There was something in the air. Black clouds loomed with bright sunshine as the two teams took the field at Diamond Nation in Flemington. Both teams knew the value of victory: one team gets to play another state game on Friday.
And the baseball team, still high off its , had one other goal: get coach Norm Hewitt his 600th win.
It took an extra inning and a wild play at the plate, but the Raiders were able to both move on and notch the milestone victory, as they defeated Watchung Hills 3-2 in the tournament's first round.1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th Runs Hits Errors Hillsborough (11-11) 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 7 1 Watchung Hills (16-7) 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 9 2
The action from the mound was terrific for both teams. Raider hurler Paul Mammino was stellar in the starting role, going 6 1/3 innings giving up eight hits, four walks and striking out eight more. His counterpart Joe Rochietti went 7 2/3 innings giving up seven hits, three runs and had three strike outs.
But the game would come down to the eighth inning. Pat Roberts would lead off for the Raiders and reach on a infield error and advance to second on a sacrifice bunt from Matt Hornich. With two outs, pinch hitter Matt Ramandi hit a shot to right center that scored Roberts putting Hillsborough up 3-2.
In the bottom half of the inning, Watchung Hills would get a single from Joe Kinsella. Pinch runner Eric Zadrozny got to second on a sacrifice and then third on an infield play. With slugger Frank Urso at the plate, things couldn't have looked better for the Warriors. Relief pitcher RJ Fanelli worked Urso to a full count, but his payoff pitch would squirt low and past catcher Tyler Ferretti to the screen. Zadrozny made a dash for home but the ball would bounce to Ferretti and he would dive to home with Fanelli coming from the mound to cover. The catcher and the baserunner dove for the plate and Ferretti would get his glove and the ball on the fingers of Zadrozny inches from contact as Fanelli flew over their heads. Zadrozny was out and Hillsborough and coach Hewitt would put it in the record books.
RAIDER OF THE GAME
Paul Mammino –Mammino's work on the mound held the explosive bats of Watching Hills in check through six innings.
"There are a couple of people that I wish were here with me today to share this with me. One was my father, Norm Sr., because he gave me the love for the game. And my high school coach at Watchung Hills, Frank Mattulo. I have such admiration for those people. They are the ones that inspired me. The wins are not that important. It is the relationships. I can't tell you how many kids came to see me at the county final. That is the reward of coaching and teaching. I've been blessed. I've met so many great kids and I have to tell you, I think I learned more from my players than they ever learned from me."–Hillsborough coach Norm Hewitt
THEY SAID IT
"I can't believe it. I am shaking. I saw the ball go past Tyler and I ran to cover the plate and I just saw him diving back at the runner. This was an amazing way to win and to get coach his 600th win."–Pitcher RJ Fanelli
UP NEXT - Hillsborough will face Immaculata Wednesday at Diamond Nation, Flemington, at 4 p.m.