Troy Rabosky singled, doubled, tripled and walked in playoff games vs Hillsborough and Allentown.
By Rich Bevensee
Nick Politi’s willingness to make a significant adjustment at the plate paid off with significant offensive returns for Whitehouse Post 284.
Politi, struggling offensively in his first season playing for Whitehouse, began working with coach Steve Farsiou on becoming a more balanced hitter. The timing of his breakthrough could not have been better.
With Whitehouse protecting a one-run lead, Politi drove in four runs in the final two innings to propel his top-seeded team to a 7-0 victory over the fifth-seeded Hillsborough Cardinal in the semifinals of the Diamond Nation Fall League playoffs on Thursday evening in Flemington.
With Nick Augusta and C.C. Kozak combining on a one-hitter, the win allowed Whitehouse (17-0) to remain unbeaten and reach its second straight Fall League championship game against third-seeded Allentown (9-1). It also allowed Politi to bask in the glow of a polished swing. The North Hunterdon junior went 2-for-3 with a double and four RBI.
“I had a rough start to the season hitting-wise,” Politi said. “I was having a lot of trouble with my balance – I was staying back too much. Working on staying balanced took a while because I was so used to doing it the old way. It was a hard adjustment. I worked with him (Farsiou) in the cages, and tonight was the first night that proved that it’s working.”
Farsiou said Politi’s willingness to be a student of the game allowed him to become an offensive contributor, and at a most opportune time.
“Good for him, because he’s really worked hard all fall,” Farsiou said. “He’s getting much more balanced at the plate, and understanding that your hips have to start your swing. Your hands have to stay back. He’s starting to do that and you can see the ball’s starting to come off his bat hard.
“He’s really been a great addition. Coachable. And he’s starting to put it together. He’s really got some pop.”
Augusta and Kozak rocked the Hillsborough bats to sleep in the semifinal. Augusta, a Hunterdon Central senior and Colby College commit, allowed one hit and two walks while striking out six in 3⅔ shutout innings. Kozak, a sophomore at Middlesex, pitched the final 1⅓ innings and struck out two.
Both Whitehouse hurlers found it difficult at first to grasp the baseball in the chilly weather. Game time temperature was 38 degrees. But in big-game situations, big-game pitchers use their adrenaline as antifreeze.
“It was a little cold and the ball’s a little slippery tonight,” Augusta said. “ I wasn’t worried about velo today, just about throwing strikes. That was the most important thing.”
“Tonight it was about working quickly and getting ahead quickly,” Kozak said. “It was cold but I had hand warmers. When I’m out there I don’t really feel it.”
Farsiou was especially proud of Augusta for having the mental fortitude to bounce back from a mid-fall slump to regain his form in time for the last two weeks of the season and the playoffs.
“I am beyond proud of Nick because he’s had a really good fall. There were a couple games where he’s struggled, and the last four games have been phenomenal,” Farsiou said.
Augusta struck out the first two batters of the fourth inning before allowing a walk. At that point, Farsiou called on Kozak, and Augusta grudgingly gave up the ball.
Whitehouse’s Nick Politi singled, doubled and drove in four runs in Fall League semifinals.
“He’s a bulldog,” Farsiou said. “He threw 12 pitches on Monday and I wanted to keep him under 70. He wanted to stay in the game but I wasn’t going to do that.”
“Oh yeah, I wanted to finish the inning. I don’t like to leave mid-inning,” Augusta said. “But this time of year, you want to keep your arm healthy heading into the offseason.”
Brayden Fry was the first to do damage for Whitehouse. The Cranford sophomore tripled to center in the bottom of the second inning, and the ensuing throw back to the infield sailed into the third base dugout netting and out of play, allowing Fry to score.
In the fourth, Immaculata senior Troy Rabosky reached on a walk, advanced to second on a throwing error and eventually scored on a balk for a 2-0 Whitehouse lead. The right-handed hitting Politi made it 3-0 when he whipped an RBI single down the right field line.
Whitehouse blew the game open in the fifth and final inning. Pinch-hitter Dillon Gallagher, a senior at South Hunterdon, walked with the bases loaded for a 4-0 lead. Then Politi struck again, this time with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner.
Whitehouse reached the semis by clobbering 16th-seeded New Jersey Jays 16U American, 14-0, and eliminating eighth-seeded Go The Distance, 5-1.
Hillsborough (11-6) reached the semifinals by defeating 12th-seeded New Jersey Jays 16U National, 10-0, and fourth-seeded Montgomery, 3-2.