Emerson Borough was down five runs and just three outs away from a brutal bus ride back to Bergen County. Glassboro could smell its first-ever NJSIAA Group 1 championship.
Then it all came crashing down around the Bulldogs in the steady, painful, frustrating drip of an endless rally no one could seem to plug. If you were part of the Glassboro faithful, it was an avert-your-eyes moment that lasted interminably. For the Emerson faithful, it seemed more like divine intervention.
Emerson struck for eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to miraculously and inexplicably turn a 5-0 deficit into an 8-5 victory for the ages and the school’s sixth Group 1 championship. It was Glassboro’s first appearance in a group final.
The anatomy of Emerson’s winning rally reveals less a bludgeoning and more a team being beaten into submission by a feather. It started with Brendan Pattermann’s harmless bouncer to the right side that was mishandled. It ended with an RBI infield single by Ryan Taub, after which a runner was thrown out at third base to mercifully end the inning.
It was a baseball blindsiding of the highest order because not only did no one see the Cavos rally coming, Glassboro’s lefthander Justin Tongue still appeared in complete command, having permitted just four hits over six shutout innings.
The rally went like this; error, single, errant pick-off attempt, walk, bunt single, bloop single, sac fly, hit-by-pitch, double, walk, pop-out, double, intentional walk, infield single. Each new base runner lifted the Emerson faithful on the third base side a single decibel until the doubles by Mike Carmosino and Frankie Savino turned the crowd into an unrestrained baseball mob.
Carmosino’s one-out double scored Taub and Pete Durocher with the fourth and fifth runs of the inning, tying the game and truly setting Glassboro on its heels. Three batters later and with two outs, Savino, the No. 9 hitter, drove a first-pitch fastball into right-center field to chase Matt Harada and Carmosino home, giving the Cavos a 7-5 lead as bedlam ensued in the Emerson stands.
“Coach (Chris Sommerhalter) instills a killer instinct in us,” said Savino. “He says hunt, hunt, hunt. It was a first-pitch fastball and I wasn’t trying to do too much. They say I have the slowest hands on the team. I let God take his course.”
Savino had singled in his first at bat of the inning after Pattermann led off and reached on an error. Along the way the list of Emerson heroes was lengthy. An errant pickoff attempt at first sent Pattermann home with the first run of the inning. Joe Giacalone walked and Taub reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Durocher’s bloop single to center field scored Savino and chased Tongue. Joe Carmosino’s sac fly drew Emerson to within 5-3 but at least got an out for Glassboro.
Reliever Drew Tongue went 1-2 on Matt Harada but plunked him with the next pitch. Mike Carmosino then stepped into the box and into Emerson’s proud baseball history when he laced a drive over right fielder Zach Gorman’s head for a two-run, game-tying double.
Santino Mancini replaced Drew Tongue on the mound and walked Justin Roa to load the bases. Pattermann then popped out to shortstop for the second out. Savino stepped in for his second at bat of the inning and wasted no time making himself Emerson Borough’s No. 1 citizen.
“I had my angel in the outfield,” said Savino. “I knew we would come back and win this game. We game back four runs down against New Providence (in the Group 1 semis). We are state champs. That’s what we came to do”
The righty hitting Savino really did just lay the barrel of his bat on Mancini’s offering and simply drove it the other way where no one could reach it.
No one at Veterans Park’s Bob DeMeo Field could believe what had transpired. Jaws were slack all over the park. It’s likely those who witnessed the rally were double-checking the results on Sunday morning to be sure they hadn’t dreamed it.
In the dugout before the top of the seventh, Sommerhalter told his players, “Baseball is a crazy game. You never know.”
Emerson’s dream, however, was Glassboro’s nightmare, one no baseball fan should wish on another. Glassboro (23-6) had reached the Group 1 final by exorcising a pair of South Jersey and Central Jersey, Group 1 demons. The Bulldogs defeated three-time Group 1 champion Pennsville in the sectional tournament and took out five-time Group 1 champion Middlesex in the Group 1 semifinals, 3-0, derailing the latter’s bid for a third straight Group 1 championship.
And through six innings, it appeared Glassboro was about to keep Emerson stuck on five state crowns.
The Bulldogs struck for all five of their runs in the third, taking control of the game with authority. Gorman, the No. 9 hitter, started it with a one-out single to center. Mancini drove him home with a ringing double to right-center. Mancini reached third on an errant pickoff attempt before Noah Putney followed with an RBI infield single. Justin Tongue reached on an infield error and both he and Putney moved up on a passed ball. Drew Tongue singled to right to score both runners for a 4-0 lead and he would come around on three separate passed balls.
Pattermann started and permitted five runs, two of which were earned, on six hits, struck out four and walked one. He departed after Putney singled leading off the fifth. Joe Carmosino relieved and shut the Bulldogs down over the final three innings. The righty permitted two hits, struck out two and walked none while stranding three runners.
“Joe Carmosino comes in and allows just two hits,” said Sommerhalter. “He was in the game as a sophomore when we lost in the final to Middlesex. I knew we had a shot with him on the mound.”
Mancini and Justin Tongue singled in the bottom of the seventh for Glassboro but Carmosino got the final out on a fly ball to center field.
“It’s a pressure game and we’ve been in pressure games before,” said Sommerhalter, himself an Emerson grad. “We were battle-tested. We’re a small community and our kids stay home, stick together and play like the Yankees. A lot of these kids have played together since they were five years-old.”
Emerson has also won Group 1 championships in 1982, ’92, 2000, ’01 and ’15.