ROXBURY, NJ- For the second consecutive year, the Morris County Baseball Finals held much promise for Randolph high school; unfortunately, for the second consecutive year it ended in a difficult defeat, as the Rams fell to Delbarton 6-5 in extra innings on Monday, May 15.
“Our effort tonight was gritty and tough, everyone gave everything they had and that's all you can ask for,” said Randolph Manager Doug Anderson. “But we just didn't play well enough to win against a team like Delbarton.”
In a bit of a strange see-saw game, both teams saw players who had made mistakes early redeem themselves later on, while other players who had lifted their team with one big play, made a costly gaffe after. The Green Wave also took advantage of Randolph's mistakes on fielding errors and wild pitches to advance runners and score unearned runs.
Both teams started their ace on the mound, and for Randolph that was Thomas Ippolito, who had compiled a record of 6-0 with an ERA of just 1.92 on the season.
Ippolito pitched well, but was hurt by a fielding error on the first batter of the game who came around to score, then got himself in trouble with walks in the third and fourth innings. He was followed on the mound by Chris Doige, Trevor Salvior, and Jack O’Toole. All came up big in spots, shutting down opportunities for Delbarton, but in the end, the group collectively put too many runners on base via walk or hit by pitch.
“We walked 9 batters and hit 2, and gave them 11 free baserunners by simply not throwing strikes,” said Rams Manager Doug Anderson. “Our offense picked up our first two pitchers, which was awesome to see, but we did not throw strikes and let our defense play behind them."
Of the six runs Delbarton scored throughout, five were given a free pass on base; two by error, two by walk, and one hit by pitch. Only one had reached base with a hit of his own.
Delbarton took a 1-0 lead in the first on a suicide squeeze bunt, the first of four successful sacrifice bunts that led directly to runs in the game. The Green Wave made it 3-0 in the top of the third with a bases loaded single, aided by runners reaching base via walks.
Randolph battled back in the bottom half of the inning, when Stu Backer ripped a bases loaded double down the first base line, knocking in two runs to cut the lead to 3-2.
In the top of the fourth, the suicide squeeze was on again and gave Delbarton a 4-2 lead, as the Green Wave engineered the run without getting a hit in the inning.
But the Rams responded again in the bottom half, when Brendan Lowery laced a two RBI single past the third baseman to tie the game at 4-4. Lowery stole second and then third, and came home on an errant throw to stake the Rams to a 5-4 lead.
In the top of the fifth, the Rams defense came alive, shutting down a bases loaded threat when Stu Backer fielded a grounder at first, fired home to get the force out, and received the ball back from Catcher Connor Sullivan for a dynamic double play.
After a wild pitch from Randolph scored yet another unearned run for the Green Wave in the sixth to tie the game at 5-5, Delbarton had bases loaded and only one out, threatening to blow open the game. A fly ball to short right field was caught by Shane Keane, and the junior fired a rope to home plate, where Sullivan easily tagged out the runner from third for another spectacular inning ending double play.
The problem at this point of the game for Randolph however, was the Green Wave had moved on to their second pitcher, Billy Price, who had quieted the Rams bats. Price sent down the first 12 batters he faced in order, and struck out 9 of the 17 he faced in the game.
Price kept the Rams at bay over the next few innings, as Trevor Salvior and Jack O’Toole did on the mound for Randolph as well.
But in the top of the ninth, once again the Rams allowed Delbarton's leadoff runner to reach base when a bad hop / error prevented an out. The runner was then sacrificed into scoring position on second base with another perfect bunt.
“My three younger brothers and I all played for Bruce Shatel at Delbarton, and we knew exactly what they would do and try to do,” said Anderson, when asked about the Green Waves numerous sacrifice bunts leading to runs. “The one thing you can't do is let them get the leadoff man on and give them free base runners. We did both of those things because our pitchers did not execute well tonight.”
O’Toole battled on the mound, working two outs and getting two strikes on Thomas Coliccio, but a single to right brought in the go ahead run. The Rams threatened in the bottom half of the inning, getting two runners on base, but they couldn’t push one across the plate, and Delbarton took the title by a score of 6-5.
“We scored 5 runs off of two division 1 pitchers, that should have been enough to win that game,” said Anderson. “I applaud our kids for their effort and for never giving up. Jack O'Toole came in for the last two innings and gave an outstanding effort. It's a credit to all our kids toughness that we even had a chance to win tonight with how poorly we pitched.”