SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit High Varsity Baseball Team, as been their habit this season, went to hardball's version of overtime -- extra innings -- but, on the occasion, it was the visitors from Cranford that supplied the heroics by pushing across three runs in the top of the eighth inning to defeat the Hilltoppers 3-1 at Memorial Park.
The setback spoiled a tremendous pitching performance by senior Will Schaffer, who delivered 6 1/3 innings of two-hit ball, striking out 10 and walking just two while throwing 104 pitches.
The game took on the form of a defensive chess match for most of the contest as Schaffer dueled the Cougars ace Gordon Graceffo. The two went back and forth for almost the entire game, trading scoreless innings.
Schaffer was aided by solid outfield play by junior Captain Andrew Miller as well as great work at third base from Senior Ben Lim. Graceffo lived up to his billing, fanning six and allowing just four hits while throwing a 101-pitch complete game.
During the seven inning, Miller and fellow captain Matt Murdock were able to get on base but neither could get past second as the Cranford defense was able to leave Murdock stranded in the middle of the infield and turn two on Miller after a Matt Reddy groundout.
It seemed as if neither a run would score and dusk, then darkness would prevail. Schaffer was relieved by Pat Smolyn, who got the final two outs of the seventh but Summit couldn't solve Graceful.
Cranford broke the deadlock, behind an RBI from Michael Meola and a couple of miscues by the Hilltoppers, pushing over three runs in the top of the eighth.
Summit fought back, scoring a run as Matt Mormile was plated, helped along by a Cranford error. The rally was short lived, however, as Graceffo finished off the final two batters.
Post-game, Summit Head Coach Kevin Zaleski reflected on his team's superb pitching and fixable errors when he said, "We got a great outing from Will Schaffer, but just could not strike offensively. We let them stay in the game too long and a few mistakes cost us late in the game. Their pitcher threw a tremendous game as well, throwing all 8 innings with no walks.”
Summit, now 6-3 on the season, continues its busy week when they take on Hanover Park April 19 at Memorial Park and then travel to Livingston April 20. Opening pitch for both games is set for 4 p.m.
Kyle Standing is a Summit High School sophomore.