MILLBURN, NJ – The Millburn Millers blanked Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 10-0, in Thursday afternoon’s NJSIAA Section 2 Group 4 quarterfinals, eliminating the Raiders from the tournament.
The No. 4 seed Millers tallied three runs in the first inning, and then put the finishing touches on the shut out by hanging a 7-spot in the 5th inning.
Scotch Plains starter Timmy Geissel seemed to settle in after poor defense in the first inning put him behind, but then hit a wall in the 5th and final inning. The junior gave up three straight singles to start the inning before walking in a run.
The next hitter, Michael Garawitz, scorched a 2-RBI single to add to his 2-3, 4 RBI day, and then Geissel was replaced by freshman Danny Wilkinson.
Geissel ended up allowing 8 runs on 8 hits, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts over 4+ innings pitched, but Raiders Head Coach Joe Higgins said his usually-reliable lefty did an overall good job.
“[Geissel] threw 28 pitches, and on a hot day, a long inning is going to catch up to you,” Higgins said. “It just caught up to him in the fifth.”
Geissel’s counterpart, Kevin Czapelski of Millburn, was cool under pressure in Thursday’s contest, going the full five innings without allowing a run, and only conceded 3 hits with no walks and 5 strikeouts.
Higgins said that Millburn had the momentum from the get-go because his team wasn’t aggressive enough against the hard-throwing righty.
“[Czapelski] did a really good job of spotting his pitches and getting ahead,” Higgins said. “We needed to recognize that and not let him get so comfortable.”
Scotch Plains only got two runners in scoring position all game, with their best chance of the game coming after leadoff hitter Pete Warren ripped a base hit on the first pitch of the game, but was stranded on third.
“Little things like that can change the direction of the game,” according to Higgins.
Though the young Danny Wilkinson couldn’t close the flood gates in relief, walking in back-to-back runs, the game could’ve been extended if not for the throwing error by third baseman George Mueller on what would’ve been the third out in the 5th. Instead, the game winning run came around to score, and the Raiders season ended on a mercy rule.
The loss will be hard to shake, and Higgins said his team has a lot of work to do this offseason.
“I like the chances we have of coming back but I told the guys there’s nothing guaranteed,” the Scotch Plains coach said. “We’re going to have to earn it. We did a lot of good things this year but we definitely can’t be satisfied. We have to get back to work.”