Nottingham Catcher Brett Hoffman attempts to make the tag against Trenton Catholic. Hoffman was one of the key contributors out of the nine hole. Hoffman unloaded a three-run double deep into left centerfield to make it 9-1.
By Rich Fisher
May 9:Throughout the season Jim Maher has been concerned about the lack of production from the bottom part of his lineup, but the Nottingham baseball coach had no complaints today.
The 3rd-seeded Northstars got five hits, seven RBI and four runs from the last four players in his batting order in taking a 9-2 win over 6th-seeded Trenton Catholic Academy in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal.
“Everybody’s starting to step up now,” catcher Brett Hoffman said. “Everybody’s doing their job.”
Hoffman was one of the key contributors out of the nine hole. After Nottingham (18-3) took a 6-0 lead in the first inning, the bats went silent. TCA got one run back in the top of the fifth, but Nottingham answered with three in the bottom of the inning.
Christian Fuentes, Jake Fanning and Phil Rojek singled to load the bases and Hoffman unloaded a three-run double deep into left centerfield to make it 9-1.
“Big hit to kind of break it open a little bit,” Maher said. “At 6-1 if they get a couple guys on, it’s a ball game. They were playing him very shallow. I don’t understand the way they were playing him in the outfield, but he took advantage of it.”
“I just saw the pitch I wanted and swung as hard as I could,” Hoffman said. “I was pretty upset but I got the team rolling and that’s what my goal was.”
The junior said he was upset at allowing TCA to steal several bases, but Maher felt the blame lie elsewhere.
“He’s done a good job behind the plate,” Maher said. “We’ve gotta help him out a little bit with our pitching staff holding runners on. We have to be better at that. None of those stolen bases were on him. It was on our pitchers not keeping them close.”
Hoffman is in his first year behind the plate, as Nottingham has been spoiled at that position with Joe Garey and Tom Argiriou in recent years. And while he has struggled at the plate, he has been solid behind it.
“He’s doing a good job for us defensively,” Maher said. “He’s caught a lot of innings and done a good job with us.”
“I felt pretty comfortable from the start,” Hoffman said. “I knew my pitchers, I knew I was confident in them, I knew they were gonna throws strikes and do what they need to do.”
Rojek got the win today, putting his season record at 7-0 and his career mark at 12-0. He allowed one unearned run, four hits, a walk and hit batsmen while striking out five in 4.1 innings. Bryce Fremgen finished up, allowing a run and one hit with three strikeouts.
Nottingham got all it needed in the first when Tom McParland walked, David Scott singled and Nick Houghton, Fremgen, Wyatt Baker and Fuentes drew consecutive walks for a 3-0 lead. Fanning hit a sacrifice fly and Rojek hit a two-run double.
And while Maher was happy with what the bottom of his lineup did, he is still waiting for his entire unit to produce all at once.
“The middle of our lineup really didn’t do a whole lot,” he said. “I keep trying to preach to them you have to grind out at-bats. We play pretty good defense, we have very good pitching and we’ve got good speed. Our only problem is we have bad at-bats in key situations. We had some again today. This game probably should have been over in five innings.”
Key defensive moments in the game came when Fremgen got former Northstar Sam Raymond to ground out with runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth; and when Scott caught a line drive in shallow center that he turned into a double play.
Next up for the Northstars is 7th-seeded Princeton, which held off Allentown for an 8-7 upset win. The semifinal game is 3:30 p.m. at DeMeo Field.
Hoffman is enjoying the pressure of the MCT and feels the Northstars senior nucleus has been a big help to the newcomers on varsity.
“I feel the intensity but I stay relaxed,” he said. “I have a big role, I’m there in every single play and I have to stay relaxed.
“The seniors have helped us a lot. They’re always here for everybody, even when someone is down they pick us up.”
Spartans cannot pull of another miracle as Hun prevails
For the second straight MCT game, 4th-seeded Steinert entered the bottom of the seventh trailing a prep school from Princeton by three runs.
Unlike Monday’s miracle comeback against Princeton Day School, there was no such magic today as 5th-seeded Hun posted a 5-2 victory at Rich Giallella Field.
The Spartans took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first when CJ Pittaro hit a two-out single, Jake Muller delivered an RBI double and Brendan James plated Muller with a single. The Raiders tied it in the fourth and scored three in the fifth that proved too much to overcome.