VERONA, NJ – The second seed Hillbillies will advance to the second round of the North Two Group Two State Tournament after a 5-4 win over the no. 15 seed Ridgefield Park Scarlets.  

Verona got off to a fast start when second baseman Tom Radigan hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the first.  After Radigan stole second, junior Nick Kozachuk was able to move the runner over with a sacrifice bunt. The very next pitch from Ridgefield Park was a ball low in the dirt which bounced away from the catcher bringing home Radigan to make it 1-0 Verona at the end of the first.  

Ridgefield Park was able to grab a run under similar circumstances in the top of the second after a pitch got by Verona’s catcher evening the score at 1-1.  

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The third inning proved to be the Hillbillies most productive of the game when senior Adam Weiss belted a leadoff single to get things started.  In the bottom of the third with runners on first and second Radigan laid down a sacrifice bunt of his own moving both runners into scoring position.  Kozachuk was able to deliver an RBI single for the Hillbillies bringing home Weiss.

Still in the third, senior Anthony Zamloot got on base with a single and junior Nick Coppola hit an RBI single bringing home Kozachuk.  Shortstop Will Gaccione was up next hitting a ball deep into centerfield for an RBI double scoring Zamloot to make it 4-1 Verona at the end of three.  

The Scarlets again climbed back into the game in the top of the fifth inning with three singles in a row followed by a Hillbilly error that scored a run.  The visitors kept it going with three RBI singles which tied the game 4-4.

Moving to the sixth inning with one out Zamloot ran to his left and made a catch while almost falling over to save the Hillbillies from getting an extra base hit.  Pitcher Kyle McCaffrey followed this up with a strikeout to end the inning getting out of a jam that left two Scarlets on base.

In the bottom of the sixth there were two outs when sophomore Pierce Coppola drew a walk followed by another single from Weiss.  McCaffrey continued the rally with an RBI single giving the Hillbillies a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh. Weiss finished two for three with two singles.  

McCaffrey never gave the Scarlets a chance in the bottom of the seventh.  Facing only three batters he ended the game with a strikeout to give him five for the game in seven innings pitched.   

When asked about the team’s mindset going into the game Gaccione, who went two for three with an RBI double said, “Don’t think about the second game.  We were seeded higher than Ridgefield, but we weren’t going to take them lightly because earlier this season we lost to teams that we shouldn’t have lost to.  We had a very good practice on Sunday, a lot of hitting. It had been our weak spot in the second half of the year, but we had a lot of batting practice yesterday and I think we carried it over to today’s game.”  

Head Coach Joe Phelan also reflected on the win saying, “We stayed tough getting those big hits like the one that Kyle (McCaffrey) was able to make and getting that big strikeout in the sixth.  Another big play was the one that Anthony (Zamloot) makes in centerfield throwing a guy out at third. Those little things throughout the game really help us.

It’s a new season for everybody in the playoffs.  We need to take it one inning at a time, one game at a time.  That’s our approach,” Phelan added.

Verona will face Caldwell at home on Thursday.

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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