New Jersey’s longest running tournament, the granddaddy of them all if you will, the Greater Newark Tournament, is at it again.
Righthander Joe Delanzo of Nutley and lefty Ray Zamloot of Caldwell matched up in a vintage GNT pitchers duel on Wednesday in Caldwell, joining an incalculable list of gems that have blessed the event over its 88 years.
Delanzo (2-0) limited third-seeded Caldwell (15-4) to three hits over seven extremely tidy innings as he struck out six, walked one and threw just 83 pitches in the 90 minute game.
“I was throwing mostly two-seam fastballs,” said Delanzo, “with different pressure points. Delanzo’s only other start this season came on April 20 when he closed out a combined no-hitter with Damian Quiles. He pitched 5.2 hitless innings that day against Montclair, the returning NJSIAA Group 4 finalist. Delanzo is typically at shortstop for Nutley where he intends to play next school year at Stony Brook University. “I’ve been playing shortstop, primarily, to protect my arm.”
But Nutley has unleashed its secret weapon as big games begin to fill the calendar.
Zamloot, who starred for Caldwell during a memorable basketball season, did his part in the duel. He shut out the overtly aggressive Nutley lineup on five hits over the first six innings, striking out five and walking none. He threw just 89 pitches.
Nutley, however, finally broke through with two runs on four singles in the top of the seventh. The first run came home on Ryan Gencarelli’s single through the left side. Delanzo capped the 2-0 victory with his seventh scoreless inning.
“It seemed like we were getting one hit an inning but we couldn’t string them together,” said Nutley coach J.D. Vick, who took the reins for head coach Bob Harbison. The Nutley mentor is sidelined with COVID. “We finally strung them together in the seventh.”
Sixth-seeded Nutley (10-7) advances to face neighborhood rival Bloomfield in the GNT semifinals at Doc Goeltz Field in Verona on Saturday. Bloomfield, the No. 7 seed, defeated No. 17 Barringer, 10-1. Harbison, reached by text, said he will still be in quarantine on Saturday and miss his team’s semifinal game.
The other semifinal pairing is also a gem.
Top-seeded Millburn edged eight-seeded Columbia, 5-4, to draw Seton Hall Prep in the other semifinal. Fourth-seeded Seton Hall defeated fifth-seeded Livingston, 6-3, on a walk-off three-run home run by Elijah Foster, who plays his summer ball with the Diamond Jacks Super 17 team at Diamond Nation in Flemington. Diamond Jacks teammate Chris Maldonado had tied the game at 3-3 for Seton Hall with a three-run home run of his own in the bottom of the fifth.
Dylan Santos ignited the rally in the seventh for Nutley with a hard single to left field on a 2-0 pitch from Zamloot. Brandon Lucia followed with a single to left that chased Santos to third base. Lucia stole second before Gencarelli ripped a hard grounder between third and short to score Santos with a run that loomed large with Delanzo on the mound.
“I got a fastball right in the middle of the zone and jumped on it,” said Gencarelli. “I got it through the infield and got the run in.”
Caldwell did minimize the damage from there thanks to second baseman Lorenzo Sozio cutting a runner down at the plate on a Chris Pierro grounder, and Zamloot picking off a runner at first. But Mike Zitola, Nutley’s No. 8 hitter, tacked on a big insurance run when he singled to right field with two outs to score Pierro from second.
Caldwell did bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh after lefty-hitting Ryan Pini lined a single the opposite way. Pini then stole second. But Delanzo struck out the next batter to end the game.
“Joe knows baseball and he knows how to pitch,” said Nutley’s pitching coach Chris Weinstein. “You never have to worry about him for a second. He throws strikes and always gets ahead. It’s all about location and his location is always good.”
Nick Bergamotto, Caldwell’s shortstop and No. 3 hitter, had the only two hits for the Chiefs before Pini came to bat in the seventh. Bergamotto, also a Diamond Jack Super 17U player, singled to center with two outs in the first inning and doubled to the left-center field wall leading off the fourth. But Delanzo retired the side in order from there.
“He was very good,” said Bergamotto of Delanzo. “He competed and hit his spots.”
The only base runner Delanzo allowed after Bergamotto’s double was, well, Bergamotto, who reached on a two-out infield error in the sixth. Once again, Delanzo got the next batter to remove the threat.
“It stings,” said Bergamotto about the GNT loss. “We missed one of our goals. But we still have two more goals to achieve, the conference and states. The best thing about baseball is that there is always another game tomorrow.”
Bergamotto, committed to Siena, has been extremely productive. He is batting .429 on the season with 24 hits, half of which are for extra bases. He has scored 17 runs and boasts 23 RBI. Bergamotto has 85 career hits despite the COVID-canceled 2020 campaign.
NOTES: The Greater Newark Tournament is intrinsically tied to New Jersey scholastic baseball history. The event began in 1933 as an invite-only statewide tournament that crowned the best of New Jersey’s best. It was truly the first tournament of champions. The tournament continued as such through 1972. In 1973, as the NJSIAA tournament rose in prominence, the GNT was relegated to an Essex-County only event.
There was no shortage of fine defense plays in the Caldwell-Nutley battle. … Sozio snared a low liner off the bat of Gencarelli in the fourth and turned it into a pretty inning-ending double play. Santos, who led off with a single, strayed a bit too far off the first base bag. … Sozio also started a nifty 4-6-3 double play with Bergamotto to end the fifth. The Caldwell second baseman also nailed Lucia at the plate in the seventh. … Pini was robbed of a leadoff single in the fifth when left fielder Frank Contella raced in to make a diving catch on his liner.
… Santos went 2-for-3 and scored a run. … Lucia was 2-for-3 and Zitola singled twice in three trips. … Through six innings, Zamloot threw 63 pitches before finishing the game with 89. Delanzo had 72 pitches through the first six frames.
Delanzo plays his summer ball for Complete Performance Baseball. “I played against him (Bergamotto) at Diamond Nation last summer,” said Delanzo. “I look forward to that again this summer.”