Tyler Connors of Montgomery Superior takes a high pitch prior to singling in the sixth inning.
By Bob Behre
Will McNamara’s two-run home run in the third inning set the tone and Gavin Corcoran’s three-inning closing relief stint shut the door as Montgomery Superior edged Bucks County Generals 2027s, 4-2, to advance in the Diamond Nation Fall League playoffs.
The first round victory sends Montgomery (11-3-1) to the quarterfinals on Wednesday when it will meet Hillsborough Cardinal (10-5) in a fight for a berth in Thursday’s semifinals. That intriguing quarterfinal encounter will occur at 6 p.m. on Field 7. The Cardinal shut out NJ Jays 16U National, 10-0, in their first round game last night.
Montgomery Superior owns a 6-1 verdict over Hillsborough on Oct. 24.
McNamara, Montgomery’s No. 9 hitter, busted open a scoreless game when he followed Mason Neufeld’s leadoff single in the bottom of the third with his home run to left field. McNamara seemed to feed off Neufeld’s hard liner to left.
“I saw his fastball on deck when Mason was batting,” said McNamara. Neufeld’s shot to left was a bit eye-opening because Bucks County starter Brayden Robinson had looked sharp through two innings, had not yet yielded a solid hit and, in fact, struck out the side in order in the second.
But McNamara went to school on the fastball and didn’t hesitate, jumping on Robinson’s first pitch and driving it easily over the wall in left field to give Montgomery a 2-0 lead.
“I figured being low in the order I might see a fastball early,” said McNamara, a senior catcher from Somverville. “I was just trying to hit a lined drive.” Well, McNamara got some air under it also and gave it quite a ride.
Grayson Fontaine, the Generals’ 6-2, 190, 15 year-old man-child from North Wales, Pa., matched McNamara with a two-run home run of his own to tie the game at 2-2 in the fourth. Fontaine’s homer to left followed a two-out walk to John Trefz and was an even more prodigious blast than McNamara’s.
Drew Welsh of the Bucks County Generals 2027s lets a low pitch go during Fall League playoffs.
Montgomery reasserted itself in the last of the fifth with a two-run rally set up by Jacob Nash’s leadoff walk and Brandon Shimp’s subsequent single. Montgomery stole a run with Neufeld at the plate as the runners pulled off a double steal and Nash kept coming around third with the go-ahead run as the catcher’s throw to third base got away.
Neufeld got the second run home for a 4-2 lead on a single to right field that the right fielder played into extra bases. But Neufeld was nabbed trying to stretch the miscue into three bases on a nifty relay.
Corcoran had entered in the top of the fifth as Montgomery’s third pitcher and promptly retired the Generals in order. The senior from North Hunterdon did allow a one-out single to Jake Blum in the sixth, but he was erased on an inning ending 6-U-3 double play engineered by shortstop Nash.
Montgomery coach Zoran Milich had originally slated Neufeld to work the seventh but, instead, chose to stay with what looked like a sure thing. “Gavin was throwing great,” said Milich.
Corcoran rewarded his coach’s confidence with a 1-2-3 seventh, including consecutive strikeouts of the last two batters to end the game.
“I wasn’t sure coach was going to let me go the last inning, but I was hoping he would,” said Corcoran, who efficiently worked his curveball in with his fastball and snuck in a couple two-seamers for good measure. “I felt good. I could tell with the first batter I had my good stuff.”
The efficient Montgomery pitching limited the Generals to two runs on four hits, struck out six and walked two. Eddie Weindel (Phillipsburg) and Michael Lentini (Bridgewater-Raritan) each worked two innings before Corcoran. Weindel permitted just a hit by pitch among his clean two innings and Lentini allowed two runs on two hits, struck out one and walked two.
The Fall League playoffs continue with second round games on Wednesday and the fall season wraps with the semifinals and championship game on Thursday.