CLARK, NJ — After the top of the first inning with Westfield High School scoring three runs, the Arthur L. Johnson High School varsity baseball team knew they were going to have to answer on offense against a team coming into Tuesday’s game with a total of 67 runs through their first eight games.
Westfield senior Matt Manning drove in junior Matt McIntyre with a double and junior Andrew Caminiti recorded an RBI single in the inning. A third run came in on an error to build the early lead.
“The defensive side was not fun. [The top of the first inning] was difficult to watch,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “It wasn’t really us.”
The Crusaders responded to that with a six-run first inning, the bats heating up when they needed a response. After scoring five runs in the third inning and adding four more in the fourth inning, Johnson defeated Westfield 15-4 in their home opener Tuesday afternoon.
Johnson sophomore starting pitcher Saul Lopez got the final two outs and the Crusaders offense went to work. They would make a lot of noise before the first out was even recorded.
The Crusaders got back-to-back hits from senior Zach Thornton and sophomore Max Carmino to open the inning. Seniors Joe Turek and Kevin Metz recorded back-to-back RBI singles to cut the lead to 3-2. Sophomore Steve Harrington ignited the offense even further with a deep double, scoring courtesy runner and junior Brett DaCosta to tie the game at 3-3.
Freshman Kyle Adorno added to the offensive mix, driving home Metz and Harrington to give Johnson a 5-3 lead, still with no outs in the inning. After advancing to third base on a wild pitch, Adorno successfully stole home in a double-steal attempt with senior Mike Casalino and Johnson led Westfield 6-3 after the first inning. The Crusaders batted through the entire lineup, with Thornton getting to the plate twice.
Johnson started the season 0-3 and struggled at the plate (42 hits coming into Tuesday’s game), recorded a total of 12 hits on the afternoon.
“It means a lot. In the beginning of the season, we were struggling hitting,” Harrington said. “Now we’re starting to get it together, so it feels good.”
Lopez set down Westfield in the top of the second inning and overall, pitched two innings in the win. He recorded one strikeout, had three walks and after the shaky first inning, was relieved by Metz in the top of the third inning. After the two batters in the inning reached base, Metz did not allow one run, getting through it and keeping the 6-3 Johnson lead intact.
“We got through the [top part of the inning] and we responded. That’s the best thing,” Kennedy said.
The offense went back to work and repeated the first inning production.
Harrington and Adorno opened the inning with a single each and senior Anthony Caldiero walked to load the bases with one out. Casalino was hit by a pitch, scoring Harrington to make the lead 7-3 Johnson. Thornton followed with a walk, scoring Adorno to make it 8-3.
“It felt great. We all played well,” Adorno said.
It was Turek who provided the big blow of the inning. He took a pitch deep to right-center field, clearing the bases with a double, coming up just short of a potential grand slam. Johnson took an 11-3 following Turek’s third double of the season.
Turek went 3-for-3 with an RBI single and the bases-clearing double in the win for Johnson.
“We played really hard today and I like how our team played. It was a team win,” Turek said.
Junior Nick McCaffery drove home two runs with a single and senior Ryan Spallone recorded a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth inning to make the game 15-4 Johnson.
“Our schedule is very competitive,” Kennedy said. “We’ve played very good teams to start the year and Westfield’s no different than everybody else. We came away with a really good win. We can move forward and build upon it and I think we’ve got a bunch of guys who want to build [on what we’ve done].”
Metz pitched the third inning and got into the fourth inning, before Spallone finished the game on the mound.
The game was called after the top of the fifth inning due to the ten-run mercy rule, with Johnson holding a 15-4 lead.
“We know we have some ability and we were able to do some [great] things,” Kennedy said. “We beat a real good team, so we’ve got to enjoy it for a moment an move on to Summit.”
The Johnson Crusaders (3-4) remain home to play Summit HS Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Blue Devils (6-3) head back home to play Colonia HS Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.