Timmy Wright of Somerville is batting .428 and leads the Pioneers in RBI.
Voorhees coach Cory Kent said before and after his team suffered its first loss of the season on Wednesday that his team needs more of the type of high-level competition presented by Somerville.
Somerville knocks heads daily with the behemoths of the mighty Skyland Conference. Voorhees, meanwhile, is stationed in the smaller school Raritan Division and, while the competition is strong, it does not offer the relentlessly unforgiving intensity of the big school Delaware Division.
Well, Voorhees did show it will engage, take a shot to the jaw and counter. But Somerville, again, proved it will take advantage of everything you give them, find every opening it can and grind out a win however it must.
The Pioneers used a seven-run bottom of the second inning yesterday at Torpey Athletic Complex in Somerville to erase a 4-0 deficit, fend off the Vikings and secure a 7-5 victory. Somerville improved to 9-3 as Voorhees dropped out of the ranks of unbeatens to 12-1. Only four teams remain unbeaten in New Jersey.
Voorhees was tabbed early this week the No. 3 seed in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament and will be a pain in the neck to all comers with a pitching staff fronted by Virginia Tech-bound junior lefthander Truman Richter and yesterday’s starter, senior righty Cole McGourty.
Richter pitched a no-hitter on Tuesday against Pingry.
McGourty will rue that big Somerville rally in the second inning aided by a pair of errors, a walk and two hit by pitches. McGourty would grind through a 96-pitch complete game. He permitted just two earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking one. At the plate, the four-year starter went 3-for-3 with a walk and drove in three runs.
“We had decent at bats in the first inning,” said Somerville coach Chris Banos. “I thought if we could hold them at bay and chip away we’d have a shot. We talked about staying aggressive and answering back.”
Faced with that 4-0 deficit, Somerville pieced together a seven-run rally in its second at bat that restored order and calmed its home crowd.
Kyle Insabella drew a leadoff walk and, after a fielder’s choice grounder, Zack Repetto reached on an infield single that glanced off McGourty. Eric Knapp was then hit by a pitch and the Pioneers had loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield. But McGourty struck out the next batter to draw an out away from extricating himself from further trouble.
But leadoff batter Matt Miceli poked a 1-1 pitch through the right side to chase home two runs and shave the deficit to 4-2. Matty Wright was in a 1-2 hole when McGourty plunked him to reload the bases. Tyler Stone then hit a roller toward the middle of the diamond that looked like out No. 3, but the shortstop, in his haste to scoop the ball up and tag second base in one motion, bobbled it and everyone was safe. Knapp scored from third and, suddenly, the Pioneers were within a run.
That brought up cleanup hitter Timmy Wright who has been crushing it this spring to the tune of a .428 batting average and a team high 17 RBI. He immediately fell behind 0-1.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Wright of McGourty. “I was just looking for fastballs. I got one middle-middle.” And Wright unloaded. He ripped a hard lined drive straight at a charging center fielder Jake Knapp. Knapp admirably approached the shot aggressively trying to harness that elusive third out.
But Knapp was one step too aggressive and the ball glanced off the top of his glove and sailed back to the center field fence.
“I thought it would be a close play off the bat and you are always thinking two,” said the fleet Wright. As Wright rounded first he saw the ball had gotten past Knapp. “I knew it was four.”
Wright raced around the bases and scored standing up as Somerville’s one-time 4-0 deficit had quickly morphed into a 7-4 lead.
“I knew we were capable of coming back,” said Wright. “Once it starts you can feel it. You know we are going to put some runs up. We can play with anybody.” Somerville has already knocked off Middlesex County power St. Joseph (Met.) and two members of the Skyland Conference elite in Watchung Hills (8-3) and Bridgewater-Raritan (9-2). And like Voorhees, Bridgewater was undefeated before they ran into the Pioneers.
Somerville starter Kolbie Stellpflug didn’t have it at the start, issuing five walks and hitting a batter in his 2.1 innings of work. The right-handed sophomore got himself in trouble in the top of the first inning by walking the leadoff batter, Richter, and Eric Axelsen before hitting Owen McComb with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out.
McGourty then complicated matters for Somerville by ripping a double down the left field line to drive in two runs. Max Klumpp’s grounder to the left side scored McComb with the third run of the inning.
Stone doubled with two outs in the bottom of the first but McGourty got Voorhees back to the plate unscathed. And the Vikings added another run when McGourty’s bases-loaded single to left field scored Richter for a 4-0 lead.
“You have tip your hat to him,” said Banos of McGourty. “He had one bad inning and did a good job of settling things down. On the flip side he kept his team in the game. He’s been tough to deal with every year.”
Kent has experienced those four years of the 6-1, 230-pound McGourty and feels blessed.
“Cole’s a four-year guy and someone the kids look up to,” said Kent. “He and Klumpp are our only players this year with previous varsity experience. He’s so mature. When he’s composed, we are composed.”
Perhaps that fact was the most impressive of all about McGourty. In the middle of Voorhees second-inning miscues he never blinked. “He hunkered down and didn’t let our defensive mistakes get to him. He gave us his best on the mound and went 3-for-3 at the plate. It’s the first time he had to face a lineup that hits one-through-nine and he did well.”
McGourty shut out Somerville on one hit over the final four innings. He struck out one, walked none and allowed just one base runner, via a Repetto single in the sixth. He gave his team a chance and the Vikings actually brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh when Chris Quartuccio drew a one-out walk.
Cam DePace closed it out for Somerville with a scoreless seventh and Colin Saich (1-0) picked up his first varsity win with two innings of one hit, scoreless relief that included a steady stream of strikes.
While Somerville plays host to conference rival North Hunterdon today, Voorhees is off and will prepare for a first round game on Saturday in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.
“While a loss provides humility, it’s all growing pains and shows us we can’t make errors,” said Kent. “Errors and walks are a bad combination. We also saw some positive things, including a great job by our third baseman.”
Chris Quartuccio was solid all afternoon and made a highlight reel-worthy play in the fifth when he dove to rob Insabella of a single through the left side and hopped up to gun him out at first base for the third out of the inning.
NOTES: Somerville’s first two hitters, Miceli, a senior, and junior Matty Wright are committed to Stony Brook. Timmy Wright is Matty’s older brother. … Richter walked his first three times up and scored each time. … Klumpp drove Richter in with a sac fly in the fourth to trim the Somerville lead to 7-5. … Somerville second baseman Repetto made a heck of a play in the fifth, diving behind second base to make a stop on a hot grounder by Quartuccio and flipped the ball from his belly to Miceli for the force out. … Somerville ended the game when Miceli grabbed a bouncer in the middle of the diamond and turned it into a 6U-3 game-ending double play.