In a crowded field, Ramapo reaches quarterfinals

Junior Charlie Wingfield had three doubles, 5 RBI and pikced up the win on the mound for Ramapo, which advanced to the quarterfinals of the Bergen County Tournament with a 9-7 win at Ramsey.

RAMSEY -- It’s a testament to the overall strength of Bergen County baseball when the No. 7 vs. No. 10 matchup in the county tournament’s Round of 16 is between two programs like Ramsey and Ramapo. If either, or both if the seeds were different, went on to make it to Northern Valley/Demarest for the semifinals or championship game it would have come to the surprise of no one, but there is no ducking quality completion on the run-in.

“It was a tough draw, but I was not going to complain. You have to beat whoever you have to beat to win the whole thing anyway. You beat a good team and when you get through that you have to go beat another good team,” said Ramapo co-head coach Garrison Ward. “Bergen County is absolutely stocked and the Bergen County Tournament is not an easy place to win a game.”

It definitely was not easy as Ramsey brought the tying run to the plate with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Ramapo reliever Carson DeMarco got two fly ball outs to close a 9-7 victory that moves the Green Raiders into the quarterfinals where they will take on league rival and second-seeded Ridgewood, a 12-5 winner over Midland Park, on Saturday at the Wood-Ridge Athletic Complex.

“[Starting pitcher] Charlie [Wingfield] worked his [butt] off out there to get the ball to me and I just wanted to go out there and do a job. I loved it, I loved being out there,” said DeMarco, a senior right-hander. “The stakes were higher, but I just wanted to get out there and enjoy it all.”

Other than the partisans who would have showed up to support their teams regardless, others came to see what might have been a classic pitching matchup between Wingfield, the junior right-hander and Wake Forest football commit and Will Kirk, Ramsey’s senior left-hander who has committed to the University of Virginia. Kirk is one of, if not the, best pitching prospects in New Jersey who will undoubtedly be chosen in the MLB draft, but he started in right field.

Luke Monico hit two home runs and drove in 3 for Ramsey.

Instead it was Anthony Irving that got the start for the Rams and he retired the first five batters he faced, but when Ramapo got its first baserunner, it cashed it in. Ty Barber drew a two-out walk in the top of the second, Danny Poppe (2-for-4, R, SB) kept the line moving and Owen Wilson (1-for-3, RBI) went back through the box to put the Raiders in front.

Meanwhile, Winfield was dealing, He faced just two batters over the minimum through the first five innings, giving up just two hits without walking a batter in that span. The two hits were nearly identical solo home runs to left field by Luke Monico, Ramsey’s clean-up hitter and shortstop, who led off the second and tied the game with his first blast and hit a two-out jack in the fourth.

Ramapo had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the third when the top its lineup -- Brody Barber, Payne Teel and Wingfield – strung together three straight hits with the last being a two-run double by Wingfield, who had a big day at the plate.

Wingfield went 3-for-4 with 3 doubles, 5 RBI and a run scored. He doubled in a run in the fifth inning two batters before Aidan Hayward hit a two-run blast that put Ramapo ahead comfortably, 6-2. The lead swelled to 9-2 in the top of the sixth with a two-out Brody Barber RBI single and Wingfield’s third double, which drove in two more.

“Charlie has taken a huge step in finally figuring out how talented he is. For the longest time he was ‘Little Charlie,’ the younger brother of Matt and AJ. But now he has finally taken that step where he says, ‘Shoot, I am pretty good at this,” said Ward. “He is excelling and he has taken his game to another level.”

Teel (2-for-3, 3 R, 2 SB, BB), Ramapo’s senior shortstop, was right in the middle of everything offensively as he got on base in front of Wingfield in three straight at bats and scored on Wingfield doubles all three times.

Aidan Hayward hit a home run for Ramapo, which will play league rival Ridgewood in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

“It was a great experience. We were at Ramsey, they had their home crowd as usual and it was a great atmosphere to play in,” said Teel. “We came out here and played our game, we played great defense and we got the sticks going. We kept the pressure on them.”

Ramapo’s defense was airtight through the first five innings and it looked like the Raiders were going to coast in the quarterfinals, but two miscues against the first two Ramsey batters in the sixth turned into infield singles and the comeback was on.

Christian Badenhausen (2-for-4, R) was the first Ram to get the ball out of the infield in the frame and his single to center loaded the bases with no outs. Kirk (1-for-4, 2B, 2RBI), in his role as Ramsey’s No. 3 hitter, then hit an opposite field line drive that became a two-run double when it was lost in the sun getting lower in the sky behind the first baseline, which made left field a dangerous place to try to shag flyballs. Monico (3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) then stayed hot with an RBI single. Aidan McNally’s RBI groundout with two outs in the frame got Ramsey all the way back to within 9-6.

Ramsey reliever Hudson Ferrando worked around a one-out walk in the top of the seventh to get Ramsey right back in to hit and Alex DeSimone’s lead off, pinch hit homer drew the Rams closer and got them into the Ramapo bullpen.

Enter DeMarco, who faced four batters, gave up one single and put defensive replacement Connor Pane to the test in sun-drenched left field. Pane caught a flyball for the first out of the inning and somehow plucked a line drive out of the glare for the final out of the game.

So it is on to the quarterfinals where the matchup against Ridgewood will be the rubber match as the two teams have split the season series.

“It’s good to be back. You want to be there with a chance to make it to that semifinal and make it to Demarest. What better experience could there be?” said Ward. “Bergen County has some really good tournaments, the Jamboree at the Rothman Center and you think about the baseball semifinals and finals at Demarest. It’s what you shoot for and we still have a chance to make it there.”