HAMILTON >> The weight of facing seven straight elimination games finally proved to be too much for the Hamilton Babe Ruth 14-year-old All-Stars.
And while Mike Baginski and Garrett Musey are much too big to be considered straws, they certainly are what broke the proverbial camel’s back.
Baginski fired a four-hitter and Musey collected a home run, single and three RBI in leading Millville to a 5-1 victory over Hamilton in the Southern New Jersey State Tournament championship game at Switlik Park Friday night. Millville advances to next week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament at Atlantic Shore, which is nearly in its backyard.
It was a disappointing end for Hamilton, but hardly a disappointing tournament.Advertisement
After going a mundane 2-2 in the District One Tournament, the host team for states dropped its opener to Atlantic Shore, leaving it one loss shy of finishing the summer early. Instead, Hamilton won six straight elimination games, including a 2-1 win over Millville earlier Friday evening, to force the winner-take-all final.
“I can’t explain it,” manager Joe Beczo said. “They’re kids, sometimes something happens and it turns things around. I couldn’t be more prouder of these guys.”
After Justin Wiltsey celebrated his 14th birthday by throwing a complete-game four-hitter in the opener, he felt the championship was there for the taking.
“I thought we were going to come out and hit,” Wiltsey said. “But after Musey got that dinger (in the second), I wasn’t sure about it. Their pitcher was a good pitcher. Sometimes pitchers get to you, toward the end especially.”
Which is exactly what happened with Baginski who allowed four hits and a walk in the first three innings before retiring 12 of the final 14 batters he faced. One reached on an error, the other on a walk.
“He started pumping some ched (cheese) at the end, and that’s what put us down a little bit,” Wiltsey said. “We weren’t getting any hits.”
Baginski credited his catcher for his revival.
“Nate (Goranson) came up to me and told me to calm down,” the hurler said. “I calmed down and started throwing strikes. I felt in a good groove.
“I felt more pressure, a lot more pressure, after we lost the first game. I just took my time around the mound. I would breathe, take timeout and focus.”
Hamilton took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the top of the second. Ryan Beczo reached second on a throwing error, took third on Wiltsey’s single and scored on Jason Diaz’s infield single.
But in the bottom of the frame, Baginski walked and scored when Musey — who hit a few bombs in the tournament — blasted one deep over the Green Monster in left. Jared Werts and Beczo held Millville off the board until the sixth, when the gang from Cumberland County’s “Holly City” tacked on three runs to put it away.
In the opener, Wiltsey escaped several tense late-inning situations to clinch the victory.
In the sixth, he hit Goranson with one out and then threw an errant pick-off throw that put the runner on third. Rather than wilt, Wiltsey got a strikeout and then got Musey on a ground-out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Wiltsey got the first two outs before allowing an infield single and a walk. With pinch-hitter Connor Forand the plate, a 2-2 pitch squirted a few feet away from catcher Zach Posivak. Yonzella Rivera tried advancing to third, but Posivak retrieved it quickly and gunned to Logan Barber, who made the tag to end it.
Hamilton got all it needed in the top of the fourth. Ryan Beczo, after working an 0-2 count to 3-2 and then fouling off a pitch, delivered a one-out single. Werts singled to right to put runners at the corners, and Wiltsey blooped a single into right to plate Beczo. Keifer Goss, who made a big defensive play later in the game, roped a single to right to score Werts and make it 2-0.
Barber nearly expanded the lead before centerfielder John Veney made a nice catch to rob him. Millville got one back in the bottom of the inning on Jake Merritt’s RBI single but stranded two runners.
From there, it was up Wiltsey to close it down, and he survived despite allowing three walks and hitting a batter.
“He came out strong,” Joe Beczo said. “He pitched the first game against Atlantic Shore and unfortunately we got beat that game. We had to go five games after that and win them all, and then he came back strong tonight. I didn’t even know it was his birthday, but it was a good present.”
Both games were well played, which was the story of the tournament as numerous Babe Ruth officials commented on the outstanding quality of play from start to finish.
Follow Rich Fisher on twitter @fish4scores
This news has been published by title BABE RUTH BASEBALL: Hamilton 14a Fall One Win Short Of Miracle Rally
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