WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The James Caldwell baseball team is peaking at the right time offensively after a 15-5 victory over West Orange on Tuesday gave the Chiefs the confidence needed to make a run at a state title.
“It felt good to play and it always feels good to beat a tough team and they’re very capable,” said Caldwell head coach Scott Illiano.
Caldwell broke the game open with six runs in the top of the third inning to take an 8-1 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
After Jason Costa and Mike Cavallo scored to start the rally, Mike Maida approached the plate with the bases loaded. Maida cracked a bases-clearing double to break the game wide open and put Caldwell on the warpath.
“I thought that we did a nice job exercising some patience, taking our walks and not swinging at balls outside of the strike zone,” said Illiano. “Mike Maida put a really good swing on it with that three-run double there and it seemed to give us the lift that we needed and be a little bit of a turning point in the game.”
Maida’s big day was not over, as he tacked on another run-scoring single later in the fifth inning. The sophomore, accounting for six of the 15 runs on the night, has impressed since coming off the bench due to injuries in the starting lineup.
“I liked the pitching—it was nice and I was seeing it well,” said Maida. “It was the first game under the lights; it was different, but it felt good.”
Although Maida was a big part of the team’s output, the offense as a whole clicked on all cylinders. Every starter in the Caldwell lineup came around to score on the evening, seven of whom accounted for multiple runs in one form or another.
This was Caldwell’s sixth game in the last seven contests with at least five runs, and the 10th time this year that the squad has scored in double digits.
“Mainly, hitting has been crazy for us,” said Maida. “We’ve been driving in a lot of runs per game, so it’s been pretty nice.”
Despite such a dominant effort, the Chiefs’ coach utilized the victory as an opportunity to educate the team on how to get better before the postseason. Citing multiple unearned runs and defensive lapses, Illiano stressed the importance of fundamentals heading into the state tournament.
“It’s just a philosophy that you never want to accept anything in victory that you would not accept in defeat,” said Illiano. “We did a lot well tonight, but we also had a lot of hiccups along the way and helped them, so we want to sure that up before state tournament time.”
Caldwell’s victory improves the team to 16-5 on the season, as the Chiefs have now won seven of their last eight games. The Chiefs await their seeding in the state tournament to come in the next few days, but expect to host an opening round matchup.