Saturday, April 29, 2017
By Cory K. Doviak
NJS.com Editorial Director
In just his second start of the season, senior Peter Gostkowski had two hits and scored three times for Ramapo, which got back to .500 for the season with an 11-7 win in Old Tappan on Friday.
OLD TAPPAN – Ramapo harbors of hopes of playing its way into the Bergen County Tournament and it is trying to make up ground in a hurry. Facing a stretch of three games in three days against quality competition, the Green Raiders had a chance to make some real headway and, two-thirds of the way through, so far so good. A David Byrnes three-run homer on Thursday was the deciding swing in a win over Northern Highlands on Thursday and the offense came through again on Friday as Ramapo banged out 13 hits in an 11-7 win on the road at Northern Valley/Old Tappan that got the Raider back to .500 on the season at 6-6.
So, what’s next?
“We have a game in Union City in a couple of hours,” said Ramapo head coach Mickey Hunt, speaking after Friday’s win that took more than three hours to complete and before he got on the bus for the long ride home to Franklin Lakes. “The kids know that we have dug ourselves a hole and that we have to play every game with some urgency from here on out. We are a young team and it is all about focus at this point. We have to get whatever rest as we can and get right back on the bus tomorrow morning.”
Ramapo’s uneven start was to be expected as it has a sophomore-heavy lineup that is learning on the job. But against Old Tappan, a team that has been on a roll as of late, it was a couple of seniors hitting near the bottom of the lineup and Byrnes, the sophomore batting ninth, that helped the Raiders get in front and then stay there. The 7, 8 and 9 spots in the order combined to go 4-for-8 with 8 runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base.
Deenae Sujak had three hits and scored twice for Old Tappan.
“I have been sitting on the bench a lot, but that just shows how deep of a team we are. We have 18 guys and any of us could go out there and have a good day like I did today,” said Gostkowski, who was making just his second start of the season, went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, a stole and started a sixth inning rally that led to three important insurance runs. “I was a little nervous because I haven’t really had too many at bats this year, but getting a hit my first time up helped calm me down.”
Both Ramapo and Old Tappan have solid tops to their pitching rotations. The Raiders have AJ Ferrara and KC Hunt at the top of theirs and Old Tappan has seniors James Steindl, who has yet to lose this season, and Jack Bilali, who threw a no-hitter on Thursday in a dominant performance against rival Demarest. None of those pitchers were on the hill on Friday, so playing clean in the field and cashing in chances with runners in scoring position were going to be key factors.
Ramapo left two runners on base in the first inning but did not let the same opportunity slip by in the second. With one out Michael Frank, Gostkowski and Byrnes all singled with Byrnes’ shot down the right field line plating Frank with the game’s first run and KC Hunt then plated Gostkowski with a two-out infield single that made it 2-0. And then something that you don’t see every day, a bases clearing fielder’s choice, allowed Ramapo to nearly break the game open in the top of the third.
After four straight two-out walks that put Ramapo up 4-0 with the bases still loaded, David Ring hit a two-hopper to the shortstop and the race was on. It was Byrnes, running on contact from first with two outs, against Old Tappan’s Alex Clyde in the spring to second base and Byrnes won it to keep the inning alive. The Raiders got a bonus when a rushed throw to first crossed into deadball territory and all three runners that were on base before Ring’s groundball was hit came around to score as Ramapo took a 6-0 lead.
Sophomore KC Hunt had three hits and four RBI for Ramapo,
Ramapo starter Evan Mooney made it through the Old Tappan lineup unscathed the first time around, but the Golden Knights got on the board in the top of the third with the top of its order doing the damage. Leadoff hitter Deenae Sujak and Alex Clyde, who combined to go 6-for-8 with 5 runs scored, and RBI and 2 stolen bases, strung back-to-back singles together before Steindl singled in OT’s first run and Erik Slater added a two-out knock to get the home team back to within 6-2.
Old Tappan scored two more in the fourth to draw to closer still, but Hunt’s two-run single in the top of the fifth put Ramapo back up by four runs at 8-4 and Gostkowski started a rally in the top of the sixth with a bases empty, two-out single. Byrnes walked, Ring delivered a two run single and Hunt picked up his third hit and fourth RBI with another single to make it 11-4.
Old Tappan (9-5) got three runs back in the bottom of the sixth, but just couldn’t string together enough scoreless frames to give its multiple comeback attempts enough time to stick.
“It comes down to pitching. With our hitting we were right there, but we scored seven runs and we still lost. Pitching was the difference and we could have really used a ‘W’ here because [Saturday against DePaul] is our 15th game and that is state [tournament] cutoff,” said Old Tappan head coach Tim Byron. “If we could have got a win here and against DePaul, that would have put is right in line for a No. 2 or 3 seed. Now I am not sure.”
Alex Clyde had three hits and scored three times for Old Tappan, which fell to 9-5 on the season.
Old Tappan need four pitchers to get through the seven innings while Mooney battled through 3 2/3 innings pitched to pick up the win for Ramapo. Senior Kiran Incantalupo went the final 3 1/3 to notch the save, but the real numbers were on the offensive side.Sujak (3-for-4, 2 R, SB), Clyde (3-for-4, 3 R, RBI, SB) and Steindl (2-for-3, RBI) all had big days as the plate as the top three hitters in the Old Tappan lineup, while Slater (1-for-4, RBI), Aidan Bilali (1-for-4, R) and Matt Carney (1-for-2, RBI, SB) had the other hits for the Knights, who fell to 9-5 on the season.
Ring (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, SB), Hunt (3-for-5, 4 RBI), AJ Winfield (2-for-5, SB) and Gostkowski (2-for-3, 3 R, SB) all had multi-hit games for Ramapo. Ferrara, John Whooley and Frank all had hits as did Byrnes (1-for-1, RBI, 3 R, SB, 3 BB), who reached base in all four of his plate appearances and is had quite a two-day stretch for the Green Raiders starting with Thursday’s dinger against Highlands.
“I am just glad that I could pick us up these last two games because I know everybody else will take their turn in games the rest of the way,” said Byrnes, the Raiders’ starting centerfielder. “We have played good teams the last two games and we have played a bunch of good teams all year and we feel like now we can play with anybody. We have to do our job at the bottom of the order because we know that the top of our order is going to rake. When we hit up and down the lineup we score a lot of runs and that is a good way to win some games.”