NUTLEY, NJ--Bloomfield's Andre Dean didn't get an opportunity to take to the mound in a varsity high school game in 2020.

On Monday afternoon, the senior right-hander started to make up for lost time.

Dean pitched a complete game nine-hitter with eight strikeouts and one walk to help lift the Bengals to an 8-4 victory over Nutley in the delayed 2021 season opener for both schools at The Oval in Nutley.

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A year ago, spring sports were wiped out throughout New Jersey due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Andre made about six starts for us as a sophomore two years ago," said Bloomfield head coach Mike Policastro. "And he probably would've been our ace last season. He's been our most consistent pitcher this spring, and we felt comfortable giving him the rock in our opener."

Nutley (0-1) actually scored first in the battle between neighboring rivals as junior Ryan Gencarelli hit a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning to give the Maroon Raiders a 2-0 lead.

Trailing, 3-2, Bloomfield struck for three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead for good.

Senior Jordan Daniels led off the frame with a single, took second when Dean beat out a bunt attempt and scored on Liam Hempstead's ground rule double that tied the score, 3-3. After an intentional walk to junior Isaiah Ortiz loaded the bases, junior Nico Ong laced a two-run double to put Bloomfield ahead, 5-3.

The Bengals added three more runs in the top of the seventh as sophomore Tyler Bell doubled and scored on a double by Dean. Hempstead, a junior, then added another RBI double before the final run scored on an error.

Dean then took the mound for the seventh despite totaling 97 pitches through six innings.

"Andre was humming along and his curve ball was still effective," said Policastro. "He wanted to go out there and finish the game and did a nice job."

Bloomfield hammered out 10 hits, including seven doubles, including two by Hempstead and two by Ong. Dean also had two hits, including a double while senior Dillon Jennings was 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI.

Nutley was paced by Gencarelli, Joe Delanzo (2-for-4, RBI), Lou Rafaelli (2-for-4), Ryan Breihof (triple, run) and Anthony Haines (1-for-4, run).

Nutley had defeated Bloomfield the last two times the schools met, including a 17-7 victory during the 2019 season. 

"Nutley had the better of us the last couple of time we've played so this was a good win," said Policastro, who is now in his 15th season at the helm of the Bengals. "They have good team speed and can play defense. They lack varsity experience as we do so we're in a similar situation."

Bloomfield will play host to Nutley when the schools meet  for the second time on May 10 at 4 p.m.

Bloomfield was 20-9 in 2019 and reached the sectional final while Nutley finished 22-7 and also played for a sectional championship.

Despite the late April start, Bloomfield will play a full slate of games this season and also participate in the Greater Newark Tournament and the post-season state tournament.

"The GNT will be seeded on May 4 with games starting May 8 with the state tournament starting on June 2," said Policastro. "With all that has gone on we're lucky that we're still able to have a full season."

Bloomfield has a busy schedule including three more games this week. The Bengals will play host to West Essex on Thursday (4 p.m.) and Middletown South on Friday (4 p.m.) before playing at Montclair on Saturday at 12 p.m.

"We have no problem loading up the schedule because that's the only way you can get better," said Policastro. "Unfortunately, in a lot of ways our sophomores are still freshmen and our juniors are still sophomores because of not being able to play last year.

"We'll see how quickly our younger players develop, but we'll take the good with the bad and I think the next two years we should be outstanding."


Extra Innings

Haines of Nutley and Jennings of Bloomfield each went straight from the wrestling mat to the baseball diamond in one day's time.

Each player competed in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2 'super region' tournament at Union High on Sunday. Haines reached the quarterfinal round in the 182-pound bracket while Jennings reached the semifinals at 220 pounds before finishing sixth.

"Jennings won two matches and then got body slammed a couple of times and was pretty sore," began Policastro. "So we let him DH while Ong got the start behind the plate."