NEW PROVIDENCE — Pesky is perhaps the best word to describe New Providence’s approach to baseball in their 8-2 win over Waldwick in Monday’s NJSIAA Group 1 semifinal.
A few singles in the field. Stolen plinths. Bag flies. The Pioneers continued to take the win methodically, with bold hits and throws.
“That’s the kind of win you need to have against a pitcher (Phil Centineo) of that quality,” New Providence coach Chris Brodeur said. “He’s around the strike zone and he’s got enough off-speed stuff. We’ll just keep cringing at the bats. Try to get little by little. Take advantage of certain opportunities. That’s kind of what we’re trying to do. We try to put pressure on the teams.
All the little things added up to stop a hot side from Waldwick, who won the Group 1 North title by outscoring their opponents 46-19.
The Pioneers took a 3-0 lead in the second inning with back-to-back RBI doubles from No. 9 hitter Andrew Kowantz and Zach DeGeorge, followed by a single from Matt Demareski and they would trail no more.
What this means
New Providence (20-8) advanced to their second consecutive Group 1 final. The Pioneers will face Woodstown (18-9), the Group 1 champions of the South, in Saturday’s title match at Veterans Park in Hamilton at 16 o’clock. Woodstown beat Point Pleasant Beach 4-0 in Monday’s other Group 1 semi-final.
New Providence, which has won four consecutive North Group 2 sectional titles, last won a Group 1 championship in 1998. Last spring, the Pioneers lost a classic 4-3 to Middlesex in 13 innings.
Waldwick (23-8), meanwhile, is ending his season having won his third section title this century to accompany 2011 and 2016. Memories include a thrilling 13-10 victory over Wood-Ridge in the section final .
The key games
Waldwick threatened to break it in the first inning against starter DeGeorge. With one out, Nick Ciano and Mike O’Neil walked. With two out, Rocco DeMenna was hit with a pitch to load the bases.
DeGeorge’s throw then strayed away from receiver Dean Licari, who raced to get the ball back as Ciano ran in from third base. The catcher threw it to a sprinting DeGeorge, who applied the tag for the third out. DeGeorge said: “It would have been a huge boost in their direction and I think it energized us when we came out.”
In the fifth inning, New Providence scored four times to take a 7-0 lead. DeGeorge started with a triple and Demareski brought it home with a sacrifice fly.
The Pioneers fabricated a run when Licari beat a field single, stole second and scored when Luca Vitale beat a field single. Two points later scored on an error.
Waldwick coach Dan Freeman credited DeGeorge with blocking the Warriors’ offense. Waldwick hit 14 hits in the section final.
Freeman said the senior southpaw “lived low, he lived far. We’re kind of a power hitting team and we didn’t have a lot of balls today. I think he also worked really fast and made us uncomfortable on the bases and in the box, it was a hell of a job for him.
DeGeorge allowed one run in four innings on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Freeman also pointed out that the relievers work fast. Jake Monaco gave up a run in two innings and Ryan Grill closed with a scoreless seventh inning.
For Waldwick, Zach Hulsizer drove in both innings with RBI singles. He also made a handful of nifty defensive plays at shortstop.
They said it
Brodeur on New Providence achieved his second Group 1 championship in a row, “It really speaks to this senior class and their ownership of the program. These guys are 100% invested. That’s what we do in the spring. That’s what we do and they kind of learned that from last year’s senior class.
DeGeorge on his exit from the first moto and his strong performance on the mound: “I was struggling a bit with my command, but I just took a deep breath. I closed my eyes, I relaxed a little. Just try to find the area, let them put the ball in play. Let my teammates make plays.
Freeman on Waldwick’s successful season: “They are very good people. Respectful young men and they are also incredible baseball players. They have a ton of heart. They’ve battled all season in back-to-the-wall regular season games and in the playoffs as well. They have a warrior mentality and a never say die mentality.
“…We’ve been kicking the ball hard the whole tournament and we got out of breath today with it. I told them they should be proud of the excitement they’ve brought throughout the season “That section final, I think, was probably the most thrilling high school baseball game we’ve ever seen. So they shouldn’t let their heads down. They’re section champions.”
Email: [email protected]
Andy Mendlowitz is a sports reporter for MyCentralJersey.com. For unlimited access to local news throughout central Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.