NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The Piscataway High School varsity baseball team pulled off another upset as the 15th-seeded Chiefs defeated 10th-seeded Colonia, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship Tournament at Community Park in North Brunswick on Friday.
Piscataway (8-12) has gotten hot at the right time as it won three games in a row. It beat second-seeded Middlesex in the first round on Tuesday, 7-3.
“What we’ve been saying all week has been, ‘Why not us?’ We’re the 15th seed and every year somebody beats somebody they’re not supposed to so why can’t it be us,” Piscataway’s Evan Okamoto said.
With the win on Friday against the Patriots just before it started to rain, the Chiefs will take on third-seeded South Brunswick on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at Bainton Field, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights across town in Piscataway in the semifinals.
“It’s crazy. I looked at the bracket and I knew every game would be tough,” Chiefs coach Nick McKee said. “We got through Middlesex, then Colonia, and now we have a divisional opponent in the semifinals. We split with them in the regular season. It’s full steam ahead.”
Okamoto started on the mound for Piscataway and earned the win going 6 and ⅓ innings with four runs (two earned), four hits, and three walks with four strikeouts.
“Evan battled today. He got behind a couple hitters, but for the most part, he battled and stayed in there,” McKee said.
Leading up to the game, Okamoto knew he would be getting the start so he prepared and he was ready to go.
“I was thinking about it. Coach told me after we beat Middlesex on Tuesday, I would have the ball today. I knew (Colonia) was going to put the ball in play,” Okamoto said.
The senior hurler, who earned his first victory on the bump this season, utilized all of his pitches effectively.
“I have a couple of breaking balls and they were both working for me,” he said. “I kept them off balanced. I have a bigger one and a smaller one complimented by my fastball.”
In order to pull out the win, Okamoto was backed up by stout defense. The Chiefs were able to convert on three double plays, including one that saw shortstop Jordan Brown lay out for a ball and throw to second base to start it up from his backside.
“My shortstop and second baseman had my back a couple times when I got into trouble. They picked me up.”
A key ingredient for Piscataway’s recent success on the diamond has been its play in the field.
“Defense has plagued us a little bit through the season, but the last three games we’ve been able to shut it down and when you don’t make errors you save runs,” McKee said. “We made three ridiculous double plays. We turned two in big spots and shut them down. That was good to see.”
Piscataway opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the second inning on a two-RBI single by Matt Hanzich, who finished the day 2-for-2 with two RBI, a run, and two walks. Robert Kurdaka gave the visitors a 3-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Colonia rallied for two runs of its own and made it game on two infield groundouts with the bases loaded.
Piscataway, however, got a clutch two-RBI single by Jordan Brown and a sac fly by Chris Lowry in the top of the seventh for three insurance runs, which it ended up needing.
After Okamoto left the game with one out, Jordin Martell entered and struck out his first batter. But, Martell, who is going to CCSU for football, started having some control issues and walked three Patriots in a row and had a wild pitch.
Two runners would score.
Nonetheless, Gabe Bendix earned the save throwing just one pitch as he got the Colonia hitter to line out to center fielder Roldan Morris to end the game.
The Chiefs have a regular season matchup on the road with Spotswood tomorrow (Saturday) at 10:00 a.m. and a home contest on Senior Night on Monday at 7:00 p.m. against Carteret before they face the Vikings in the GMCT semifinals on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re playing with house money at this point,” McKee said. “Nobody thought we would be where we are, but we knew how good we could be. We’re here and we’re in it.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
TAPintoPiscataway.net is an online newspaper serving the Township of Piscataway.
Sign up for our FREE daily eNews: https://www.tapinto.net/subscriptions/new