NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - For the first time since 2004, the New Providence Pioneers are sectional champions, as the top overall seed in the section defeated 3rd seeded Dunellen 4-2 in comeback fashion.
“It’s unbelievable,” said head coach Chris Brodeur on winning his first championship. “These kids work hard in the offseason, they work hard in season and they believe.”
“It’s that level of belief that got us here and it’s amazing.”
Both teams traded punches in the 1st inning, with Stanton Leuthner responding with an RBI double after Dunellen struck first.
The Pioneers were lucky to get out of the 3rd inning only down 2-1 as an incredible relay from Leuthner to catcher Chris Kubas nabbed a runner at the plate, followed by pitcher Ryan Sherman picking off a man trying to steal second to record two big outs.
After a few quiet innings, the Pioneers rallied in the 5th to capture a lead they would not relinquish. With senior Tommy Jankowski on 3rd, Leuthner tied the game up by beating out an infield single, and Kubas would waste no time by ripping a single into right to give the hosts a 3-2 lead.
Strong pitching was key the rest of the way for the Pioneers, as after a steady 5 1/3 innings from Sherman, pitcher/1B Dylan Bedder came in to get out of the 6th inning with New Providence still ahead 3-2.
“Sherman is a fighter,” said Brodeur. “He is scrappy, and he will throw strikes and you have to love that about him.”
“Even when he gave up a few hits he was able to wiggle out of it and keep us in the ball game.”
An insurance run was tacked on in the bottom of the 6th as the 9-hole hitter Matt Shen slapped an RBI single to double the Pioneer lead, giving them some much needed breathing room with 3 more outs to go.
Bedder came back out in the top of the 7th and wasted no time, as after striking out the first batter and the next reaching via an infield single, Bedder struck out the next two batters swinging to give the Pioneers their first sectional title since 2004.
“We needed everybody’s contribution today and everybody stepped up,” said Brodeur on his team’s top-to-bottom balance. “We’ve been doing that all season and we’ve had a different hero all season and our team understands that and supports each other the whole way.”
The Pioneers (20-6) are two wins away from their first Group 1 title since 1998 when they take on Park Ridge (19-6) in a semi-final match up. The game is scheduled for Tuesday at Bainton Field, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 4 p.m.