MONTVILLE, NJ - On Tuesday night, the Montville baseball team honored local veterans prior to its game against Randolph.
In a pre-game ceremony, members of the baseball team escorted veterans Ralph Amato, Howard Baker, Joe Coll, Chip Cutler, Dominick D'Andrea, Ralph Daniels, Al DeAlseandro, Dick Gamsby, Art Graf, Tom Mazzaccaro, and Andy Vyniski to the field. Montville assistant coach Rick Crescente as well as players Zach Sylvester and CJ Arena gave speeches honoring all of the veterans who attended the game.
The game was a fundraiser for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, in which all of the nearly $1,000 in proceeds were donated to that fund which provides college scholarships to children of veterans. Dominick D'Andrea threw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of the night's festivities.
“I think it’s great, and it was a great night for the community," Montville coach Ian Schwindel said. "We had a hundred-plus people here, including our youth teams, we had kids in the dugout as bat boys. We had a lot of really good things going involving the community. It was nice to get the veterans out here and give back in any way that we can to them. It’s always a good thing, and we hope to have more games like this where we have a lot of people while playing meaningful baseball.”
Once the game began, the fans were treated to a pitcher's duel between Montville's Mike Sesko and Randolph's Josh Nathan. In the end, it was Nathan and Randolph that came away with the 1-0 win, which put a halt to Montville's nine-game winning streak.
Nathan kept the Montville hitters off-balance all night, as he tossed a three-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts and two walks. Sesko, on the other side, was equally as strong, as he gave up three hits, struck out five, and walked just one.
“(Nathan) had his slider working really well," Schwindel said. "It was really tight, it was running away, and his fastball was a lot faster than what we saw on April 1st. He kept us off-balance big time.”
The lone run of the game came in the top half of the second inning, after Randolph's Christian Guarente reached first after a dropped third strike. After he stole second base, Justin Townsend hit the ball to third, and the throw to first was high, which allowed Guarente to score from second.
It was a hard-luck loss for Sesko, who matched wits with one of the top pitchers in the area for seven innings.
“He pitched his butt off tonight, as usual," Schwindel said of Sesko. "He’s been a tough luck guy. He had Pope John his first start of the season, he ran into those guys and they’re playing great. He had a tough game at Lakeland, a no-decision here and there, and he’s come in and gotten a bunch of saves for us. He pitched three days in a row, including against Roxbury twice, so he’s just going to keep getting better and better. He’s going to be a very tough pitcher for us.”
Montville never had more than one baserunner in an inning. Matt Bettio reached base all three times, as he walked twice and singled. His single led off the sixth inning, and looked like it may be the start of a late rally once Kyle Kane hit a ball hard that appeared to be ticketed towards the left-center field gap.
But Guarente in left field ran the ball down and made the play, and Nathan got a groundout and a strikeout to end the threat. In the seventh, Nathan struck out the first two batters before getting a groundout to seal the win.
While the team's incredible nine-game winning streak is over, it still has plenty of baseball in front of it. It will face Old Tappan away on Friday, before taking on the state's No. 1 ranked team in Delbarton on Saturday in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament. Getting to face a top-tier pitcher such as Nathan is the type of experience that Schwindel feels will serve his team well as games grow in importance down the stretch.
“That’s exactly what I said to them- it’s a good learning experience," Schwindel said. "You’re going to see this (type of pitching), and you’re going to see better. Four of the next five games we’re playing are against Top 20 teams in the state of New Jersey. We have to be ready to play, and that’s the stuff that’s going to get us ready for the county championship, and a potential run at a state championship.”
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