Westwood wins a wild one over Ramapo

Sophmore Joe Cerritelli's first varsity home run, a three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth, was the big blow in Westwood's 9-8 win over Ramapo on Thursday.

WASHINGTON TWP. – By the numbers, opposing teams need to score at least eight runs to be in the game against Westwood. The Cardinals, winners of 11 of their first 12 games this season, have scored at least that many in every game they have played. Ramapo had exactly that tally when it came up for its final turn at bat in a slugfest between two of Bergen County’s top public school programs.

In a game where there were 11 unearned runs combined, it was the Westwood defense in the final half-inning that ultimately made the difference starting with a risky decision taken by leftfielder Sam Arcieri. When Charlie Wingfield whistled a line drive down the left field line, baseball orthodoxy would be to concede the base hit, try to cut the ball off and then try to keep the tying run off second base with a strong throw in.

The other choice was to make a do-or-die dive to the line that, if unsuccessful, would have put the tying run 180 or 90 feet away from the plate with no outs and the No. 4 and 5 hitters coming up.

Arcieri chose option No. 2.

“I trust myself. I thought I could get to that ball and I went to get it,” said Arcieri. “Off the bat I was like, ‘Oh, this is double down the line.’ I took three hard steps after it and I was like, ‘I am going after this.’ I laid out, [the ball] found the web and it was a huge play.”

After a more conventional flyball to centerfield for the second out, Westwood came up with one more defensive sparkler as shortstop Jack Welsh went to his backhand to grab a hard hit groundball and threw over to first base where Michael Carcich picked it out of the dirt for the final out in a 9-8 Westwood victory that pushed the Cardinals’ record to 12-1 on the season.

Ramapo senior Payne Teel was 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.

The big blow offensively came off the bat of sophomore Joe Ceritelli, Westwood’s No. 8 hitter who started at shortstop with Welsh on the mound, hit a two-out, three-run homer just to leftfield side of straight away centerfield right after a Ramapo error kept the inning going.

“[Ceritelli] has been battling, he’s been making adjustments and we have been working daily with him to get him to where he could be,” said Westwood head coach Nick Urbanovich. “He ran into a ball at the right time.”

That bomb, the first of Ceritelli’s varsity career, capped a four-run frame for that took the Cardinals from down a run to a 9-6 lead. All but one of those runs scored against Ramapo starter Charlie Wingfield (4 2/3 IP. 9 R, ER, 7 H, 7 K, 2 BB, 90 pitches) were unearned as the Raiders made four errors in the game and maybe more depending on how strict the official scorer.

The 17 combined runs were a bit unexpected given the pitching matchup, but the combination of funky hops on the infield grass and rock-hard base paths made every ground ball an adventure. Ramapo got right to work in the top of the first inning with Payne Teel’s one-out single leading to a stolen base and a passed ball that moved him to third before scoring on Wingfield’s RBI groundout.

Wingfield struck out two in the bottom of the first and the side in the second, but Westwood still found a way to get even. Walsh’s leadoff single and stolen base meant he was in scoring position when Andrew Dillingham’s bouncer found its way through a defender. Walsh scored to the game at 1.

Westwood's Sam Arcieri made this routine catch and then a crazy diving one for the first out of the top of the seventh inning.

Westwood’s only earned run came in the bottom of the third with No. 9 hitter Mardi Ekmekjian drew a leadoff, four-pitch walk. He came around to score on a Carcich (1-for-4, RBI, R) single and the Cards scored three more times, all unearned in the frame to take a 5-1 lead.

Ramapo used its power to jump right back into the game with Teel (3-for-4, HR, RBI, 2R, SB) and Wingfield (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) went back-to-back on nearly identical shots over the left field fence. After Brendan McHugh (1-for-4, R, SB) singled and stole second, Aidan Hayward hit one out to left center for a two-run homer. Ty Barber’s sacrifice fly that scored Owen Wilson finished off the five-run outburst and put the Raiders in front 6-5.

After Ceritelli gave Westwood the lead back in the bottom of the frame Westwood turned to the bullpen. First up was senior Jake Bazaz (1 1/3 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 2H, 0 K, 0BB, W), who deserved better than being tagged with two unearned runs and then it was Andrew Dillingham, who was brought on with a one-run lead, two outs and one out in the sixth.

Dillingham retired all four hitters he faced, including the defensive gems in the seventh, to close out the game.

“We are a team that fights. Anybody who has played us knows that we are going to stay in it all seven innings. At the end it comes down to the little things and the plays that we make. That play in leftfield by Sam Arcieri, I have never seen anyone dive for a ball like that and make the catch and then Mike Carcich’s scoop; those are winning plays,” Dillingham, a strike-throwing right-hander. “We want nothing less than a state championship. I think we have the caliber of team for it, everyone works hard and we go hard every day whether it is a game or practice.”

Ramapo fell to 9-4 with the loss and still involved for a good seed in the upcoming Bergen County Tournament and its respective state sectional tournament. Westwood is in the same boat and a top 3 or 4 seed in the county is an attainable goal. The Cardinals play Rutherford on Saturday and then back-to-back against Indian Hills early next week heading into the county cutoff.

“When I first got here it was like, just get in the tournament,” said Urbanovich, who is in his sixth season as the Cardinals’ head coach. “Now it’s about taking the next step as a program.”