Baseball – Wetzel Delivers Again to Lift Wall Into SCT Semis
WALL TWP. - Three times in the last four games, the Wall baseball team has been desperate for a big hit and by conventional baseball wisdom, they the Crimson Knights have gotten it from perhaps the most unexpected spot in the order.
Ask any of the Wall players however, and there is no surprise who keeps coming up clutch during the mounting postseason run.
For the fourth straight game, junior right fielder and No. 9 hitter Doug Wetzel came up with a huge run-scoring hit, this time crushing a go-ahead two-run double Saturday in the bottom of the sixth to help Wall - the No. 2 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - rally past No. 10 Freehold Township, 7-4, to reach the SCT semifinals.
"It feels good to be able to help my team in game like this," Wetzel said. "We have a very good lineup from top-to-bottom with a lot of guys who can hit. We don't really look at it like guys are hitting first or third or eighth or ninth - we just have a lineup of good hitters."
In a tournament that saw three of the four teams that earned a first-round bye lose their first game, Wall was facing a loss in its second SCT game in the bottom of the sixth after Freehold Township rallied with three in the fourth and one in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.
Wetzel came up with the bases loaded and none out and worked the count in his favor, 2-1, against Freehold Township starter Ryan Ford. On the next pitch, Wetzel unloaded on a fastball from Ford, launching it to the warning track in left field to plate the tying and go-ahead runs to put the Crimson Knights in front, 5-4.
In Wall's last four games - NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III wins over Lawrence and Steinert and SCT wins over Howell and Freehold Township - Wetzel has driven in six runs. He drove in the only run in the 1-0 win over Lawrence and did the same with a walk-off single in a 1-0 win over Steinert. He added a two-run single in the 7-1 win over Howell in the round of 16 on Monday.
Wetzel also singled in his first at-bat and finished 2-for-3.
"I like hitting in the nine-spot because I think I'm a good fastball hitter and you see a lot of fastballs hitting at the bottom of the order," Wetzel said.
One batter after Wetzel's go-ahead double and after a Freehold Township pitching change, junior second baseman John Volpe laced a doubled to the right-center field gap for Wall's second consecutive two-run double, which made the score, 7-4.
After falling behind in the top of the sixth, Wall started its winning rally with some good fortune. Junior Tanner Powers ripped a line drive to the gap in left-center and Freehold Township center fielder Chris Goodman appeared to secure the catch for the first out, but upon transferring the ball from his glove to his hand, he dropped it to the ground. The Patriots dugout contended it was a catch and a drop on the transfer but the home plate umpire ruled Goodman did not hold the ball long enough to constitute a catch.
After Powers reached base, senior catcher David Howarth ripped a shot up the middle that Freehold Township shortstop Brandon Smith dove to get his glove on but could not control it. Senior Mike Vita came up as a pinch-hitter and dropped a well-placed bunt down the third base line to load the bases with none out and set the stage for Wetzel and Volpe.
Wall jumped out to a 3-0 lead on sacrifice flies by sophomore center fielder Teddy Sharkey and Howarth that book-ended another run by on a wild pitch. Freehold Township responded in the top of the fourth on a two-out, three-run triple by third baseman Ryan Kurczeski - who also came through out of the No. 9 spot for Freehold Township.
Goodman gave Freehold Township the lead with a two-out RBI single to right that chased home Kevin Goodman from second.
Ryan Napolitano lasted six innings to earn the win and improve to 7-0, which answered the question of who will start Wall's Central Jersey Group III semifinal game against Hopewell Valley on Tuesday. Both Napolitano and junior left-hander Trey Dombroski were on track to be eligible for the game and by going with Napolitano on Saturday after pitching junior right-hander Grant Shulman on Friday, Wall coach Todd Schmitt has set up of Dombroski and his 0.61 ERA in 57 1/3 innings to throw Tuesday in the sectional semifinals rather than save him for the final.
On the other hand, if Dombroski can stay under 91 pitches - which he has done in seven of his eight starts this season - on Tuesday, he will be eligible to pitch again in a potential section final on Friday.
Win or lose on Tuesday, Wall will play No. 11 seed Central Regional on Wednesday in the SCT semifinals at Count Basie Park in Red Bank.
Wall 7, Freehold Twp. 4
|Freehold Twp (14-11)||0||0||0||3||0||1||0||4||5||1|
|Ryan Ford (L, 4-3)||5||7||7||6||4||2||72|
|Ryan Napolitano (W, 7-0)||6||5||4||4||4||4||98|
|Jason Horowitz (S, 2)||1||0||0||0||0||0||11|
|Ryan Kurczeski||1-2, 3B, 3 RBI|
|Chris Goodman||1-4, RBI, SB|
|Nick Lodispoto||1-3, R|
|Brandon Smith||1-4, R|
|Kevin Goodman||0-1, 2 BB, 2 R|
|Doug Wetzel||2-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI|
|John Volpe||1-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI, SB|
|Grant Shulman||2-4, R|
|Tanner Powers||1-2, R|
|David Howarth||1-2, RBI|