MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - The 2018 season was a magical one for the Mountainside 8U baseball team as the squad captured the district, regional, and state tournaments. Mountainside’s record across the three tournaments was flawless as the team finished a perfect 17-0.
After falling short in the 2017 district finals and state finals, the team approached the 2018 tournaments with a hunger that has been building since coming up short in last season’s tournaments.
“This was a magical ride for these kids,” head coach Steve Filiaci said. “Many of these kids were on that team that went to the district finals and state semifinals but came up short. Having tasted that motivated them and the coaches to work with them all winter and spring to prepare for these games.”
Mountainside’s postseason run was kick-started in a district tournament in which the team went 6-0 and captured their first district title in 10 years. Mountainside captured wins over New Providence, Watchung Hills, Cranford, and Westfield in pool play before defeating Millburn-Short Hills in the semifinal round and Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the championship game. The overall margin of victory was staggering as Mountainside outscored the six squads, 69-13.
Filiaci attributed the team’s success in the districts to pitching. The team received strong pitching performances from Addison Adornato, Michael Donahue, Matthew Filiaci, Mateo Liloia, and Tyce Hanratty.
“Those four combined to give up just seven hits in six games which is quite an achievement for this young team,” Filiaci said.
The team also received strong performances at the plate from the likes of Jacob Minnefor, C.J. Cantagallo, Noah Hunter, Drew Peris, Alex Pater, Bobby Poth, and Greg Dardanello.
“Jacon, C.J., and Noah consistently hit all tournament providing one clutch hit after another while Drew and Alex provided timely hitting to help their team win and keep rallies alive,” Filiaci said. “Bobby and Greg also contributed with strong at-bats and base running to keep piling on the runs.”
Mountainside’s state tournament run includeed wins against North Brunsick, Manalapan, and Long Hill. Not surprisingly, the games were a little tougher especially in the semifinal round against Hillsborough. Against Hillsborough, the team was down 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning before staging a comeback for the ages. Adornato, Liloia, Filiaci, Hunter and Cantagallo all scored runs to help tie the game in the fifth. The key moment in the fifth came on Hanratty’s RBI single. It did not require more than one extra inning for Mountainside to pull out the victory as Jacob Minnefor stole home on a pass ball to help his team advance to the Finals against North Brunsisck.
The championship round was much easier as North Brunswick applied the mercy rule after falling behind, 12-2, after five innings.
“The kids put it all together in the championship round,” Filiaci said. “Strong pitching from Matt, C.J., Mateo, and Addison shut down the North Brunswick bats and the offense exploded as Addison and Jacob scored four runs and each had three hits.”
The state championship win propelled the team to the regional where they would face teams from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
Mountainside’s first opponent was East Fishkill, New York. Mountainside scored a whopping nine runs in the first inning and never looked back before winning 18-4. Adornato scored four runs while Cantagello chipped in with three of his own.
The second game against Mount Laurel, New Jersey proved to be the team’s toughest. Mountainside used dominant pitching and great defense to pull out an 8-5 victory.
Mountainside closed out pool play with a pair of victories over Hilltop, Pennsylvania and Queensbury, NY.
“The key to our 5-3 victory over Hilltop was strong pitching from Mateo, Addison, and Tyce and a great catch by Drew to help preserve the victory,” Filiaci said. “In the final game of pool play, the boys came out swinging sending 13 batters to the plate in the first inning for a total of 10 runs en route to an 18-2 victory.”
The semifinal round was another close game against Mount Laurel. Mountainside jumped out to a 6-2 lead before a few errors and walks allowed Mount Laurel to tie the game. Mountainside responded abruptly and took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth as Adornatio drove in Noah Hunter with an RBI double to give his team a 7-6 lead.
Adornato finished Mount Laurel off with a dominant last inning on the mound as he struck out two batter to help propel his team to the Finals against North Colonie, New York.
The Highlanders defeated North Colonie, 7-5, thanks to a pair of runs scored by Filiaci, Minnefor, and Adornato. The trio was also credited with RBI doubles. Liloia and Hanratty chipped in with two hits and two RBIs of their own.
Filiaci and Adornato also made strong contributions on the mound to help key the Mountainside win.
Cantagallo sealed the game with a diving grab at shortstop to end the game and give Mountainside its first ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.
“The continued support of their families and the Mountainside community contributed to their on the field success,” Filiaci said. “We had one of the largest fan followings as the boys always felt like they were playing a home game, no matter how far away.”
“The hard work these kids put in and the countless hours of practice and preparation really paid off to being the No. 1 team out of a pool of over 500 when it was all said and done.”