BRIDGEWATER -- The Rutgers Prep Argonauts spent all of last summer wondering what could and should have been after a 6-0 loss to the Ridge Red Devils in last year’s Somerset County Tournament final.
They can enjoy this summer after taking a 1-0 victory over the top seed Red Devils (17-3) Tuesday night in this year’s Somerset County Tournament Final at TD Bank Ballpark. Andrew Parisi’s big hit, Max Treonze’s 11-strikeout performance and defensive execution made this possible.
“They did not expect to lose,” Argonauts head coach Larry Santowasso said of his team winning its second-ever Somerset County Tournament championship and being the lowest seed ever to win the county title at No. 12. “They prepared for this game that cemented their legacy and history.”
The Argonauts (9-9) started the game by getting three straight hits off Red Devils ace Connor Byrne.
Ethan Nepomuceno hit a leadoff double, and Evan Laub followed that up with a single on a bunt that moved Nepomuceno to third. Parisi's RBI single scored Neopmuceno to give the Argonauts a 1-0 lead.
“To get an early lead is important,” Santowasso said. “Connor Byrne is one of the best pitchers in the state. To get him early with his caliber means everything.”
Parisi understood the significance of his contribution.
“I was psyched,” Parisi said of facing Byrne with runners on first and third and no outs. “It was amazing to get that hit. I thought we would score more. We needed more.”
On this night, a run would be enough for Treonze to work with. But he had to work out of trouble in the first inning and he needed help from his friends on the field in the seventh inning.
Treonze was in a jam after he allowed singles to Nick Rossi and Julian Kielb in the first inning. He was able to get out of it when Luke Somelofske flied out to end the inning.
“I told myself to get through the first inning and get him (Somelofske) out,” Treonze said. “If I got him out, I knew I would do well the rest of the game.”
After Byrne hit a one-out double in the second inning, Treonze retired 12 in a row until Rossi hit an infield single in the sixth inning.
“I was finding myself on what would work,” Treonze said. “I trusted my fastball to start and then I was able to work with my slider and curveball.”
The Red Devils made it interesting in the seventh inning. It started when Brendan Callanan hit a double, and LaTourette was being inserted as a pinch-runner for Callanan. With LaTourette’s speed, it increased their chances to tie the game.
Byrne then would hit a single to right field that would set LaTourette in motion to run home. However, Jackman retrieved the ball and threw it to Fronio, who threw it to Parisi to tag LaTourette out.
It was as good as it would get for the Red Devils. Not only could they not tie the game, but they did not have another chance to win. Once Treonze ended the game with a strikeout, the party was on and redemption was complete for Rutgers Prep.
“We talk about doing the little things in baseball,” Santowasso said of the relay play that prevented the Red Devils to tie it. “We work on throwing runners out all the time at practice. We executed this to perfection.”
Treonze knew he was fortunate.
“It was huge. I had all the confidence in the guys behind me. They carried me,” he said.
For Byrne, it was a wasted performance after striking out nine Argonauts.
For Treonze, he won’t forget the matchup. “It was super cool to pitch against him,” he said. “It felt great”
It could have been easy for Santowasso to go with Fronio to start in a game of this magnitude, but he went with his gut.
“Max has been terrific all year, “ he said. “We knew we can win with him.
The decision turned out to be the reason the Argonauts did not have deja vu again in the same setting against the same team.
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