Hackensack hacks it up in county tournament opener

Hackensack leadoff hitter Christian Pelaez was a perfect 5-for-5 with 4 RBI, 5 runs scored and a stolen base as the Comets advanced to the Bergen County Tournament Eound of 16 with a 22-0 win over Garfield on Saturday.

HACKENSACK – Senior Night was a dud. The day after for the Hackensack baseball program was a completely different story. About 15 hours or so after being 10-runned by Indian Hills under the lights at Foschini Park, the Comets did a complete 180 when the Bergen County Tournament began in the same spot on Saturday afternoon.

After senior ace Alex Bulger worked a 1-2-3 top of the first inning against 24th-seeded Garfield, Hackensack proceeded to send 15 hitters to the plate and score nine times to break the game open just a couple of minutes after it began. Hackensack batted around in three of the four innings that it came to bat, pounded out 18 hits and rolled to a complete 22-0 victory that sends the Comets into the Round of 16 for the second straight year.

“The first thing we said today was ‘New day, regroup.’ We did not want the other team to hang around and we wanted to come out and do our job,” said Hackensack head coach Frank DiLorenzo. “Getting a 1-2-3 first and then 9 [runs] in the bottom of the first; that was what I was most proud about. We didn’t let last night linger. We just came out and got the job done and that was impressive.”

Hackensack has been on a steady upward trajectory. There was a 13-year drought between its last county tournament win and last season’s first round victory. The eighth-seeded Comets have now reached the Round of 16 for the second straight year and will visit No. 8 Emerson on the road on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a rematch of a regular season game won by Emerson and, looking back at it now, was the one that determined home field for the upcoming round.

“We are a team that always comes back. We lost the first two games of the year and we came right back and won seven in a row. We lost last night, we came back today and took BP and forgot all about it,” said Christian Pelaez, Hackensack’s junior shortstop and leadoff hitter who was the offensive catalyst on Saturday. “I am just honored to be on this team and be a part of it. Hackensack wasn’t known for winning for a long time, but it has changed around here. We have a lot of great players and we want to keep going.”

Dalton Falone had a hit for Garfield, which fell to 10-7 on the season.

Pelaez (5-for-5, 5 R, 4 RBI, SB) was Hackensack’s first hitter of the game and he set the tone with the perfect bunt base hit up the third baseline. The Comets went on to send 15 hitters to the plate in the opening inning, had six hits and drew four walks and, by the time it was all over, had a 9-0 lead.

That was enough by multiples for Alex Bulger, Hackensack’s senior ace who rang up five strikeouts in the first 2 2/3 innings. Bulger threw just 40 pitches and was removed after taken a line drive to the chest with two outs in the top half of the third. The Comets had a 12-0 lead when he found himself in the way of Frandy Polanco’s screamer back through the box so there was no reason to take a chance.

Bulger (2 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K, 2 BB, W) has already asked for the ball for Wednesday’s Round of 16 game and, although there was no official confirmation, it certainly did seem like his wish would be granted.

“I wanted to show up for my team, to go out there and put us in a position to win. It was a little weird [having a 9-0 lead after the first inning] because I am always out there competing and trying to keep us close, so it was nice just to go out there and throw strikes after my teammates put me out to a good lead,” said Bulger, a right-hander who will play at University of Bridgeport next season. “This feels great. Freshman year we were 4-20 and every year we have been building up. It’s been great to be a part of it; going out and competing with the top teams in the county year after year.”

Joe Farrington had 5 RBI for 9th-seeded Hackensack, which will visit No. 8 Emerson in the next round on Wednesday..

Hackensack’s upgrade in talent was evident up and down the lineup as Pelaez, Bulger (3-for-3, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2B), Joe Farrington (2-for-2, 5 RBI, 2 R, 2B, 2 BB), Gabe Ramirez (2-for-3, RBI, 2 R) and David Nunez (2-for-3, 3 R) all had multi-hit games. Leo Spitaleri (0-1, 2 BB, HBP) reached safely in 3 of his 4 plate appearances and Jordan Garcia had a hit, drove in a run and scored another, while Thomas Ghostlaw (1-for-3, RBI) and Thomas Ingallinera (0-2, 2 R, BB) among others also contributed to the barrage. In all, Hackensack sent 15 hitters to the plate in the first, 8 in the second and 10 in the third and fourth.

Garfield might have been a bit ahead of schedule in even qualifying for the county tournament his season. The Boilermakers, who have a brand new turf home field and a 10-7 record, are also on an upward trajectory under head coach Pete Santacroce. Polanco and Dalton Falone had the hits for Garfield.

The future is now for Hackensack, which is going for it.

“We are starting to build momentum. Getting the 9 seed and getting a win were good steps, but we want to be in there. We are hungry,” said DiLorenzo. “We want that rematch [with Emerson]. We are not satisfied with just today.”