NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Tied at six with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, West Essex boys baseball's Ian McLaughlin came up to bat looking to not only break the tie, but a slump of his own.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, the first one I thought was a little low, but he called a strike so you just got to work with it so I got a good pitch to hit [the next pitch] and I hit it hard,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin saw a fastball on the outside corner of the plate driving it to right field to drive in teammates Zac Balz and Max Ruvo. The line drive would send West Essex onward to an 8-6 victory over Bloomfield Tech for their second-consecutive victory.
“[McLaughlin has] been struggling a little bit this season, but I have so much confidence in him,” said head coach Eric Johnson. "He needs a big spot to succeed and that was just perfect."
McLaughlin was instrumental in the victory for West Essex, as he was a part of three multi-run innings for the Knights and produced four of the team's eight runs. In the three-run second inning, he led off with a walk, later to be driven in by Shane Smith.
West Essex also saw two more RBIs a few batters later off the bat of Mike Coombs, which at the time tied the game at three.
“Today we were a little streaky [with runs] here and there,” said Johnson.
West Essex took its first lead in the following inning by adding two more off of a struggling Spartan pitcher. Max Ruvo scored the first of his two runs, joining McLaughlin to put the Knights up.
Bloomfield Tech showed resilience, battling back over the next two innings. Hungry for their first victory, the Spartans took a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Ultimately, the powerful Knights offense scratched out a 6-6 tie score off of back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the fifth inning. Oliver Ortman and Matt Cesare capitalized off of a couple pitches up in the strike zone for West Essex to knot the game at six. The duo each finished the game with a run scored and driven in.
“There’s great energy this year, a lot of guys playing, not playing, sometimes playing I think everyone is finding a way to contribute this year and I think that’s how you get to be from a good team to a great team,” said McLaughlin.
For West Essex, the victory improves the team to 4-1 on the season, as the team has won its last two games. On Monday, the Knights will take on Belleville, which, similarly to Bloomfield Tech has yet to win a game this season.
“It feels nice, but it was a little scary [today]," said Johnson. "When you have a winning record after the first week I guess you can’t complain right? So any coach would sign up for that."
In order to continue their winning streak, the Knights will have a simple process, according to their coach.
“It’s a process where we’re counting up the quality at bats, we’re counting up the freebees that we’re getting as opposed to the freebees we’re giving, it’s a process of throwing first pitch strikes, it’s a process and we just keep working the process,” he said.