Baseball: Matt Yard’s 5-Hit Shutout Leads Wall Past SJV to SCT Quarterfinals
WALL - For a team to make a run at multiple tournament titles, it has to have depth in its starting pitching, which is why the emergence of sophomore right-hander Matt Yard is a big reason Wall is still alive to play in three different tournaments in three days next week.
Yard delivered one of the best starts of his young career when he threw a complete-game, five-hit shutout to help lead the fifth-seeded Crimson Knights to an 8-0 win over 12th-seeded St. John Vianney in a Shore Conference Tournament game at 18th Avenue Field on Saturday. Yard (4-1) struck out four and walked two on 90 pitches, and his defense backed him up with a strong game to help Wall (20-5) advance to face fourth-seeded Jackson Memorial on the road in the SCT quarterfinals on Wednesday.
"That's exactly what (Yard) has done for us all year,'' Wall coach Todd Schmitt said. "When we saw him over the summer and in the preseason, we were like 'This kid can compete.' He's got great composure, and as a sophomore, to come up and do what he's done for us is impressive."
For a young pitcher, Yard has the confidence to pitch to contact and trust his fielders rather than nibbling around the plate and trying to strike everyone out.
"I was just able to throw my pitches, let the defense work behind me and try not to walk that many kids,'' Yard said. "We knew they had some good hitters and just wanted to work away and then come back in to allow my defense to make the plays.''
Yard also has a nice safety blanket in senior catcher Dan Wondrack, a College of Charleston recruit who the coaching staff trusts to call the pitches himself. Wondrack also went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI in the win, pushing his career total to 99 hits.
"We do our scouting report, I give it to (Wondrack), and he comes back and says, 'This is what we're gonna do,''' Schmitt said. "I think having that senior catcher back there is huge."
"With Danny behind the plate, he can also always keep the runners close, and I don't have to worry about them stealing on me, so I feel comfortable out there,'' Yard said.
While Wondrack and the rest of Wall's defense backed up Yard, St. John Vianney's came apart at crucial times. Seven of Wall's eight runs were unearned, including six runs that scored with two outs on four of the six total errors in the game by the Class A Central champions.
"We had good at-bats, we came up with timely hits, and we capitalized on their mistakes,'' Schmitt said.
The critical miscues by the Lancers started in the bottom of the first inning, as Wall senior outfielder Nick Martinez hit a leadoff single and then went to third after Wondrack slugged a one-out double off the top of the wall in left field. After being down 0-2 in the count, designated hitter Zach Wilson worked a walk off St. John Vianney junior lefty Joey Raia to load the bases with two outs. Raia appeared to be out of the inning, but a throwing error on a grounder to second allowed two runs to score for a 2-0 lead by the home team.
Wondrack entered the game tied with current Wall assistant Evan Baubles for the single-season school record with eight home runs and just missed a record ninth on his double.
"I thought it was out (of the park) off the bat, to be honest, but in the long run it doesn't matter because the run came around to score,'' Wondrack said.
After a 29-pitch first inning by Raia, he was lifted for St. John Vianney ace Dan Schirmacher to start the second inning, but the Lancers' defensive woes continued. In the bottom of the third, Wall senior third baseman Ryan Orender drew a one-out walk, and then Wilson worked his second walk of the game to put a pair of runners on. Schirmacher induced a pop-up to third base before Wall rightfielder Nick Maciejewski ripped a single up the middle to load the bases.
Schirmacher appeared to be out of the jam when he induced a grounder to second base by Wall sophomore centerfielder Sean Larkin, but again it was misplayed for an error that allowed two runs to score to make it 4-0. With runners at the corners, Larkin then took off to steal second. The throw sailed into the outfield and then got past the centerfielder, allowing Maciejewski and Larkin to score thanks to two errors on one play that made it 6-0.
Meanwhile, Yard was rolling along, easily working around a leadoff single in the second, and then getting some help from Wondrack after giving up a one-out double in the third to first baseman Sebi Bellone, who went 2-for-3 in the loss out of the No. 9 spot. Wondrack gunned down Bellone at third when he tried to advance on a wild pitch, extinguishing the threat. After giving up a leadoff single to third baseman Victor Jamandron in the fourth, Yard rolled a 5-4-3 double play to again kill any momentum by the Lancers.
Wall tacked on two more insurance runs in the sixth inning off reliever Brandon DeKovics when Larkin reached on an error on a grounder to first base and stole second before a walk by shortstop Nolan Cloney put a pair of runners on. Senior second baseman Brendan Barcas then punched a one-out RBI single to right field to make it 7-0, and Wondrack followed by ripping an RBI single through the hole on the left side for an 8-0 advantage.
Yard then polished off the shutout with a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out two of the final three batters he faced.
"That's definitely the best game I've seen (Yard) pitch,'' Wondrack said. "I told him before, 'Don't worry about anything. Just make sure you're pounding the zone, throwing to a spot, and you'll be fine.' He hasn't really been a big strikeout pitcher this year, but when he needs one in a big spot, he'll get it. His curveball is definitely his out pitch. He can throw it in the dirt, he can throw it for a strike, and he just felt confident throwing it today."
Yard's complete game was also crucial because Wall needed him to eat innings with a huge week coming up. The Crimson Knights host Allentown in a Central Jersey Group III first-round game on Monday, then play Christian Brothers Academy in the Monmouth County Tournament championship game at FirstEnergy Park on Tuesday night, followed by the SCT quarterfinals against Jackson Memorial on Wednesday. Wall was originally supposed to play the MCT final on Friday, but it got moved because Wall had a prom on Friday night, so now it will run the gauntlet of three elimination games in three days.
"We've definitely got a lot of pitchers, and we've been working hard on building up everyone's endurance since early in the season,'' Yard said. "Now that I pitched a complete game today, we'll have everyone else ready for the states."
"We have a big week next week,'' Wondrack said. "Hopefully we can win all of our games, and pitching is everything at this point of the season. It's great (to have three tournament games). We get to keep playing baseball every day."
Wall 8, St. John Vianney 0
SJV (12-7) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 5 6
Wall (20-5) 2 0 4 0 0 2 x - 8 6 1
Doubles: (W) Wondrack; (S) Bellone. WP: Matt Yard (5-1). LP: Raia (3-2).