Justin Cabrera drives in a run in the third inning for PS2.
By Rich Bevensee
Ben Moschella enjoys the atmosphere within the Go The Distance baseball program so much, it may be the reason Moschella marched to the plate in the top of the sixth inning with such confidence. His team had just taken a one-run lead and was looking for a little insurance.
Moschella provided that buffer at the most opportune time. His two-out, two-run single was the momentum boost Go The Distance needed in a 9-5 victory over PS2 in a Diamond Nation Fall League contest on Wednesday evening in Flemington.
“The pressure was there but not as much as you’d think,” Moschella said. “I was waiting for the fastball and I got it. That was definitely one of my bigger hits.”
Moschella, the team’s No. 11 hitter, led Go The Distance by going 2-for-3 with three RBI. His RBI single in the third inning gave his team a short-lived 2-1 lead, but it was his two-run single in the sixth-inning which revved up the dugout.
“I’ve been in a slump recently,” said Moschella, a sophomore at Mendham. “The first hit brought me out of it, and that last hit pumped me up. I wanted to bring us some more runs and give us a bigger lead.”
Go The Distance is a club team for all Mendham High ballplayers. Moschella said his confidence came from the upperclassman who never let him doubt himself during his slump. That kind of teamwork paid off Wednesday.
“They’re always uplifting,” he said. “They are always encouraging others and they never put you down. They always bring you back up.”
Go The Distance (3-2-1) won for the first time since Sept. 19 and broke a three-game winless streak. Breaking that streak came at the expense of PS2 (0-6), which was three outs away from picking up its first win of the fall season.
PS2 had picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead, and with the 1-hour, 50-minute game clock expired, Go The Distance was facing its final at bat.
Because of the team’s makeup, Go The Distance coach J.P. Mahoney said his team’s six-run rally in the top of the sixth was not unexpected. But it came without a pep talk from him.
“I used to give a speech but now with some seniors in the group, I leave it to them,” Mahoney said. “I told them, ‘This is your group. It’s nice to play with guys you’re going to play with in the spring, so figure it out.’ “
And as far as a rally was concerned, of that, Mahoney had no doubts.
“I knew they would come out and battle,” Mahoney said. “I knew they would put the ball in play, and I knew we would have runners on. Every game we’ve had a chance to either put a team away or come back and win it. We’ve excelled in those opportunities.”
Mendham senior Will Warman led off the sixth with a single and came all the way around to score when the next batter, Jackson Reeps, singled to right and an outfield error allowed him to reach third. Reeps had just slid into third when an errant throw allowed him to score, tying the game at 5-5.
Jackson Reeps races around first in the top of the sixth inning for Go The Distance.
With two out, Chase Amaral chopped an infield single which drove in pinch runner Ken Wilson with the go-ahead run. Moschella followed with probably the biggest hit of the game, an insurance-providing two-run base hit up the middle for an 8-5 lead. Amaral scored soon thereafter on a pickoff throwing error.
“We’ve talked about this before – when we’re not playing well we have to be able to win games,” Warman said. “That’s what good teams do, and I think that’s what we did tonight. We have to be able to persevere. We made some errors out there but we kept the pressure on and that’s what we do.”
Warman spoke of the benefit of playing club baseball with high school teammates.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 8 years old so there’s a lot of camaraderie,” he said. “That’s the type of team we are. To be honest we’re not going to blow anyone away with our arms or our power, but we can be gritty and we can get wins that way.”
Amaral’s go-ahead single was the third lead change of the game, which is why Moschella’s hit was so important to the Go The Distance rally.
PS2 broke the ice in the first when Aiden Castor scored on a bases-loaded infield error.
Go The Distance took its first lead in the top of the third when Ryan Turner ripped an RBI single through the middle and Moschella’s single to left made it 2-1.
PS2 responded with three runs in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded, Michael Kang and Justin Cabrera put PS2 in front with back-to-back fielder’s choice RBIs, and Xavier Reyes scored on a balk to make it 4-2.
Wilson got Go The Distance within a run in the fourth with a bases loaded walk. Reyes, who came on to relieve Kang, made a unique stop to escape the inning when Turner laced a shot off Reyes’ foot. Reyes, who made something of a hockey goalie kick save, recovered to get the inning-ending force at home.
Herrera’s RBI single in the fifth gave PS2 a seemingly insurmountable 5-3 lead.