NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- Senior right-hander Dylan Bedder closed out the game with six consecutive strikeouts to put the exclamation point on New Providence's 1-0 victory over Becton Regional in a rain-interrupted Section 2, Group 1 tournament game Thursday on the turf at Oakwood Park.
Bedder combined with starting pither Ryan Sherman on a three-hitter, and every pitch that both seniors made were big ones, because New Providence was held to just two hits the entire game by Becton right-hander Matt Perine.
New Providence (11-12-1) will play the winner of Saturday's Shabazz-Dayton quarterfinal game in the sectional semifinal next Tuesday. The Pioneers also have a regular-season game Friday at 5 p.m. against Dayton at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater to celebrate their Senior Night.
The only run of Thursday's game came in the fourth inning. Stanton Leuthner led off with a double to right field. After he advanced to third base on a wild pitch, he scored on Jack Connor's one-out sacrifice fly to right field. No sooner had than run scored than did the skies open up, causing a 52-minute rain delay.
When the rain abated and the game resumed, Bedder replaced Sherman on the mound. The two were a contrast in styles. Sherman hit his spots, commanded the ball and kept Becton off balance, allowing two hits and two walks with one strikeout in four innings to earn the victory. Then Bedder came in with high-octane heat and a knee-buckling curve and was nothing short of electrifying: three innings pitched, one hit allowed, seven strikeouts and two walks.
When asked if this was the best he has thrown the ball this season, Bedder said, "This year, for sure." After helping lead the New Providence basketball team to a Group 1 state championship in March, Bedder's baseball season--and his baseball conditioning--were delayed.
"I've been working to find my groove all season after basketball season," Bedder said. "Everything was working today. This was the best I've thrown (both the fastball and curve) all season."
Bedder had to escape a jam in his first inning of relief. In the fifth inning, after Bedder struck out his first batter, Becton loaded the bases. Bedder issued a one-out walk, then the next batter reached on a bunt that was first ruled an out before the two umpires convened and overturned the out call. The next batter hit a groundball that second baseman Nate Scott turned into an out with a slick pickup to get a force at second. Bedder walked the next batter to load the bases before getting Becton's cleanup hitter to ground into an inning-ending force play at third base.
"I hurt myself there with the walks and not handling that bunt properly," Bedder said. "I needed to step up and get out of it myself. I made some adjustments on the mound and got my curve to roll over to get the groundball."
New Providence also loaded the bases in the fifth inning with one out, but couldn't turn that threat into any insurance runs. But it didn't matter, because none of the last six Becton batters made contact, all of them striking out. The three seventh-inning batters all went down swinging, the first on a curve, the second on a fastball after Bedder came back from a 3-0 count, and the third batter on an 0-2 breaking ball.
"When Dylan is on like this, he's very, very good," New Providence head coach Chris Brodeur said. "He knew what he had to do, and he was dialed in. And Ryan Sherman, he just always battles. He's not a velocity pitcher, but he is one of the smartest pitchers I have ever coached, and he sees the game at a higher level."
After an April in which pitching was not the team strength it was expected to be, the Pioneers' pitching staff has stepped forward with some impressive outings in May.
"We are very lucky to be able to put our trust in four starters (also Nate Scott and Jack Connor)," Brodeur said. "These kids are 100 percent tested from a tough schedule that we played. We knew the schedule would test this team, and the kids have stuck with the program."