Bridgewater-Raritan sophomore J.R. Rosado gets set to take a rip on Tuesday.
Aggression was the theme of the day for the Bridgewater-Raritan baseball team.
Junior righty Matt Fattore attacked the strike zone to the tune of five scoreless innings and Devin Goldberg led a swing-first pose at the plate as the Panthers opened their season with a 4-0 victory over Skyland Conference rival Watchung Hills.
Fattore leaned on an effective live fastball to limit the Warriors to three hits over his five innings of work, striking out four and walking two as Bridgewater-Raritan built a 2-0 lead in Bridgewater on Tuesday.
The Panthers leadoff hitter Devin Goldberg, who was in the middle of so much as a sophomore last year, picked up where he left off, reaching base three of his four trips to the plate. He delivered a single, an RBI double and scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning.
“Matt attacked hitters and challenged them to beat him,” Bridgewater-Raritan coach Max Newill said of Fattore., “and we made some real good defensive plays behind him.”
A cool story within the story was the performance by Bridgewater’s Noah Matheson, who earned the save with two scoreless innings of relief. Matheson shut down Watchung Hills on no hits, struck out three and walked one. Matheson had missed the entire 2022 season after tearing an ACL skiing.
“Noah was throwing strikes, too,” said Newill. “That was great to see.” In fact, 11 of Matheson’s 14 pitches in a 1-2-3 seventh were strikes.
Watchung Hills hurt itself by committing four errors and its starter, Trenon Stanard, deserved better. The lefty grinded through five innings and 83 pitches while permitting two runs, one of which was earned, on four hits, struck out six and walked three.
“Their pitcher did a good job pitching backwards and keeping us off balance with his curveball,” said Newill. Stanard surrendered an unearned run in the first inning that Fattore drove home with a one-out single to right field, and Kevin Lee tagged and scored from third in the fourth when senior Jacob Rosado lined out hard to center field.
The 2-0 lead didn’t seem as tenuous as it looked because of the way Fattore was dealing.
“My fastball was working great and I was using it to get ahead,” said Fattore, a junior. “I just want them to put it in play because the guys were making plays.” He added in a curveball and splitter to keep the Warriors batters honest.
Goldberg ignited the rally in the first when he jumped on the first pitch of the frame and hit it hard to third base. He reached second when the ball was thrown wide of first base. He then raced home on Fattore’s single.
Lee opened the fourth with the hardest ball hit of the game, a double into the left-center field gap. He reached third on Jimmy Turchi’s grounder to the left side and scored on Rosado’s sac fly line drive.
Bridgewater struck for two runs in the bottom of the sixth to create the breathing room Newill and his charges had been looking for since the early going.
“If you want to be a good baseball team, you have to extend leads and take control,” said Newill.
Rosado started things in the sixth with a one-out single through the right side. Matt Moore, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a single into right-center field that chased Rosado to third. The lineup flipped back to the top and Goldberg, who, again, pounced on the first pitch, ripped a double down the right field line that scored Rosado for a 3-0 lead. Rosado’s sophomore brother, J.R. Rosado reached on a third strike pitch in the dirt as Moore scored from third to extend the lead to 4-0.
“That was big because we had opportunities earlier, like leaving the bases loaded in the first inning,” said Golberg. “We did well today but we can do better. We could have scored more runs.” The Panthers did strand nine runners.
Watchung Hills, despite the miscues, turned two double plays, a 1-2-3 version started by Stanard to end the first and a 6-4-3 started by Tino Lobozzo to end the sixth.
“It was a good call to go to Noah in the sixth,” said Fattore. “He looked good in the scrimmages, too.” Fattore figured he’d be at the end of his pitch count rope after five innings.
Newill had that number pretty much set in stone.
“I was keeping Matt at 70 pitches max,” said Newill. “I was hoping for four innings, so five was a bonus.” The 70th pitch Fattore threw induced Jason Wu to fly out to right field to end the fifth inning and his afternoon.
Fattore is not the Bridgewater-Raritan ace. That duty is assigned to senior lefty Jason Cozzi, who gets the nod on the road Wednesday against St. Joseph of Montvale, the 2021 NJSIAA Non-Public A champion. Cozzi is committed to UMass.
Newill has loaded up Bridgewater-Raritan’s non-conference schedule to also include Morris County powers Roxbury and West Morris, defending Group 4 champion Howell, South Jersey, Group 4 stronghold Egg Harbor Twp. and Non-Public B power DePaul. In conference, Bridgewater must also contend with such perennial powers as Hunterdon Central, Ridge and Immaculata.