BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The BH/Mountainside White Sox rolled over the Summit Sugar Bears 12-4 on Wednesday night at Snyder Park to advance to the Region 16 final of the “Last Dance” World Series. Ryan Devanney turned in a brilliant pitching performance over six complete innings of work for the win. The future D2 hurler (Goldey-Beacom) did not allow an earned run, scattered five singles, struck out 12, and did not walk a batter as he plowed through the Summit lineup before turning the ball over to his bullpen for the last inning. The offense gave Devanney plenty of support, rapping out 10 hits, with Jayson Schmidt, Nick Gold and Sean McCulloch all producing clutch two out two run hits. With the win, BH/ Mountainside improved to 2-0 in the tournament pool play and will look to take the Region when they face the Blue Devils of Westfield on Thursday night in Berkeley Heights. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.
Devanney set the tone for the game early on as he buzzed thought the top of the first by striking out the side. After leadoff man Vincent Mellusi (2-4, 2R, RBI) took the first pitch from Summit starter Eric Offer (2IP, 6ER, 3K) and rapped it up the middle for the games, he quickly put himself in scoring position by swiping second base. Offer managed to get the next two batters before he issued a walk to clean hitter Nick Gold. A double steal put runners on 2nd and 3rd for Jayson Schmidt (1-3,R, 2RBI), who delivered the games first two runs with a sharp single.
The second inning looked like a replay of the first. Once again, Devanney quickly retired the side in order, before his offense came through with some more timely hitting. This time it was Michael Shaffer (2-4, 3R, 2B, 3B,RBI) and Nick Gold (2-3, R, 3RBI) coming through with run scoring hits as BH/ Mountainside built an early six run lead.
However, the BH/Mountainside comfortable lead suddenly evaporated as the game's momentum took a quick turn in favor of Summit in the top of the fourth. Devanney whiffed the leadoff hitter, but the batter wound up on first after swinging strike three was mishandled in the infield. The next two hitters also found their way on base courtesy of two more infield miscues to load the bases with no outs. Devanney would then give up his first hit of the game to Dickinson recruit Will Hellings who dropped a two run single into center field. To his credit, Devanney kept his cool on the mound mixing in a couple of strikeouts around the BH/ Mountainside’s 4th error of the inning which led to another Summit run.
Centerfielder Sean McCulloch would pick up his pitcher as well as his infield when he fielded a soft base hit and unleashed a perfect throw to the plate to cut down the Summit base runner who was attempting to score from 2nd base. The inning ending play at the plate kept BH/Mountainside up 6-4 after four.
BH/Mountainside would tack on an insurance run in the 5th when Shaffer ripped a triple down the left field line and came all the way around on a bad relay for the outfield. They would then break open the game in the 6th scoring five times. McCulloch delivered the big blow a booming 2 run double to left center.
The only question left was whether Devanney was going to go all the way now that BH/Mountainside had a commanding 12-5 lead. After giving up a one out single in the top of the 6th it looked like the BH/ Mountainside coaches were going to pull Devanney, but they left him on the hill after a brief chat. The righty who appeared to be getting stronger as the game went on rewarded his coaches confidence by punching out the next two batters.
Dylan Verschleiser who had been warming up in the sixth was called upon to close out the win. Verschleiser was called up to varsity early in his sophomore year, but unfortunately he never took the mound as a Highlander after being sidelined with an arm injury that derailed his junior season as well.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2020 when he was healthy and ready to finally get his chance to join his fellow Highlander senior hurlers, Devanney, Sam Bass, and Jared Abram on the mound. Of course Covid-19 hit and wiped out his senior campaign. However, last night he got the call to the hill, thanks to the “Last Dance” World Series. When he was warming up in the bullpen he was asked by coach Scott McCulloch if he was ready to go and after nodded he was. Verschleiser was overheard saying “I've been waiting a 1000 days for this.” The recent Gov. Livingston graduate was finally back on the mound in live game action and made the most of the moment. He recorded his first strikeout in three years as he put down Summit on 15 pitches to close out Devanney's superb effort.
That's what the “Last Dance” was all about, giving these recent graduates one more chance to get back on the field with the kids they grew up playing with.
BH/ Mountainside will return to Snyder Park for the third consecutive night to play Westfield to determine who makes the round of 16 in the North bracket. Both these teams were expected to compete for this year's Union County title and now they will be given the chance. Expect rising senior Michael Shaffer to start for BH/ Mountainside against Westfield. Last season, as a sophomore, Shaffer had several quality starts including a gutsy win over Scotch Plains. Westfield defeated Scotch Plains 7-0 yesterday afternoon behind ace Chris Ho to advance to tonight's final.
Game time 7 p.m. at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights.