Rankings in April are cute and fun but essentially mean nothing. Delbarton, which lost to St. Augustine in the 2018 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game, knows how hard it is to climb to the top of the NP-A mountain.
“We know what it feels like to get there and come up short,” said Delbarton’s shortstop Anthony Volpe, inarguably the very best position player in New Jersey heading into the Major League Baseball Draft in June.
Volpe and his Delbarton teammates are playing like a team on a mission through 10 games this season. Volpe ripped a triple and a double and lofted a sac fly that almost left right-center field at Delbarton’s Brian E. Fleury Stadium. He drove in four runs as the Green Wave defeated Randolph, 10-0, on Monday in Morris Twp.
Don’t figure Volpe or the rest of senior-laden Delbarton (9-1) to be too impressed with the team’s current status as NJ.com’s No. 1 ranked baseball team. They appear too busy with the more important business of winning baseball games.
Senior righty Raj Sharma (2-0) did his part on the mound, shutting out Randolph (3-5) on five hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one. Volpe, batting second in the Delbarton lineup in front of scouts from the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners among others, tripled home a run in the first inning, doubled home a run in the second and delivered a third RBI with the sac fly in the fourth.
But the most impressive sequence of the game for Volpe occurred at the tail end of the triple to left-center in the first inning. Randolph appeared to have Volpe dead at third on a perfect relay that beat him to the bag. But Volpe stopped short on his slide, popped up and stepped over the tag attempt by third baseman Eric Recchia.
“That was one of the best slides I’ve ever seen,” said Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel.
Volpe described it modestly, “I heard ‘third’ and just went. I saw he had to pick his glove up to get the ball and would go back down with it. I think I just stuck my foot in there.”
Randolph opened the game with a pair of one-out singles by Recchia and Joe Reed. But Sharma escaped that jam and settled in fairly nicely from there with his four-seamer, cutter and curveball.
“The first few hits I gave up were up in the zone,” said Sharma. “I was able to keep my fastball and cutter low after that. My cutter was my best pitch and my curveball got better later in the game.”
It was the first varsity start for Sharma, who had picked up his first victory in relief against Roxbury. The game was played in a light rain and started about 25 minutes late due to the precipitation.
“The rain delay didn’t help,” said Sharma. “But I didn’t really feel nervous.”
Sharma’s coach liked what he saw of his effort. “He got himself out of some tough spots,” said Shatel. “He threw strikes. I think the early lead helped build his confidence.”
Delbarton returned all but one of its positional starters from the state final club of a year ago and its top two pitchers in righthander Jack Leiter and lefty Shawn Rapp. Leiter, like Volpe, is committed to Vanderbilt but is projected by some as a potential first round MLB draft pick. Rapp is headed to the University of North Carolina.
“I think our trips to North Carolina and Florida (this spring) brought us even closer as a team,” said Volpe. “We have everyone back and we are together. We hit up and down our lineup.”
Leadoff batter Mark Darakjy had a single and a double, drove in a run and scored three runs. He also made a diving catch in right field on a sinking liner hit by Randolph’s Christian Guarente in the fourth.
Cleanup hitter Kyle Vinci had a sac fly and reached on an infield single leading off the decisive three-run fifth inning. The No. 6 hitter Willie Schwarick had an RBI double in the three-run first inning and drew a walk in the fifth. Ben Romano, the No. 7 hitter, singled and scored in the fourth and ripped a two-run triple in the fifth.
And Delbarton’s No. 8 hitter, Nick McLaughlin, singled and scored in the fourth and delivered a sac fly that ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth.
NOTES: Former Rutgers Newark coach Mark Rizzi is in his first year at the Randolph helm. Rizzi coached 17 seasons at Rutgers Newark after a short stint at Bloomfield College. His coaching career began at his alma mater, Paterson Catholic High School, where he resurrected a moribund program and went 86-25 his final four seasons at the Passaic County school. … Randolph’s left fielder Christian Guarente earned the Clorox Laundry Detergent Award after repeatedly diving back into first base as Sharma tried to hold him on after a leadoff single in the second inning. Sharma then chased Guarente back to second base after he reached there on a wild pitch. The rain and softened dirt had Guarente looking like he had completed a shift in a coal mine. … Delbarton actually scored two runs on Volpe’s sac fly in the fourth. Darakjy was on second and just kept racing around third as Randolph mishandled the relay.