Baase, Contiliano lead 16-hit barrage for Hunt. Central

By Bob Behre | May 1, 2024

Jake Gorman of Hunterdon Central pitches in the fifth inning against Somerville on Tuesday.

Tommy Baase and Mike Contiliano combined to drive in six runs during a 13-run fourth inning as Hunterdon Central busted open a tie game on the way to an 18-5 victory over Somerville yesterday in Flemington.

It was the second straight win for Hunterdon Central (7-7), which is trying to erase thoughts of an unsightly six-game losing streak it ended on Monday with a victory over Watchung Hills.

Somerville (5-8), meanwhile, continues to struggle with its elevation to the traditionally powerful Skyland Conference Delaware Division, where it has fallen to 0-7 on the season. The Pioneers are the only Group 3 school in what has always been a Group 4 division.

Baase had the breakout game of his career, while the Seton Hall-bound Contilano reasserted his authority in the Hunterdon Central lineup.

Baase, the No. 8 hitter in the Red Devils lineup, went 4-for-4 with a double and a three-run HR. He scored all four trips to the plate and drove in six runs.

“I’ve been hitting better,’ said Baase, whose average jumped to .414 with the big afternoon. “I’m trying to go up there and put a good swing on the ball every time. I’m feeling confident.”

Contiliano, the No. 3 hitter, triggered the big fourth inning with a laser of a triple to the gap in right-center field. The lefty hitter then doubled home two runs later in the inning on a shot that one-hopped the right field wall. He also had an RBI on a sac fly in the first inning and another RBI on a fielder’s choice in the second.

“I made some adjustments,” said Contiliano, who batted .474 a year ago when he earned 2nd Team All-Group 4 by “I’m trying to stay more on a level plane. I felt like I hit the ball better today. I’m working gap-to-gap, making sure I don’t pop it up or roll it over.” Contiliano’s strong day lifted his average to .409 on the season.

Hunterdon Central sent 17 batters to the plate in the fourth, amassed nine hits, drew two walks and benefited from two Somerville errors as they pulled away from what was a 5-5 tie through three-and-a-half innings.

Jack Manning of Somerville takes a cut at a pitch from Hunterdon Central’s Jake Gorman.

Baase led off the second inning with a single and later scored when Contiliano placed a pop-up inside the left field line. Baase delivered a two-run double down the right field line in the third and ripped an RBI single to left in his first at bat in fourth. He then capped his day and the 13-run inning with the three-run homer to left-center field.

“I was just trying to see the fastball during that at bat,” said Baase of his first home run of the season. He certainly saw it and rocked it.

But the bats have not been the issue in this unusual season for Hunterdon Central. The Red Devils opened the season with a loss, then won five straight games. The six-game losing streak followed before the team righted the ship the past two days.

“Our only issue has been our defense,” said Hunterdon Central coach Kevin Cuozzi. “The pitching has been there and we’ve had a lot of good games with good at bats. It’s a matter of staying positive. Throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball. We need to be more focused on defense and stop the leaks.”

Hunterdon Central did commit two errors against Somerville, one on an errant pick off attempt, the other when center fielder Danny Contiliano’s throw to third base got away and went out of play.

Nick Augusta, Greg Kasperek and Jake Gorman combined to permit five runs on seven Somerville hits, struck out three, walked three and hit four batters. The trio created plenty of self-inflicted traffic on the bases but managed to extract itself from much of the trouble, minus a three-run Somerville third inning.

That Pioneers rally was keyed by Ethan Flynn and C.J. Banos singles and followed by Dylan Hornick’s RBI single and Owen Melchione’s sac fly. That briefly put Somerville ahead, 4-2. But Hunterdon Central struck for three runs in the bottom of the third on Baase’s two-run double to deep right and Danny Contiliano’s subsequent double.

Somerville’s Justin Snow gets ready to line a single through the middle leading off the fifth inning.

Somerville tied it at 5-5 in the top of the fourth on Chase Koplitz’s sac fly.

Mike Contiliano’s triple to right-center to open the Red Devils’ fourth was surely the hardest hit ball of the afternoon, even if not as far as Baase’s homer later in the inning.

Kaleb McGann, the Hunterdon Central catcher, singled, drew a walk, scored twice and drove in a run, all in the fourth inning. He also had an infield hit in the first inning. Jack Brunetti had an RBI double, Soren Gregor had a two-run single and drew a walk, and Tyler Stallwood had an RBI single for the Red Devils.

Righthander C.J. Banos, the son of Somerville coach Chris Banos, got the start and left after three innings with the score tied 5-5.

NOTES: Third baseman Soren Gregor made an incredible backhand stop of a rocket off the bat of Somerville’s Chase Koplitz in the first inning. Gregor snared the liner on a short hop and fired to first base for the out.

… Hunterdon Central’s Contiliano brothers are not twins. Mike is a senior and Danny is a sophomore. Mike bats third and Danny leads off. Mike is a shortstop and Danny is a center fielder. But if you look at their stat lines coming into Tuesday’s game, they are astonishingly similar.

M. Contiliano – 41 AB, 16H, .390, 11 runs, 8 RBI, 14 1Bs, 7 walks

D. Contiliano – 41 AB, 16H, .390, 9 runs, 8 RBI, 15 1Bs, 7 walks.

… Jesse Allen went 2-for-4, drew a walk and scored a run for Hunterdon Central. … Somerville’s Jacob Nash was plunked twice by Hunterdon Central pitchers. … Banos went 2-for-3, drove in a run and scored a run. … Dylan Hornick singled twice and drove in a run.

… Hunterdon Central and Somerville each won a state championship in 2018, the Red Devils in Group 4 and the Pioneers in Group 3. Hunterdon Central returned to the Group 4 final in 2022 but fell to Howell.

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