(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 six weeks away. So, here is a quick rehash of what we left behind and what we have to look forward to. We continue today with the second of six stories on the incredible 2019 NJSIAA Group baseball championships. DiamondNation.com covered each game, including this gem by Pascack Hills’ Ryan Ramsey).
Ryan Ramsey was not standing on the mound last year when Pascack Hills celebrated its NJSIAA Group 2 championship. The lefthander had battled with his command on a rainy day and left a 2-2 game after four innings having thrown 91 pitches.
“I didn’t have a changeup last year and have added that,” said Ramsey, “That’s helped me a lot.”
The Maryland-bound Ramsey’s high 80s fastball, curveball and changeup played extremely well yesterday at Veteran’s Park in Hamilton when he tossed a one-hit shutout, struck out nine, walked one and hit a batter to guide the Cowboys to a 2-0 victory over Point Pleasant Boro and its second straight Group 2 championship.
So efficient was Ramsey that he would throw a paltry 81 pitches, only 24 of which were out of the strike zone, in a dazzling complete game effort. Sam Collins had the lone hit for Point Pleasant Boro (23-7), a single to center field leading off the game. But Ramsey would permit just three base runners the rest of the way. Ryan Jasaitis reached on an error in the second inning, Nicholas Guzzi drew a walk in the fourth and Ramsey hit Sam Young with a pitch in the seventh.
“They’re an aggressive hitting team, so we started them with a lot of first-pitch curveballs” said Ramsey. “They were more of the get-me-offer curveballs but they did the job.”
Point Pleasant’s ace Guzzi did a great job stifling the Pascack Hills lineup as well. The righthander carried a one-hitter, too, entering the bottom of the sixth when the Cowboys bats finally awoke from their slumber.
Spencer Berson ignited what would become the decisive rally with a leadoff double down the left field line. Guzzi then hit Chris Curcio with a pitch and walked Brandon Siegenthaler to load the bases with no outs.
Pascack Hills (29-3) just needed someone to get Berson home from third and let Ramsey weave his magic in the top of the seventh and it would be state champions once again. Third baseman Mike Rodriguez stepped in with one out and worked a 2-1 count against Guzzi (9-1).
“I was just trying to put the ball in play, maybe hit a fly ball deep enough to the outfield,” said Rodriguez. “I was looking middle of the plate and he came inside.”
Rodriguez hit a bouncer over third base and into left field as Berson scored and Curcio raced around third base and scored, too, to suddenly give Pascack Hills a 2-0 lead. Guzzi, to his credit, got out of further trouble. He struck out six, walked two and hit two batters in an outstanding state final performance.
Paul Franceshini lined out hard to center field to start the Point Pleasant Boro seventh before Ramsey plunked Young. He then got Jasaitis on an 0-2 heater for the second out. Christian Aurin, the No. 7 hitter, then jumped on the first pitch but bounced it back to Ramsey, who fired to first base to end it.
Ramsey, so coldly focused and emotionless throughout the game, erupted in jubilation as his teammates streamed toward the mound to engulf him in state championship joy.
“Ryan got it done, like always,” said Rodriguez.
“Mike (Rodriguez) got that big hit,” said Ramsey. “He’s been on fire lately. I knew he’d come through. It wasn’t a big strikeout game for me but I got a lot of soft contact. Winning again this year is so great.”
Pascack Hills coach Kevin Kirkby couldn’t be more pleased with his ace.
“Ryan’s was great,” said Kirkby. “He pounded the zone today. Our scout on them said they sat dead red on the first pitch. We started them with curveballs and Ryan worked in his 88-90 fastball and never had an inning with a high pitch count.” Ramsey’s high pitch count inning was 13, which he did three times.
Delivering in big spots is nothing new for Rodriguez, who led the Cowboys in hitting as a sophomore. “He’s been a real leader on this team for three years,” said Kirkby. “He gets the big hits when you need them.”
It was a remarkable 2019 state tournament run for Bergen County schools, which would nail down four of the six group championships. St. Mary of Rutherford won in Non-Public B and public schools Emerson (Group 1) and Ridgewood (Group 4) joined Pascack Hills (Group 2) of Montvale in winning high school baseball’s biggest prize.
Pascack Hills also won Group 3 championships in 1987 and ’88 to go with its Group 2 title in 2018. Point Pleasant Boro was seeking its first group title in baseball. Ramsey was drafted in the 36th round of the MLB Draft on Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians.