LINCROFT – Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth Saturday in game one of the NJCAA Region XIX best of three playoff series, torrential rains suspended the game until Sunday with runners on first and second with one out and Brookdale’s Christian Bauman at the plate with a 1-0 count.
Down two runs in the bottom of the ninth wasn’t exactly a recipe for a restful night of sleep but this Brookdale team has overcome adversity all season long, so being asked to do it one more time was just par for the course.
With Bauman back up at the plate Sunday, he worked a walk to load the bases before Shawn O’Hea scored on a passed ball to pull the Blues to within one, 6-5. Alex Unger was then intentionally walked to load the bases again and John Wade answered drilling a run-scoring single to right field to tie the game at six.
“This team has no quit in them,” said Brookdale head coach Johnny Johnson.
Freshman pitcher Rob Salvatore entered the game for Brookdale in the top of the tenth and immediately walked the first two batters. Salvatore settled down and got the next batter to fly out to right with the runner tagging and moving to third before inducing a grounder to third that Matt Granato easily handled and fired to first for the third out.
With one out in the bottom of the tenth, Dominic Granata lined a single to left center putting the game winning run at first. Following a strike out for the second out, Granato stepped up to the plate and promptly raked a ball over the left field fence for a heroic two-run homer and a dramatic 8-6 win for Brookdale.
“I was just locked in,” said Granato of his at bat. “I get hyped up in clutch moments. He threw me a fast ball in my sweet zone and that’s all she wrote. I give a lot of credit to Middlesex, they’re a scrappy team. It was a tough matchup, we had to play our best to beat them. Now we’re going to the final four and we’re ready.”
Johnson has high praise for Granato. ““This team is based on sophomore leadership and I have two of the best I’ve ever had in Chris Bauman and Matt Granato. And all last night I was thinking about it and Matty is the kind of guy who’ll will himself to win and that’s what he did. He’s done it the last three years for us and I rank him as one of the top five baseball players to have ever played for me.”
Riding the momentum of game one’s dramatics, Brookdale scored at least one run in each of the first five innings to take a 10-1 lead in the second game.
“That was awesome, it was electric,” said Brookdale slugger Jack Scrivanic of Granato’s clutch homer. “Definitely brought us momentum into the next game. We knew as soon as Matt hit it we were going to roll through these guys.”
Wade agreed whole heartedly with Scrivanic’s take on Granato’s homer, “It completely changed the momentum. We were all a little down, so that 100 percent changed the momentum for us and them.”
While the Blues were scoring runs, righty Ryan Lasko was on fire retiring the first nine batters he faced in order before allowing a run in the top of the fifth.
“Everything was working,” said Lasko of his dominating start.
In the first, Brookdale strung together four singles with Wade driving in the lone run on an infield single up the middle that the second baseman had no play on. Catcher Darius Troche led off the bottom of the second with line shot over the third base for a single then reached third on a two base throwing error. Granato walked and stole second before both runners came home on error by second baseman Jordan Brown, who was injured on the play and left the game.
Brookdale loaded the bases in the bottom of the third before scoring one run on a double play ball and another on Caleb Carter’s RBI double over the left fielders head for a 5-0 lead.
The Blues brought out the lumber in the bottom of the fourth with Wade drilling a two-run dinger over the left field wall followed by a solo blast by Scrivanic – a former Red Bank Catholic standout - that traveled way over the left-centerfield wall for back-to-back home runs and an 8-0 lead.
“Every at bat I just think hit line drives,” said Wade of his game changing homer. “I really just wanted to get on base, but I got a perfect pitch on a 2-0 count and it went out. When you do something like that it hypes everyone up and feels like everyone’s ready to battle.”
Johnson said he challenged Wade. “John’s been carrying us all year with his bat and he’s a big-time player and he came through.”
Scrivanic was leading the nation in home runs before an ankle injury sidelined him for 18 games and has been slowly worked back into the lineup. Sunday’s homer was his 15th of the season and first since returning to the lineup.
“It felt amazing, it felt good to be back,” said Scrivanic. “John (Wade) picked me up the bat before so I had to go back-to-back to gain the momentum and take the game out of their hands and put us in good position.
With Scrivanic back in the lineup with his big bat potential, Brookdale is definitely in better position to do some damage in the final four playoffs.
“Jack was leading the nation in home runs halfway through the season,” said Johnson. “He’s one of my favorite sophomore’s and for him to get that hit, I feel so glad for him.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Carter doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a wild pitch and Unger lined an RBI single scoring Joe Lomangino who reached on an error.
Meanwhile, Lasko began to tire somewhat allowing a run in the top of the sixth and two in the top of the seventh. He fought his way through it though and finished with an impressive performance going the distance allowing four runs on seven hits in seven innings of work while striking out three and walking only one batter to run his season record to 7-1.
“I started getting a little tired,” said Lasko. “I had to use my legs and just will myself through those last couple of innings and get us out with the win. Coach Johnson always says you got to use your legs so I was doing that and was able to compete and get us through those innings. I was battling out there, but I always have confidence in myself and I'm always willing to go out there and just lay it all on the line for my team.”
Lasko kept Middlesex from having a big inning by consistently working out of jams in the ladder innings that could’ve changed the complexion of the game.
“He’s been our best pitcher all year,” said Johnson of Lasko. “I’ll put him in any big game, he doesn’t fear anything. He got tired but he willed himself to win. He might’ve gotten hit a little, but he got out of the big inning.”
Leading 10-4 entering the bottom of the seventh, Brookdale scored two runs to walk off with a mercy rule 12-4 win. Carter led off with a bunt single followed by an infield hit by Lomangino before Lasko was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Bauman then walked to bring in a run and Unger’s long sacrifice fly to right scored Lomangino to end the game, 12-4.
Brookdale Hits Road For Final Four
Brookdale will now travel to play number two-seed Cumberland on Friday in NJCAA Region XIX final four.
“We can hit with anybody,” said Johnson. “The problem is, can we get enough pitching and play defense to keep us in the game. But with our limited pitching right now due to all the injuries it’s going to be tough.”
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