WHRHS Baseball: Watchung Hills Falls to Millburn in NJSIAA Section Semis

Kevin Sylvestri of Watchung Hills Credits: Guy Kipp
Alex Byington Credits: Guy Kipp
Ben Pampush is safe at third with a triple. Credits: Guy Kipp
Peter Gula Credits: Guy Kipp
Richie Schiekofer Credits: Guy Kipp
Ben Pampush hit his sixth triple of the season on Tuesday. Credits: Guy Kipp

MILLBURN, NJ - With remarkable consistency, the Millburn baseball team has made many of the elite pitchers in the area work especially hard, before winning the battle the second or third time through the lineup.

It happened again on Tuesday, when top-seeded Millburn defeated Watchung Hills, 7-1, in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 tournament.
Millburn (23-5) will host second-seeded Woodbridge (25-5) in the sectional championship game Friday at 4 p.m.

Of the game, "Just wasn't our best effort," said WHRHS head coach Joe Tremarco. "You get to this part of the season you can't afford to make the mistakes we made today. But like in every loss, it's only a negative thing if you don't learn from it...we will most definitely learn from this one. Just want to thank our Seniors for their hard work and dedication to the program the past 4 years....they finished strong, something that will help them in all their life's endeavors."

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Held to one hit their first time through the order, the Millers then took the measure of highly regarded right-hander Kevin Sylvestri when he faced each of them a second time. Millburn scored three runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth, collecting five hits but also taking advantage of four walks, a hit batsman and five Watchung Hills errors to avenge their loss to the Warriors in the same round of last year's tournament.

"The first time through the order, his (Sylvestri's) motion was quick, he was quick to the plate and it took us awhile to adjust," said Millburn second baseman Ben Pampush, a .423 hitter who followed Peter Gula's leadoff walk in the third inning with a long triple to right-center that gave the Millers a 1-0 lead.
"I got a fastball and I made good contact," Pampush said. "That got the momentum going, and then everyone was more relaxed."

Richie Schiekofer followed Pampush's triple with a long opposite-field drive to left field that was caught and then dropped, allowing Pampush to score and Schiekofer to reach second. Then, after a wild pitch sent Schiekofer to third base, Peter Serruto followed with a cue shot, hump-back liner that went up the middle and carried just beyond the drawn-in Watchung Hills middle infielders for an RBI single and a 3-0 lead.
"We don't have that many huge hitters, so we have to scrap together runs," Pampush said. "And the coaches stress that we can't leave runners on base."

Millburn made Watchung Hills (17-11) pay for almost all of the Somerset County team's mistakes. The fourth inning included an error on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, as the Millers added on with Gula's two-run double to left-center, Schiekofer's sacrifice fly and Serruto's run-scoring groundout.

That was more than enough for Millburn starting pitcher Mike Kologlu, who pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits, striking out five and walking one. Kologlu (7-0) was lifted with two outs in the fifth not because of fatigue or lack of effectiveness, but to preserve his eligibility to pitch in Friday's sectional final. Alex Byington came on to pitch 2 2/3 strong innings, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out two. Byington was an out away from completing the shutout when Nick Mink tripled in Watchung Hills' only run.

"Congratulations to Coach Tremarco, his staff, and our baseball team on a great season," said WHRHS Director of Athletics Chris Van Vliet. "We are very proud of our program advancing to the state tournament semi-final round. Although they came up short against a very good Millburn team, our players and coaches competed and demonstrated Warrior pride and sportsmanship. Good luck to our seniors who will be leaving the program, and we all look forward to seeing our Hustlin' Warriors back in action next season."

"Our top of the order does a nice job adjusting to and figuring out what pitchers are trying to do," Millburn coach Brian Chapman said. "It's consistently true that we seem to score the bulk of our runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings after we understand what the opposing pitcher is trying to do."

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