LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The Cedar Grove Baseball Team is on a roll heading into the State Playoffs following an impressive 3-1 victory over Verona in the annual “Rivalry Game" at Yogi Berra Stadium on Thursday night.

“It’s a dog fight, Verona is a good team and for us to beat them --  we’re a Championship Team,” said Cedar Grove shortstop Ray Williams.

The key inning in the game came in the top of the third when Cedar Grove collected two runs. Williams was a key piece in the rally driving in the game’s first run on a one out triple to right. One batter later Williams scored on a groundout to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Williams later scored an insurance run on a suicide squeeze for the eventual final run of the game.

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“[Williams] is our spark plug, he’s in our leadoff spot to set the tone and as he goes we go it’s that simple,” said Panthers Head Coach Joe Cardinale.

For Williams, a senior on the squad, this game meant the world after losing his previous three seasons including pitching in an extra inning marathon a few years ago.

“We wanted this game more than anything, since opening day we were counting days,” said Williams.

Verona fought to stay in the contest with a strong bottom of the fifth inning.  Anthony Zamloot ripped a single to center to score Kyle McCaffrey for the Hillbillies lone run.

On the same play as Verona’s lone run scored the potential game-tying run was gunned down at home to end the inning. The defensive gem set the stage for a strong fielding effort from Cedar Grove that nullified two potential Verona runs in the game signaling their demise.

“Execution in all aspects of the game today was top flight, we pitched, we played as sound defense as we could have played and we had great at bats,” said Cardinale.

Verona starting pitcher Pierce Coppola was also solid in taking the loss. The sophomore collected eight strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs in the game.

“[Coppola] is a good pitcher and I have plenty of respect for him and he has plenty more years to come pitch and I wish him the best of luck,” said Williams.

Verona’s loss drops the squad to 14-8 on the season as they have now lost three of four. The Hillbillies will look to correct their mistakes as they will have the two seed in the North Two Group Two State Tournament and host Ridgefield Park on May 20.

Cedar Grove has now won four games in a row and improve their record to 11-8 on the season. The Panthers will have the 12 seed in the North One Group One State Tournament and head to five seeded Cresskill on May 20.

“[It’s] one pitch at a time you can’t look much further than one pitch because it’s the most important one.   These guys have bought into let's grind it out one pitch at a time -- good pitch or bad pitch, so what, let’s move on and the only way you keep it going is if you play that way and that’s what we’re doing,” said Cardinale.

All photos by Nick Teodoro.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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