Baseball – Dombroski, Iradi Lead Wall to the Group 3 Final
EAST BRUNSWICK - For most of his brilliant high school career, Trey Dombroski has been a one-man wrecking crew on the mound for the Wall High School baseball team but following his 25th career win and 10th win in 2019 Monday at East Brunswick Tech High School, the senior left-hander sung the praises of a Wall lineup that operates as a team, "one-through-nine."
In the case of Monday's 4-3 win over Cherry Hill West in the Group III final, the game centered around both No. 1 and No. 9.
Dombroski worked around a career-high nine hits and a season-high two earned-runs allowed and right fielder John Iradi - the No. 9 position on the scorecard - hit a three-run home run out of the No. 9 spot in the order to propel the Crimson Knights past scrappy Cherry Hill West and into the Group III final for the first time since 2008.
"I know that the guys behind me are giving it their all," Dombroski said. "I'm not nervous at all, I am going out every inning and I'm just giving it my all because I want to end with a state championship."
Iradi staked Dombroski to a 4-0 lead with a three-run home run in the second inning and Dombroski did just enough to protect it in winning his 10th game of the season and 25th for his career - building on a new school record he set in his previous start against Hamilton West on Tuesday.
"He is in the dugout and he is loose as can be," Wall coach Todd Schmitt said of Dombroski. "I asked him if he was good for this inning and he said, 'Yeah, I'm ready coach.' I felt very confident that we were going to get this done with him out there."
With Wall (26-4) already up 1-0 and a pitching on the mound who had allowed two earned runs all season entering the game, senior second baseman Dylan Richey extended the bottom of the second by beating out an infield single to the left side to give Iradi a chance with men on first and second. On the first pitch, the senior right fielder launched a high fly ball that carried well over the left-field fence to extend Wall's lead to 4-0.
"I was looking for a first-pitch fastball," Iradi said. "I got it right where I wanted it and I put my best swing on it and it went out. I knew I hit high enough but I wasn't sure with the wind if it was going to go out, but it did."
The home run was the fourth of the season for Iradi, who earned time as a starter at the end of last season but did not open the season as the starter in right.
"He struggled early on in the year," Schmitt said of Iradi. "We had to make some changes in the outfield and he came in and he has hit some homers for us. I called it when he walked up there. I said, 'This is his kind of pitcher - if he gets a fastball down at the bottom of the order, man...' And he turned on it. Good for him. He's a good kid and he's really come alive as the season has progressed."
Iradi got his bat going with three home runs in the final week before the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff, including a pair in a win against Central Jersey Group IV runner-up Old Bridge.
"Hitting in the nine spot, most teams are just throwing fastball, fastball, fastball," Iradi said. "Some figure it out but I usual get good pitches to hit down there."
The Crimson Knights jumped out to a 1-0 lead an inning earlier when junior center fielder Teddy Sharkey doubled to the left-center gap with one out, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single through the right side by senior third baseman Grant Shulman.
With only two earned runs allowed all year heading into the game, Dombroski held a 4-0 lead that seemed insurmountable for Cherry Hill West (25-4), but the Lions chipped away at the deficit by tagging Dombroski for a career-high nine hits.
"That's the toughest lineup we have seen all year," Schmitt said. "A couple balls were hit hard and there were some dinks in there, which is all part of baseball. Even though we were kind of catastrophic throwing the ball around a little bit, we started to settle in."
Dombroski pitched out of trouble in the first inning, when Tyler Kubrak led off with a double down the left field line and shortstop Danny Berckman followed with a one-out single to center. Kubrak had to hold on the line drive and that gave Dombroski a chance to induce a pop up and get a strikeout to escape trouble.
The Wall ace could not keep the Lions off the board in the fourth. Left fielder Ryan West blooped a single to lead it off and catcher Nick Sylvester smacked a single to left to start the trouble.
Wall catcher Dave Howarth bailed his pitcher out by picking off West at second base after a missed bunt attempt for the first out. Cherry Hill West responded with a hit-and-run, which Jared Hernandez grounded slowly to a vacated hole on the right side. Richey hustled to field the ball and caught courtesy runner Zach Bruno straying off second base, but Richey's throw behind the runner was wild. The throwing error allowed Bruno to score and Hernandez to move in to second.
A balk by Dombroski advanced Hernandez to third and first baseman John Gray dropped a shallow fly ball just inside the right-field line for an RBI single, cutting Wall's lead to 4-2. Dombroski ended the inning with a strikeout and a ground out.
"One-through-nine, everybody can hit," Dombroski said, echoing the praise for his team when talking about his opponent Monday. "Every I was throwing at them, they were getting a piece of it and it was just a mental thing. I just had to say, 'You know what? You are not going to beat me right now.'"
After cruising through the fifth on six pitches, Dombroski hit rough waters again in the sixth. After a sliding catch by right fielder Alfredo DiPaola - who replaced Iradi at the start of the inning - kept the leadoff man off base, Sylvester and Hernandez delivered back-to-back singles, with Bruno taking third on Hernandez's single and Hernandez going to second on the throw.
Gray again lifted a fly ball to right, but DiPaola tracked this one down along the right-field line for the second out. Bruno tagged up and scored Cherry Hill West's third run and the Lions almost got a fourth when DiPaola's throw home sailed over everyone. The ball, however, hit the brick dugout and bounced back toward the pitcher's mound.
Dombroski picked up a strikeout to end the sixth and returned to the mound in the seventh on a mission. He struck out the first two batters on three pitches each and coaxed center fielder Scott Shaw into a game-ending fly out.
"He gets to a point where he says, 'Okay, I've got to stop messing around and put this away,'" Schmitt said. "He seems to be able to do that at will during the game and that's why he is what he is."
"Sometimes that's just how it works," Dombroski said. "Sometimes you get better as the game goes on, other times you get tired. I just got better as the game was going on today and in the seventh inning I was feeling great. I was feeling better in the seventh inning than I was in the first."
Although it was his least dominant start of his senior season, Dombroski still managed to avoid issuing a walk and only two of the three runs he allowed were earned. His season total for walks allowed remains a mere five, including just two since opening day. Of the 93 pitches Dombroski threw on Monday, 74 were for strikes, including 26 of 28 over the final three innings.
Dombroski will have one more opportunity to leave his mark on this season when he takes the ball Saturday against West Morris in the Group III at Veterans Park in Hamilton Township. While a fitting end to Dombroski's career and senior season would be a shutout with no walks, his perfect ending is a bit simpler: bring home Wall's first state title since 2004.
"We haven't had many opportunities to win a championship but we're getting them now," Dombroski said. "We're just going to take a step back, enjoy these last few days together at practice and once Saturday rolls around, everybody is locked in."
Wall 4, Cherry Hill West 3
|CH West (25-4)||0||0||0||2||0||1||0||3||9||0|
|Cherry Hill West||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO||PC|
|Brian Robertson (L, 5-2)||6||6||4||4||0||3||77|
|Trey Dombroski (W, 10-1)||7||9||3||2||0||7||93|
|Cherry Hill West||Stats|
|Tyler Kubrak||2-4, 2 2B|
|Jared Hernandez||2-3, 2 R|
|John Gray||1-2, 2 RBI|
|John Iradi||1-2, HR, R, 3 RBI|
|Grant Shulman||2-3, RBI|
|Teddy Sharkey||1-3, 2B, R|
|Dylan Richey||1-2, R|