Hamilton Post 31 Pitcher David Stec. File Photo by Amanda Ruch.
By Rich Fisher
July 10: There was an error attached to every run Hamilton scored tonight.
Which seems to have become the theme of ’18 for Post 31, which clinched a district tournament berth with a 3-2, eight-inning victory over Lawrence at Eggerts Crossing.
“That’s our offense,” manager Rick Freeman said. “They’ve gotta open the door for us and we’ve got to try to push it all the way open. We’ve been surviving on that.”
It doesn’t hurt to get a well-pitched game and ace David Stec provided just that. The big right-hander, who has not been as dominant as he was in winning the MCALL Pitcher of the Year last summer, came up huge in several pivotal moments in what was a very pivotal game.
Stec scattered eight hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out four.
“I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever gone eight innings,” the Mercer County Community College hurler said. “Nothing like this that I can remember. I felt really good today, felt loose, felt strong. I was able to go out there, pound the zone, do my job.”
Stec got out of a third-inning pickle when Lawrence put runners on first and third with one out. But Drayven Kowalski nailed a would-be base stealer and Stec got a strikeout to end it. After Lawrence tied it with two runs in the sixth, the hosts put the go-ahead run on second before another strikeout muted Post 414.
And with Hamilton clinging to a 3-2 lead, Lawrence put two on with two outs before the pitcher got an easy bouncer to second baseman CJ Pittaro to end it.
“He threw strikes tonight,” Freeman said. “He threw his breaking ball, fastball and change-up for strikes. He hit locations, kept them off-balance. He’s a strike thrower. Sometimes we tell him he throws too many strikes and today I think he threw enough out of the zone that they had to offer.”
Stec felt the biggest key was going to the soft stuff.
“We know a lot of the kids in this league are fastball hitters so we tried to mix in some off-speed pitches there, get them off balance a little bit,” he said. “I think the results showed that was able to work today.”
Hamilton’s first run came in the second when Chris Cote reached on a lead-off error. Two outs later Tyler Nielsen and Michael James hit consecutive singles to make it 1-0. In the fifth, Joey Sacco and Brady Plunkett hit two-out singles, and Sacco scored on an overthrow on Plunkett’s hit.
After Lawrence tied it, Cote again became the catalyst in the eighth when he led off with a walk. Kowalski sacrificed, Brendan James blooped a single for his second hit, and pinch-hitter Ryan “Mini-Dweller” Beczo grounded one to first that was mishandled, but probably would have scored Cote regardless.
Stec then finished it off, but gave a tip of his cap to his defense. Sacco had a particularly outstanding game at shortstop, highlighted by a leaping grab of Ryan Sullivan’s line drive leading off the seventh.
“Ohhh, I thought for sure that was going to be a single into left center and somehow he gets up there,” Stec said. “Then he makes a couple of running plays (on groundballs) that were really nice. He’s a really good shortstop, I’m lucky to have him behind me.”
Freeman agreed, saying, “Joey is a baseball player. I think people don’t understand just how good he is. He has a great glove and quick hands. That’s a great combination for a middle infielder.”
Pittaro also made a nice play on a grounder with two outs and a runner on second in the third inning.
“Knowing I have an awesome infield behind me, I know I don’t have to go out there and force swing and misses,” Stec said. “I can throw some ground balls and I know they’ll make plays behind me.”
BSP ends regular season 18-4
Broad Street Park concluded its regular season at 18-4 after taking a 10-0, five-inning win over South Brunswick at DeMeo Field tonight.
Tim Sharpley hurled the shutout, putting his record at 6-0. BSP’s top five hitters – Jose Rodriguez, Kiefer Goss, Kyle Harrington, Darius Land and Justin Wiltsey – had two hits apiece.
And while one township team hurt Lawrence’s chances of getting into the district, another helped it out as Post 414 and South Brunswick both finish 13-9, and Lawrence owns the tiebreaker over SB.