Pinch hitter Jacob Ciccone started South Brunswick’s seventh-inning rally off Baker when he was hit on the right shoulder with an 0-2 fastball. Pinch runner Jay Chaddah advanced to second on Glassman’s fielder’s choice and remained there as third baseman Mike Oliva checked the runner on No. 9 hitter Mike D’Amato’s groundout for the second out of the inning. Nick DeLaCruz drew a full-count walk with ball four accounting for the 113th pitch of Baker’s outing, forcing him to the dugout. Chaddah stole third on that delivery, putting runners on the corners.
John Cardile, of Old Bridge was unable to get control of the ball in time to tag Matt Lauri, of South Brunswick. Lauri was able to steal second base and later score for the Vikings. Sunday, May 19, 2019
John Cardile, of Old Bridge was unable to get control of the ball in time to tag Matt Lauri, of South Brunswick. Lauri was able to steal second base and later score for the Vikings. Sunday, May 19, 2019 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)
Donaghue said he only had two words of wisdom upon turning the ball, the game and Old Bridge’s championship hopes over to Gilman. “Win it,” said Donaghue, whose closer preserved the Knights’ semifinal win over St. Joseph four days earlier with a scoreless eighth inning of relief.
“I knew I had to come back,” Gilman said after falling behind 2-0 in the count to Lauri, who singled in his first two at-bats. “I just had to put it where it had to be. I had to come back in the count and work it in my favor.”
Old Bridge pitching coach Fred Cole called for a fastball, slider and slider. Gilman made the Hall of Fame mentor look like a genius, throwing strikes on three straight offerings, setting off a wild celebration between the pitcher’s mound and home plate after Lauri went down swining.
“That was the best pitch I’ve ever thrown right there,” said Gilman, owner of a 5-1 record with a 1.27 ERA. “I knew (Baker) did his job and I had to do mine.”
John Cardile, of Old Bridge, is all smiles after he scored a run in the second inning, putting the Knights up, 2-1. Sunday, May 19, 2019
John Cardile, of Old Bridge, is all smiles after he scored a run in the second inning, putting the Knights up, 2-1. Sunday, May 19, 2019 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)
Old Bridge forged a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the first. Leadoff batter Elliot Hayward drew a full-count walk, Danny Chiofolo followed with a single to left and Sonny Fauci drew a free pass on a full-count offering to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Matt Herbstman grounded into a 3-2 fielder’s choice on which right-handed first baseman Glassman ranged to his right and bounced a one-hop throw to catcher Slover, who made a nice play receiving the short hop for a force at home. Had Glassman been a southpaw, he would not have had a play at the plate. Oliva followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice groundout on which he was nearly doubled up, but beat DeLaCruz’s throw to first. Cross induced Matt Flores on a popup to escape the jam.
Cross, like Baker, settled down, allowing just five base runners the rest of the way, two who reached on walks and one who reached on an error. Cross allowed four hits. Baker scattered five. The latter drew confidence as he continued to throw his slider for strikes.
“I could throw it on any count to anybody,” Baker said of his out pitch. “I’m so confident in it. I’ve worked on it every single day this year.”
South Brunswick stranded seven runners, four in scoring position, including two at third base. Old Bridge left six aboard, four in scoring position. The game-winning run, which resulted from errors in consecutive at-bats, was unearned.
Kyle White (22) congratulates Matt Lauri (7), of South Brunswick, after Lauri scored the first run of the game. Sunday, May 19, 2019
Kyle White (22) congratulates Matt Lauri (7), of South Brunswick, after Lauri scored the first run of the game. Sunday, May 19, 2019 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)
“The team that makes the least amount of mistakes is the team that usually wins a game like this and today that was the case,” said South Brunswick head coach CJ Hendricks, whose team entered the conference tournament final having gone undefeated in 12 of its last 13 games.
“I told them as much as it hurts, it’s OK to feel how you feel after a game like this, but no one remembers today when you win tomorrow. That’s pretty much been our attitude all season and that’s what’s kept us from losing two games in a row this year. We’ve got to play for something bigger tomorrow.”
South Brunswick will open play in the NJSIAA Central Group IV Tournament at home Monday against Montgomery. Old Bridge commences action in the same section at home against Sayreville.
Watch the first batters for both South Brunswick and Old Bridge as they battle for the GMC title. Sunday, May 19, 2019 Kevin R. Wexler, NorthJersey
As South Brunswick took infield and outfield prior to Sunday’s final, the Vikings yet again honored the memory of Attianese, laying one of the commemorative shirts bearing the No. 49 they wore before this year’s season opener against Old Bridge on the pitcher’s mound. The act generated praise for Hendricks’ class program on social media.
The Knights (19-6) and Vikings (16-5-2), who split their regular-season series to share the Red Division title, could square off a fourth time in the state tournament. Old Bridge, which has won nine of its last 10, will continue to play for Attianese.
Zach Attianese pitches for Old Bridge during a 2016 game.Buy Photo
Zach Attianese pitches for Old Bridge during a 2016 game. (Photo: Mark R. Sullivan/Staff Photo)
“It was tough our first regular-season game,” Baker said, referring to Old Bridge retiring Attianese’s jersey number during a ceremony before its home opener. “We came out and did it for him then and this whole season was for him.
“He’s been looking down us on 24-7. We did it for him today.”