LINCROFT - Brookdale Community College baseball team got exactly what the doctor ordered in Thursday's 8-4 win over Ocean County Community College.
Desperately needing innings out of its thin pitching staff, Brookdale turned to freshman hurler Brendan Williams – a Newsday second-team All-Long Island selection his senior year at West Hempstead High School. Williams took the mound and didn't disappoint by going the distance for his fourth complete game of the season while improving to 7-3 on the year.
"We don't have much depth right now after six pitchers went down (with injuries), but the young guys are starting to step up now," said long-time Brookdale head coach Johnny Johnson. "Brendan did a really good job. He really stepped up for us today."
"He pitched like this earlier in the year and he's getting his second wind now. He's not used to playing a college schedule. In high school he could just show up and dominate kids, now he has to pitch. If we get him pitching like he's capable of, he can win some games in the tournament."
The lanky 6-foot-5 left-hander threw 101 pitches in nine innings of work, striking out a season-high 16 batters while allowing four runs (three earned), seven hits, and just one walk. In both the second and fifth innings, he struck out the side in order, mixing in his fastball, curveball, and slider.
Thursday's game was the opener of a crucial three-game series with the Vikings, with Brookdale (30-18, 17-9) most likely needing a sweep for them to overtake RCSJ-Cumberland for the second seed in the upcoming NJCAA Region XIX playoffs. The top three seeds are guaranteed home field in the first round of the playoffs.
"Since the beginning of the season we've have a lot of pitchers down with injuries so I felt like I had to come out and throw a good game," said Williams. "This is probably one of my best starts at Brookdale, I was pumped coming in here. In the parking lot I was like, 'I'm ready to go,' so I just got it done and came out of here with a W."
The game was knotted at one heading into the bottom of the fifth before the Blues scored two runs to take a 3-1 lead. Sophomore second baseman Matt Granato walked and stole second, followed by another walk to right fielder Alex Unger. Both runners advanced on a passed ball and came home on a two-out ground single through the 6-5 hole by freshman first baseman John Wade.
Ocean County came right back with two runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 3-3.
Williams was slow covering first on a slow roller to Wade and Alex Alonso was credited with an infield single. Jimmy Roselli brought Alonso home with a double to right field to pull within one, 3-2. With men now on first and second, Brian Yadlon skied a ball to left field that Larry Citrola misplayed into an error allowing Roselli to score and putting men on second and third with only one out.
With the sixth and seventh hitters due up, Williams settled down before getting both batters on called strike threes to end the inning dominantly.
Brookdale broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the seventh, taking advantage of an error by the shortstop Alonso on a sure double-play ball that would've ended the inning.
Citrola lined an RBI double over the third-base bag. Nicholas Papageorge and Darius Troche had bases-loaded walks. Joe Lomangino added an RBI single, and Granato singled off the third-base bag for an RBI and an 8-3 lead heading into the top of the eighth.
Ocean County added a run in the top of the ninth, but Williams closed out the game, fittingly, with his 16th strikeout.
"I felt good in the last inning so I told my coach that I'm good to go out and finish it," said Williams. "It was our 30th win of the season and we just need to keep it going into the playoffs."
It wasn't just Brookdale's pitching staff that has been hit with injuries this season. Sophomore first baseman John Scrivanic – a former Red Bank Catholic standout – was just cleared for action after missing 18 games with a ligament tear in his ankle. He had two pinch-hit appearances in the last two games, getting beaned on Wednesday and issued an intentional walk in Thursday's game.
Before his injury, he was tearing up the league, batting .325 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 30 games (83 plate appearances) with a .867 slugging percentage and eye-popping 1.376 OPS. Hopefully, he'll be a full go for the playoffs.
Then, starting left fielder Marcus Johnson has been out for the last two weeks with ligament damage to his wrist and his status for the playoffs is questionable. He was batting .362 when he went down with three homers, 23 RBI, 42 runs scored, and an impressive .982 OPS.
"I'm more proud of this team now because I didn't expect 30 wins out of this team with all our injuries," said Johnson. "But they're battling, coming together and they play for each other."
What's Next For Brookdale
Brookdale's scheduled doubleheader at Ocean County on Friday was moved to Monday due to the inclement weather with the NJCAA Region XIX playoffs set to commence next weekend.