MORRISTOWN – The fourth-seeded Morristown High School baseball team edged 13th-seeded Morris Knolls, 7-6, in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 tournament on Tuesday, May 21.
It was a game that Morristown head coach Ed Collins hopes would kick start into something positive for the rest of the tournament.
Morristown was in a 6-0 hole in the third inning against Morris Knolls.
“For us to fight back and keep our composure and stay together as a team, I would have to say is a positive,” Collins said. “I think it speaks a lot about our team, that they stuck with it and grinded back into the game. They saw an opening and they were able to push through. That itself is a big boost that I hope carries into the next game.”
The Colonials will meet 12th-seeded Clifton in the sectional quarterfinals on May 23. Clifton knocked off fifth-seeded North Bergen in the first round, 5-4.
The Colonials (13-7) won their third straight game on Tuesday. Andrew Flores went 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Justin Barrett, Tate Ballestero and Sam Slackman each had two RBI for Morristown. Pat Montfort had two hits, scored two runs and had an RBI for the Colonials.
Four pitchers saw action on the mound for Morristown. Joe Pucek went three innings and allowed four runs on six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Flores came on for two innings and allowed just one hit while walking one and striking out one. Montfort threw an inning and walked one and struck out two. Matt Hallberg threw an inning and gave up no hits and no walks.
Circumstances made Collins go into the bullpen.
“Our defense didn’t pick (Joe Pucek) up,” the coach said. “From there, you try to manage the game. Andrew Flores came in and was able to get quick outs. That helped us. The next three guys gave us an opportunity to have a comeback.”
While Tuesday’s early deficit wasn’t ideal, Collins hopes the momentum it gave will be beneficial against Clifton.
“I hope it goes into the next game,” he said. “High school baseball, you make a couple mistakes defensively and it puts too much stress on the pitcher. That’s the name of the game. The teams that make more mistakes are typically going to lose. I think we made mistakes early, but we were able to rally.”
Collins gave credit to a pair of seniors in Ballestero and Slackman.
“Tate Ballestero drove in the first few runs. We needed that to get on the board,” Collins added. “Sam Slackman came through with a big double to drive in the tying and the winning run. I’m very proud of the way our senior captains responded.”