it was Touma's idea, hard work and organization along with the help and support of other players in the program. "The amount of equipment that he will be able to donate to the 'Let's Play it Forward' organization is really amazing," Cardinale said.
It would appear that the success of May 10 catapulted Montville into their inaugural State Tournament game against Sparta on May 22 as pitcher Matt Bettio launched his team into a 3-2 victory. Bettio struck out three consecutive batters to get the game underway, affirming that the cloudburst would not dampen the teams duel.
“Knowing they had a stud pitcher on their end, I knew I just had to throw strikes, pump the zone, and let our defense make some plays, that’s what we always do,” Bettio said.
After a quiet two innings, Sparta chimed in with a blast to right field by catcher Dan Johnston landing him a spot on third. With two outs and two runners in scoring position on the line, pitcher Cole Patten lined one to left, posting two runs as Sparta left the third inning.
Unlike the weather, there was a drought when it came to scoring runs for both teams until the sixth inning when Anthony Trifari's breakthrough two-run homer restored life into the Montville bats.
Bettio kept his composure as he set foot into the tied up seventh inning, making it a quick 3 up, 3 down shot.
Third baseman, Marc Tsukroff took one for the team to start off Montville’s chance for a last lick. Right fielder, Mike Trezza followed up, placing the perfect bunt to advance pinch runner, Mike Sylvester to second base. Second baseman, Dominick Caccavella maintained the build up with a hard hit single to left moving Sylvester to third.
Connor Meytrott was up next, and stepped up to the plate knowing “I had to get that bunt down so the run can score.” After a perfectly executed suicide squeeze, Meytrott allowed the successful chance for Sylvester to arrive safe at home, winning Montville round one of the State Tournament.
After accepting an early setback against a tough pitcher like Patten, Coach Cardinale revealed that, “we never die until we get to 21 outs,” and “with a team full of high character, we fight, and it is a real testament to that character to hang in and pull this out.”
The Mustangs will continue to "Play forward" as they enter the quarterfinal round of the State Tournament at home against Indian Hills on Thursday, May 25.