Battle-Tested Madison Baseball Team Defeats Hanover Park 6-2 in Second Round of North 2, Group 2 Sectional
Friday, May 25, 2012 • 6:17pm
MADISON, NJ – Quick starts at the plate have been the story so far for the Madison Dodgers (20-7) in this year’s state playoffs. That proved to be the difference in the first round of the NJSIAA North 2, Group 2 sectionals when Madison edged Parsippany 1-0 behind Joe Grato’s solo homerun in the first.
The number one seed in the tournament was able to get its bats going early again against eighth seeded Hanover Park (15-12-1) on Friday afternoon at Madison High School when the Dodgers scored four runs behind just two hits to take a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the opening inning.
“It’s what we try to do every game; score early,” Madison Head Coach Mickey Ennis said. “It takes the pressure obviously off our starting pitcher and allows us to settle in and just play our game. I was very pleased with how we started out there today,” he added.
Three Dodgers reached base in the bottom of the first without the ball even getting past the infield. Joey Geyer and Dilan Kluge reached on walks and, a few batters later, Cameron Dias got to first base on a fielder’s choice play.
Junior catcher Nick Lucas then came up with the bases load and worked a 3-0 count against Hanover Park’s Rick LaSalvia. He got a fastball right down the middle and belted it to deep right center for a bases clearing three run double.
“I was just trying to focus on driving it. Whenever I got up to 3-0, I was just looking for exactly what I wanted. I got one right down the middle… and I just wanted to rip it,” Lucas said of his 3 RBI hit, which ended up being the game winner.
“I knew we were going to win this. We were a little slow a week ago (losing three straight), but now we’re getting a roll on,” he added.
Lucas was knocked in from second on a base hit by John Costa and that ended up being all the run support that starting pitcher Connor Higgins needed.
The second man in the Madison rotation pitched a complete game while striking out five and giving up only four hits and two runs.
“I was trying to locate my fastball and for the most part I did a good job. Towards the end of the game I started getting ahead more. They (Hanover Park) were swinging a lot on me and putting the ball on the ground and my defense made good plays,” Higgins commented.
The fielding for Madison was not as solid as some previous games this season, but still pretty good in backing up Higgins.
Hanover Park got their first run of the game in the top of the third when Matt Facas hit a grounder to third that was thrown over to Madison first baseman Grato on a tough bounce. He could not handle the ball and Vin Aulisi scored from second.
With the score 4-1 in the top of the fourth, Rick Borgo hit a ball sharply to second that was stopped on a nice diving play by Geyer before he made the throw out at first. Borgo earned a RBI on the play as Jon Cordovano scored from third.
Wallace settled down after that by getting two groundouts and a strikeout in the top of the fifth after an unearned hit when Costa misplayed a grounder at short. He retired the side in order in the top half of the sixth on a groundout, fly out and another strikeout as the score remained 4-2 in Madison’s favor.
“There were some times when I got frustrated. My job out there is to put a zero up every time, but I can’t always do that. It was good (to get the early run support),” Higgins told The Alternative Press.
The Dodgers were able to add some insurance in their last at bat to take even more load off the back of Higgins.
Geyer and Lucas reached base after a few choppers to third that could not be handled by Hanover Park’s Angelo Minniti.
Next up at bat was Gavin Wallace who ripped a two RBI single to right to give Madison a four run lead.
“Huge, huge insurance runs for us. I’m so happy for Gavin for getting that hit,” Coach Ennis said. “He’s a kid who has really earned his way into the lineup and today he came up with probably one of his biggest hits of his career here.”
Higgins closed out the game in the seventh with a groundout to short and then later a double play as Hanover Park’s Lorenzo Cordovano slid into second and was called out for interfering with Costa’s throw to first in an attempt to get out Mario Teixeira, who was also called out to end the game.
Madison will next play fifth seeded Lyndhurst High School (17-7) in the semi-final round of the North 2, Group 2 sectional tournament on Tuesday, May 29th at 4 p.m. at Madison High School.