(We are a lot closer to the start of the 2020 high school baseball season than we are to the end of the 2019 season. Still, March 6, the first day of high school baseball practices, is five weeks away. So, here is a quick rehash of what we left behind in 2019 and what we have to look forward to in 2020. We continue today with the third of six stories on the incredible 2019 NJSIAA Group baseball championships. DiamondNation.com covered each game, including this impressive all-around performance by Wall. And we’ll continue this week with the rest of the public and non-public championship game stories from last June, all covered by DiamondNation.com).
The rugged Wall lineup served notice immediately that it was going to dictate terms in its NJSIAA Group 3 championship game opposite West Morris of Long Valley at Veterans Park yesterday in Hamilton.
The Crimson Knights’ 14-hit attack proved to be an embarrassment of riches considering the arm they had on the mound. Lefthander Trey Dombroski pitched a five-hitter while permitting two runs, both of which were unearned. He struck out eight and walked none as he steered Wall to a 10-2 victory.
“I had a good curveball,” said the Monmouth University-bound Dombroski (11-1). “My catcher, Dave (Howarth) and I worked well together knowing they had an aggressive lineup 1-through-9.” Dombroski would throw just 86 pitches.
The victory gave Wall its fourth group championship and first since 2004, a team also under the direction of current coach Todd Schmitt. Wall also won Group 3 titles in 1983 and 2004 and won a Group 2 crown in 1994. It reached the 2008 Group 3 final, falling to Old Tappan.
West Morris, which won its first sectional title last week, was playing in its first group championship game.
Wall (27-4) pounced on West Morris starter Connor Staine (6-2), a righty bound for Maryland, for two runs in the first inning and four runs in the second on a total of eight hits to put itself in the driver’s seat. Staine didn’t have it from the start, throwing 51 pitches through the first two innings and he would leave with two outs in the fifth have permitted eight runs on 12 hits.
“We came out tight,” said fourth-year West Morris coach Tom Reindel, who is credited with taking the Morris County school to the next level. “Nothing bothered us all season, no setting, no matchup. They accomplished so much. For some reason we were a little tight at the start today.”
Wall’s bats may have had something to do with that. After Dombroski had a 1-2-3 top of the first, Wall’s leadoff batter Johnny Volpe (2-for-4, walk, 2 runs) hit a tone-setting single over the third base bag. Grant Shulman, the No. 3 hitter, then single to left to put runners on the corners with one out. Jay Bant and Howarth would deliver RBI singles to stake the Knights to a 2-0 lead.
“We had an unbelievably good batting practice at our cages before we left,” said Schmitt. “We hit like this in May. I felt real good after that BP session today.”
The irrepressible Volpe got the rally going in the second, too. This time the undersized shortstop hit an oversized one-out double off the wall in left-center field. “I saw the ball well today,” said Volpe. “I was getting good fastballs to hit.”
Schmitt noticed. “No one hits the ball harder than Volpe,” he said. “He came to play today.”
Florida State commit Teddy Sharkey then reached on an infield error and both runners scored when Shulman (3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 runs) launched a laser into right-center field for a double and a 4-0 lead. Sean Nocera doubled home a run with two outs and Howarth followed with an RBI single to left field to lift the Wall advantage to 6-0.
“We poked it pretty well all game,” said Shulman. “I was looking for fastballs in fastball counts and fastballs in my plane. I just wanted to play well for my brothers.”
Shulman and “his brothers” seemed obligated to get runs for Dombroski, who’s had to battle at times this season with little run support. He, in fact, owns a pair of 1-0 wins.
“Troy is one of the best pitchers in the state,” said Shulman. “He doesn’t need much but we love putting up runs for him. He deserves it.”
West Morris (26-7) got on the board in the third inning after Dombroski had retired the first six batters of the game. Jackson Yeatts led off and reached second on a dropped fly ball in right field. But Yeatts was out at third when Dombroski turned Matt Blount’s comebacker into a 1-5 out.
Nick Masi, the Wolfpack’s No. 9 hitter, beat out an infield single on a play Dombroski was late covering first base, as Blount, who had moved to second on a wild pitch, took third. Nick Calabrese then bounced into a fielder’s choice that scored Blount.
The lead ballooned to 8-1 in the fifth went Bant doubled and scored on a wild pitch and Dylan Richey singled home courtesy runner Matt Croson with two outs. Howarth (3-for-3, RBI) had singled and Croson stole second and moved to third on the wild pitch.
West Morris shaved the deficit to 8-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Masi and Calabrese reached on consecutive infield errors with two outs. Matt Gluck then stroked a single into right field to score Masi.
Nocera singled in the sixth and came around on a fielder’s choice grounder by Richey. Sharkey doubled leading off the seventh and eventually scored on Bant’s sac fly to boost the Wall lead to 10-2.
Dombroski finished his season with 126 strikeouts and his career with a Wall record 228 strikeouts.
“Trey’s been amazing for us,” said Schmitt. “Our guys gave him six runs today. That’s a heck of a start for a pitcher who’s not going to give the opposition much.”
It was simply too much for West Morris.
Editor’s Note: Wall’s coach Todd Schmitt would announce his retirement in July after 22 years as the Wall head coach. He also retired after teaching 31 years at Wall High School. Schmitt went out on top having coached Wall to a Group 3 championship for the second time. The 2019 Wall squad was ranked No. 4 in the NJ.com Final Top 20. Schmitt won 403 games in his impressive career that began with eight seasons as the school’s junior varsity coach.