CRANFORD, N.J. – Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was a home game played in Cranford.
Whatever the case, the Dayton baseball season ended to a familiar foe on Wednesday.
Senior Chris Kubas had three singles with two RBI and junior Nate Scott had a two-run single with two runs scored to propel third-seeded New Providence to a come-from-behind 6-3 victory over rival and second-seeded Dayton in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 tournament at Memorial Field in Cranford.
Sign Up for E-News
Dayton (14-7), which had bases loaded in the second and third inning and had a 3-2 lead after the fourth inning, ended its season losing two of its last three games, both to New Providence.
Scott also picked up the win in relief, allowing no runs, no hits, no walks with two strikeouts in three innings for the Pioneers (13-12-1) as they advance to the Friday’s sectional final and will host fourth-seeded Brearley (14-8), which has won four straight and five of its last seven games.
“I don't know if there's much you can do. You're facing a really good team with really good pitchers," said Dayton head coach Michael Abbate said. "To score three runs and to scratch it out and get yourself in those situations, I think you gotta look at it as good. That's baseball, you get a base hit there and you score two and that could change it all, but we went up 3-1 on them and those were big things."
“I think you gotta tip your caps off to them. They had some pretty good pitching on their side. Those guys deal,” Abbate added.
Senior Vinny Pulice (7-2) ended his stellar season, allowing eight hits, three earned runs, no walks and two strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings to take the loss for the Bulldogs. In his postgame comments, Abbate had nothing but praise for Pulice.
“You look at his record and he's won half our games. So if there's an MVP award, you've gotta give it to him for that reason. That's the way you've gotta look at it," he said. "I'm proud of him, he played really tough this year, and I think that's something that you don't see a lot of emotion from him.
"He's not an emotional kid, but he came out and did really really well for us and he really pitched with a lot of emotion."
The Pioneers have won five straight and six of its last seven games and have defeated the Bulldogs in four consecutive games since a 7-1 home loss on May 7, 2017. Last season, the Pioneers defeated Dayton, 9-0, in the sectional quarterfinals at home.
Speaking about his departing seniors, Abbate said that each and every one provided a contribution to the team, both on and off the field.
“The senior group didn't all play. There was really only three players from that group that played every inning of what they wanted...That should be the front line," Abbate said.
"When kids in this day and age don't get what they want, and they still cheer for their teammates and come every day, those seniors are guys I'll never ever forget," he continued. "I could get emotional talking about them because they might not have won a game today, but that's what holds a Group 1 program together, is kids like that.
"We don't have a lot of kids, so we need every single one to buy in and those kids that didn't play really bought in,” said Abbate. “We didn't win a game today, but we put ourselves in a position every year."
And as for what he is taking away from this season, Abbate said that his team's consistency is key, and something he will look to continue next year.
"I've been here 10 years, and we've been in the sectional final or semifinals eight out of the 10 of them," Abbate said. "So you just keep knocking on the door because you never know in life and you go from there.”