Tom Barca of Wladyka Blue takes a rip during Garden State Scout League game on Wednesday.
Mike Whooley’s two-out double in the top of the sixth inning chased Justin DeStaso home with the tying run as Wladyka Baseball Blue tied 9ers Baseball 2022, 3-3, in a tightly played Garden State Scout League game on Wednesday at Diamond Nation.
Whooley’s double crashed off the left field wall as DeStaso, running for James Carbone, raced from first base with the potential tying run. DeStaso never broke stride, tearing around third base as the relay throw to the infield got away.
“I probably would have sent him anyway but when the relay got loose I knew he’d score,” said Wladyka Baseball Blue coach Paul Albarella. “Justin is fast and a good base runner.” DeStaso did do a good job eye-balling the errant relay as he turned on the jets rounding third.
Righty reliever Will DeIasi then retired 9ers Baseball in order in the bottom of the sixth to secure the tie.
In a game short on big hits and long on strikeouts and walks, Whooley saved his blast for a big moment. The sophomore middle infielder from Ramapo High had walked in the second inning and flew out to right field in the fourth before finally getting a pitch he craved.
“I changed my approach from my earlier at bats,” said Whooley. “He was a lefty and a little slower than the first two pitchers I faced. I was looking for a fastball and got one up and in. I love that pitch. Any hit is good in that spot.”
This hit by Whooley was especially good because it short-hopped the left field wall for a sure double as DeStaso took off from first base. What wasn’t sure was whether DeStaso could score. A surer relay may have gotten Whooley at the plate, if Albarella still dared to send his speedy runner. Perhaps Whooley’s and Albarella’s unabashed aggression on the play actually triggered the 9ers anxiousness on the relay. Either way, Wladyka had tied the game.
Carbone, the forgotten man to this point, had actually ignited the rally with a leadoff single to left field. Wladyka’s No. 3 hitter had delivered DeStaso in the top of the first inning with a grounds rule double to left-center field. DeStaso had sped all the way to third base when his one-out fly ball to right field was lost in the late afternoon sun.
Carbone drove in Wladyka’s second run, too, on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop in the third inning. Tom Radigan, Wladyka’s leadoff hitter, had opened the frame with a walk. Radigan stole second and reached third on a wild pitch with Carbone at the plate.
The teams would manage just three hits apiece in the game but combined to issue 14 walks and a pair of hit-by-pitches. The 9ers drew eight walks and had just one hit through the first four innings. Jack Zabarsky doubled with one out in the fourth, and in fact, it was 9ers Baseball’s first hit of the game. The free passes by the first three Wladyka pitchers would still clog the bases but 9ers Baseball left eight runners aboard and did not score a run to that point.
But that changed in the bottom of the fifth when the 9ers finally broke through, scoring three runs on one hit, three walks and an error. Logan Duffy drew a bases-loaded walk, Andrew Fisher singled to right field to bring Anthony Mursco home with the tying run and Evan Bresen scored from second when the throw from right field on Fisher’s single got away. Suddenly, 9ers Baseball had a 3-2 lead.
Left-handed reliever Aidan Brucey got the next two batters to get out of the jam and set the stage for Wladyka’s tying rally in the top of the sixth. DeIasi then took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and did something the two teams’ eight pitchers hadn’t done to that point. He retired the side in order to end the game tied at 3-3.
NOTES: Five 9ers pitchers combined for nine strikeouts. Four Wladyka hurlers struck out seven. … 9ers Baseball Club is 1-0-2 in Garden State Scout League play. Wladyka Blue is 0-2-1. … Wladyka coach Paul Albarella doubles as the Northern Highlands HIgh School head baseball coach. … Rob Maida, the 9ers Baseball coach and club owner, was an assistant at Wall Twp. when it won the NJSIAA Group 3 championship in 2004 and assisted at Rumson-Fair Haven when it was ranked No. 7 in the state in 2008.