On a beautiful night for baseball with the last colors of the sun staining the western horizon, the Wayne Valley PAL baseball team fell short of a win and was eliminated from the Last Dance Tournament on Thursday night. The game was close, but the team couldn’t muster enough offense to propel them into the North region Group of 16. They fell to Ridgewood, 4-2 under the lights of the Cliff Gennarelli-Paramus Sports-Plex.
The WV-PAL found offense early from a familiar source. Right fielder Matt Krefting, who had been hitting well all tournament, crushed a pitch over the right field fence to give the team a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
“It was a 3-0 count, and I figured he was giving me a fastball,” he said. “I wanted to take the lead early. Got a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Ridgewood also looked to its right fielder for a spark offensively, and Colin Feeney delivered in the second inning. He doubled to bring home Jordan Fisse but was thrown out at third on a great relay from the WV-PAL. Two innings later, designated hitter Joey Pagano tripled, which scored Fisse again to tie the game at two.
The game’s deciding runs were scored in the fifth inning. Ridgewood left fielder Reed Darienzo singled in second baseman Alex Fernandez and scored during the next at-bat after center fielder Matt Favieri doubled. The WV-PAL had their best chance to even things up in the bottom of sixth when they loaded the bases, but they could not capitalize, and the inning ended with no runs scored. The game became final after seven with Ridgewood moving on and the WV-PAL team going home, and joining the other two Wayne teams that were already eliminated from the tournament.
Some of these boys will never get to play high school baseball again, so they are grateful for this last hoorah. Given the coronavirus pandemic, they thought they had already lost that chance when the NJSIAA canceled their spring season. The Last Dance Tournament provided seniors on the team, like pitcher Colin Thomson, a chance at closure as he moves onto college.
“It meant a lot, especially with how well we played,” he said. “Even losing today, we lost to a good team. They hit very well, and we just didn’t get the bats going.”
While Thomson still has baseball ahead of him as he will be pitching for Rutgers-Newark next year, he is going to miss playing on his high school team.
“It’s sad that it’s over,” he said. “I’m not going to be playing with my friends who I’ve been playing with my whole life. It was a lot of fun though; brought back a lot of memories.”
Some of Thomson’s teammates are done playing baseball after this summer. Despite the disappointment from today’s loss, Krefting, who is one of those players, is focusing on the positive experience he had and the bright future of his younger teammates returning to Wayne Valley next year.
“It stinks to end this way, but it was really fun to play with my friends and all my guys,” he said. “It was just really great to play with them all again. All of them coming back are going to ball out next year. I think they’re going to have a really good team, and I’ll definitely be back for some games.”
Even though his team did not achieve their ultimate goal, Coach S is happy with how his team played throughout the tournament and grateful for the chance to coach the team he had at the Wayne PAL when the boys were younger.
“I’m proud of them,” he said. “I wouldn’t want any other group of guys to play for me.”
Since there was no 2020 season, Wayne Valley enters next season as the reigning county champions after winning the Passaic County Tournament last May. They will look to defend that title and win more when they take the field in spring 2021 with an added perspective of how quickly the game they love can be taken away from them.