Dasti has a day as Dayton knocks out Wood-Ridge

Junior Frank Dasti (right) passed the 100 hit career milestone and threw a second straight state tournament complete game in Dayton's 5-3 win over Wood-Ridge in the North 2, Group 1 quarterfinals.

WOOD-RIDGE – Frank Dasti was efficient and in control on the mound, Wood-Ridge could not get him out at the plate, he reached a career milestone and he also had a perfect sense of timing. It was a good day for the Dayton Regional junior, who had just enough room to finish what he started.

The high school pitch limit for a starter on full rest is 110 pitches and Dasti’s 110th pitch was the last one of the game, a tightly-spun curveball that induced one final swing and miss as Dayton, the No. 6 seed, assured that there will be a new champion in the North 2, Group 1 state sectional tournament bracket with a 5-3 victory over third-seeded Wood-Ridge, last year’s champ.

Dasti went the distance for the second straight time in the state tournament, went 3-for-3 at the plate, including the 100th hit of his career, drove in a run and pushed the Bulldogs to within two wins of their first state sectional title since 2014.

“I wasn’t really focused on the pitch count; I was just trying to get people out. We have a great [pitching] staff and there are great guys behind me,” said Dasti, a junior right-hander who has already committed to play at St. Joseph’s University. “It was nice to finish the game right at 110 [pitches], but I was only focused on getting the next out batter by batter.”

Dasti got in the mix early with his one-out single in the top of the first setting the table. Michael Ramirez drew a walk and then two runs scored on Brandyn Bernkopf’s double as the Bulldogs raced out to the early lead. They doubled their advantage to 4-0 in the top of the third with Nate Goldman (1-for-2, R) leadoff double out of the No. 9 spot getting it started. Dasti was intentionally walked with one in front of Michael Ramirez, who cracked a two-run double down the left field line to clear the bases.

Mike Marchitelli, one of just two seniors on the Wood-Ridge roster, threw 6+ solid innings.

Dasti worked around leadoff singles in the first and second innings and he retired the first hitter in the bottom of the third, but Wood-Ridge, which always battles, found a way to get back in the game. What turned into a three-run rally could have been more had Goldman had not made a diving play at second base to erase the leadoff man. Nick Scalera (1-for-3, R), Sal Catanzaro (2-for-4, R, SB) and Jordan Montoya (1-for3, R) strung together three straight single to load the bases.

An error on a ball hit by Jake Wall allowed Wood-Ridge to plate its first two runs and Lucas Mendoza (1-for-3, RBI) bounced one back through the middle to the Blue Devils to within 4-3 and Jack Caprio drew a walk, the only one issued by Dasti, in the game, to load the bases. A pop-up ended the threat and Dasti (7 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 6 K, BB, W) was never in real trouble the rest of the way.

He faced the minimum three batters in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings with the only blemishes against his record over the final four innings was a one out single by Jake Wall in the fifth and Chris Castellano’s hit-by-pitch with two outs in the sixth. Wall was erased by 6-4-3 double play and Castellano was left stranded by an inning-ending strikeout.

”The biggest thing with [Dasti] is the poise. There were some plays behind him that weren’t made and some tight calls that he didn’t get, but he doesn’t let that bother him. It’s always next pitch,” said Dayton head coach Michael Abbate. “He’s the hardest worker out there and he is the toughest kid out there. That is how you win games like this when he is on the mound.”

Brandyn Bernknopf doubled in Dayton's first run.

Wood-Ridge had a pretty tough kid take the ball, too. Senior right-hander Mike Marchitelli, who closed out last year’s championship game, kept his team in it the whole way with his solid mix of offspeed stuff. One of just two seniors on the Wood-Ridge roster along with leadoff hitter Sal Catanzaro, who played centerfield, Marchitelli (6+ IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 9 H, 3 K, 4 BB) hung up zeroes in his final three full innings of work.

The win is the sixth in a row for Dayton (15-11) and the Bulldogs will host New Providence in the semifinals on Friday as they close in on the elusive section title that they have been chasing for the past decade.

“We always put ourselves in position. I think we have been in the semifinals or the finals every year except for two in my tenure here. We have won a lot of state games,” said Abbate, who is in his 14 seasons as Dayton’s head coach. “It’s going to be tough on Friday, but it’s a great opportunity. We just wanted to earn the right to practice tomorrow. That is the biggest thing for us.”

The loss ended Wood-Ridge’s season with a 16-11 record. The Blue Devils showed growth over the course of the season, which included a third straight league championship and another appearance in the Bergen County Tournament.

Not long after the final out and shortly after thanking his seniors for their contributions to the program, head coach Mike Carcich was already looking forward to a promising future.

“We graduated 9 seniors from last year’s championship team. It was a complete roster turnover with only two seniors, but they were two seniors that put us on their backs and embraced a whole new team,” said Carcich. “We went through a lot of growing pains early with young kids. We started six or seven freshmen and sophomores throughout the year and we didn’t figure it out until about halfway through the season. But once we did, we starting jelling as a team and we gave ourselves a chance to win against probably one of the best teams we have played all year. The fact that we went toe-to-toe with Dayton is a good thing for us. We just have to make sure that we continue to develop, but I am very excited for the future.”