SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Hilltoppers varsity baseball teams trailed Nutley 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning on Monday.
With their state tournament lives at stake, Summit head coach Kevin Zaleski didn't need to say a word to his team to fire them up.
"We've been there before," he said. "We have at least three or four comeback wins. We're just confident right now."
With one out in the seventh, the game changed. Andrew Aguilera, who earned the win by throwing the final 2.2 innings for the Hilltoppers, drew a walk. From there, the confidence grew. Then two errors, a walk and three hits later, Summit was left celebrating a 5-4 win over Nutley in the first round of the NJSIAA state tournament.
"We're not dead until the game is over," Zaleski said. "They believe they can do it. One out doesn't scare them."
With Aguilera on first, Kyle Brown and Mike Bredahl both reached on errors to load the bases. Then, as has been the case all year, Andrew George connected on a single down the right field line, scoring two.
Though George was thrown out at second trying to extend the play, Zaleski is amazed at how clutch his No. 9 hitter has been this year.
"He puts the bat on the ball," Zaleski said. "He doesn't strike out. He's clutch. At the bottom of the order, he has some clutch hits for us."
After a walk to lead-off hitter Nick Abbot, David Barardi and Tanner Fulton hit back-to-back RBI singles to send Summit into the NJSIAA second round, while extending their winning streak to 13.
The Hilltoppers will face Cranford, the No. 1 team in the state on Friday.
Zaleski said his team is ready for the challenge of knocking off the top seed.
"When we were 8-5, it was what team is going to show up," he said. "The last 13 games, we know what to expect. The kids believe they can do it. They're not afraid."