MONTCLAIR, NJ - BH/Mountainside had the tournaments top seed on the ropes, holding a 5-1 sixth inning lead, but Don Bosco Prep pushed across six late runs and then managed to hold on for 7-6 victory Tuesday afternoon at Yogi Berra Stadium. The game ended with a bit of controversy when it appeared the Ironman pitcher, Colden Dana, balked with a runner on third base that would have sent home the tying run. After a huddle by the umpiring crew, no balk was called. Rising junior Dana, a University of Kentucky commit, then brought some extra heat and ended the game with a three pitch strikeout.
The gut wrenching loss eliminates BH/ Mountainside form the Last Dance World Series, but the team made the most of what this “Last Dance” opportunity had to offer. The Gov. Livingston 2020 graduating seniors may have only played four games this year, but they packed in a season full of Highlander baseball memories for themselves and their teammates, as well as the entire BH/Mountainside community.
After watching their hated rival Bergen Catholic mercy Mount Olive 10-0 in the first game of the day, loaded Don Bosco Prep may have been thinking mercy themselves when they took the field against BH/ Mountainside. Don Bosco coach Mike Rooney who has 5 D1 pitchers on his tournament roster called upon Villanova bound Devin Rivera to start the game.
Lanky right-hander Rivera (4.1IP, 3ER, 5H,5K) who bumped up his fastball to slightly over 90 last spring got leadoff man Vin Mellusi when he spotted that fastball on the corner of the plate for a called strike three. After Sean McCulloch drew a walk, Michael Shaffer (2-4,2B,2RBI) made sure Rivera knew that the mercy rule thing was off the table when he lined a Rivera heater over the left fielders head for a run scoring double. Nick Gold then laced a single to right field and BH/Mountainside took a 2-0 lead before Rivera worked out of the first.
Ryan Devanney who tossed six innings against Summit last week without giving up an earned run got the start. Devanney had a solid first inning giving up a hit but quietly retired the side on a ground out.
Both starting pitchers stranded runners in scoring position over the next three frames, before BH/Mountainside finally got to Rivera in the top of the fifth. Several Don Bosco errors, back to back bunts, and a Shaffer RBI single led to three runs, knocking Rivera from the game. Lefty Blake Helmstetter (1.IP,0ER,1H), who will pitch at Iona College next year, did a nice job closing the inning to keep the score at 5-0.
The BH/ Mountainside coaches decided to take Devanney out of the game in the bottom of the 5th. Devanney tossed four scoreless innings ,yielding only four hits and struck out five against the Bergen County power. In the LDWS, Devanney pitched 10 innings and did not yield an earned run in his combined two starts.
Sam Bass (1.2IP,4ER, 5H,3K) who has been used out of the pen in the tournament took over for Devanney. In the bottom half the 5th Bass gave up a pair of hits and a run when Jake Branzaano (1-3,RBI) drove in Kevin Stefanski (1-3,RBI) on a fielders choice.
Don Bosco would use a combination of clutch at bats and poor defense by BH/ Mountainside to scored 6 times in the bottom of the 6th. Bass just could not make the one pitch he needed as he had 2 strike counts on a pair of Don Bosco hitters before they would drop opposite field doubles, the second one scoring 2 runs. Poor defensive positioning in the infield and 2 errors led to 4 runs being scored to tie the game. Charlie Grannatell(1-3,2RBI)would then deliver the winning runs with a 2 run base hit which needed bass’s day. Dylan Verschlesier. (.1IP,1K) struck out the next hitter but Don Bosco had taken a 7-5 lead.
However, BH/ Mountainside would not go down without a fight. Don Bosco coach Rooney pulled senior Helmstetter in favor of rising junior Dana to close the game. Mellusi worked Dana for a leadoff walk. Sean McCulloch caught the Don Bosco defense napping when he dropped a beautiful bunt down the third , putting runners on first and second. Up came Shaffer who had a pair of hits, but he got the bunt sign from the dugout. After one attempt to move the runners over, Shaffer swung away and flied out. Gold drew a walk and the bases were loaded. Dana came back with a strikeout but on strike three Mellusi came in as the ball got by the catcher. BH/Mountainside now trailed 7-6 with runners on second and third with two away.
With Sean McCulloch dancing off third base he clearly caught the eye of Dana. As an unnerved Dana began his delivery the BH/ Mountainside bench immediately called out balk, which would have sent home McCulloch with the tying run. After a protest, the umps decided that Dana did not commit a balk. To his credit Dana reared back and threw heat for a game ending strike out.
Don Bosco coach Rooney after the game claimed that time had been called and therefore the balk was not committed. However, that explanation of time being out was apparently not shared with anyone else as the umpires quickly left the venue after the last out. The interesting observation on the non balk call was the home plate umpire called two balks earlier in the game against BH/ Mountainside, both of which were very questionable.
Don Bosco survived and will play again tomorrow at Yogi Berra Stadium against Jefferson. As for BH/ Mountainside they proved once again they can compete with anyone in the state on the baseball diamond.