MORRISTOWN, NJ- The Morris County Tournament semi-finals saw a masterful pitchers’ duel between Randolph’s Thomas Ippolito and Morris Hills Dave Hareen go into extra innings tied at 1-1. Fortunately for Ippolito and the Rams, they had Shane Keane on their side.
Keane drilled a single into right center, his third hit of the day, scoring Jake Barbiere to give Randolph a dramatic walk-off, bottom of the eighth, 2-1 victory.
It was a shaky start to the game for Randolph, as Ippolito gave up a lead-off double that led to a run, for an early one run deficit for the Rams. From there, Ippolito brought down the hammer, only giving up two more hits the rest of the way.
“After the first run came in today, only one thing was in my mind moving forward: ‘that is their first and last run today’,” said Ippoito. “I knew it was going to be a good game so I made sure that the door was closed for them, and not opening for the rest of the game.”
Meanwhile, across the diamond, Morris Hills got much of the same out of their starter Hareen, who only gave up five hits himself. Hareen took that 1-0 lead into the sixth, when an error allowed Barbiere to reach base. Jack Carroll’s two out RBI single knocked in Barbiere to tie the game at 1-1.
Ippolito kept the lid on Morris Hills, with 1-2-3 innings in the 6th and 7th, as well as the first extra tilt in the 8th inning, giving his team every chance to grab the win.
“Going into extra innings today, I knew if I kept doing what I had to, with my defense to back me up, the game was ours to win,” said Ippolito.
Barbiere led off with a single, and a sacrifice from Stu Backer landed him in scoring position on second base. Jack Carroll was intentionally walked to set up the potential double play ball, but what it did instead was set up Keane’s heroics.
“I was looking middle in all my at bats, and their pitcher did a great job mixing up his pitches so I knew I had to be selective,” said Keane. “Barbiere has great speed on second so I knew I just needed the find a hole and Jake would do the rest."
Keane did exactly what he was looking to do, and drilled a pitch up the middle into right center. Barbierie chugged around third and headed for home, where he slid safely in under the tag with the winning run.
“Before my at-bat I asked Coach Mac if he was ready to go back to Horseshoe, said Barbiere. “I went down 1-2 and just shortened up and hit a hard liner through the infield. Stu's bunt set us up great and Shane came up clutch, I knew from the moment he hit it I was going to score.”
Keane was asked what it felt like to play the role of hero.
“It's an amazing feeling, one that will definitely stick with me for a very long time,” said Keane. “Jake had a huge lead off hit to start the inning, and Stu had a huge bunt to put us in a position to win the game. In the end it was the little things like that which made the difference.”
The win sets up a finals match with No. 3 seed Delbarton, Saturday May 13, 7 pm at Horshoe Lake in Roxbury.