DeRiso dominates as Pascack Valley wins a section title

Junior JT DeRiso threw a complete-game, 1-hitter for Pascack Valley, which won the North 1, Group 2 state sectional title with a 4-0 win on the road at Lakeland.

WANAQUE – For a minute there, Pascack Valley’s JT DeRiso lost the strike zone. The first team All-Bergen County lefthander, walked three of the first four hitters in the bottom of the second inning and went 1-0 on the fifth before he was visited at the mound by his head coach, Will Lynch.

There was no motivational speech, no fired up slap to any part of the anatomy.

“What did I say to him?', asked Lynch. "I said, ‘We’re fine, you’re good, let’s go.”

Lynch also added a sentence about combatting a potential squeeze that Lakeland might have been contemplating, but never came. Then it was right back to work and DeRiso is really good at his job.

A pop up and a groundball got DeRiso out of the only real trouble he found himself in during Monday’s North 1, Group 2 state sectional final played in front of a packed house in Wanaque. DeRiso then retired 17 of the last 18 Lakeland batters he faced in a one-hit gem that pushed his ERA below 1.00 on the season.

Lakeland hit just three balls out of the infield, its lone hit an infield single by Brian Hoffman with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning of Pascack Valley’s 4-0 victory that sends it in the Group 2 state semifinal round at Caldwell on Wednesday. The Panthers [nee Indians] have now won three straight state playoff games on the road with a fourth on the horizon and they have won eight straight games overall.

“This is awesome. It is something I always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to win this and to do it like this, I don’t have any words, really,” said DeRiso, who punctuated his outing by striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth against the No. 2, 3 and 4 spots in the Lakeland lineup. “I had no idea that I had a no-hitter going [into the fifth inning] until right now. I was just so focused. I don’t really remember anything.”

Brian Hoffman had the lone hit for Lakeland, which finshed the season with a 20-8 record and a Passaic County championship.

That’s where a scorebook helps. Pascack Valley, the No. 8 seed in a bracket that was busted long ago when none of the top four seeds made the semifinal round, took the lead for good in the top of the second inning on Trevor Kirkby’s long home run into the crowd watching from behind the right-centerfield fence.

“We didn’t know a lot about Lakeland, but coach [Ron Villone] came back with a good scouting report. I was looking for something up and looking to drive it. Luckily I got enough. I didn’t think I did off the bat, but it got out,” said Kirkby, who now has four hits and three RBI in his last two playoff games. “I feel like we are a team of destiny We’ve had three injuries, we have two freshman in the infield, one in the outfield and the kid who was playing right field is now our second baseman. We don’t have all big name guys with all the college interest, but we believe. So many people are here, they made the trip out and that is what makes this place so great and what makes it so enjoyable to win one like this.”

Pascack Valley played error free behind DeRiso (7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 8 K, 0 BB, W, 106 pitches), who did not walk anybody no hit a batter. The basepaths were clear just about all day so it was mostly a matter of what the winning margin would be after Kirkby gave the Panthers the lead.

Matt Nicholson (4 1/3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 H, 8 K, 5 BB) kept the Lancers, the reigning Passaic County champions, in the game for through four innings. He walked three over that span, but Kirkby’s bomb was the only hit he allowed. In the top of the fifth, however, PV put a rally together starting with Brendan Gaskin’s one-out walk followed by a Drew Kirkby single and a walk to Colin McMorrow that loaded the bases.

Trevor Kirkby and Pascack Valley will visit Caldwell for the Group 2 semifinals on Wednesday.

Justin Kaplan greeted the Lakeland bullpen with a sacrifice fly and Nick Donofrio added an RBI single to make it 3-0. Gaskin (1-for-2, RBI, R, BB), the sophomore switch hitter who bats out of the No. 9 spot and gives PV a second leadoff hitter, doubled in Evan Biener with the Panthers’ final run in the top of the sixth.

DeRiso retired the final six hitters in order to keep Pascack Valley’s season humming along. The Panthers are the last Bergen County team left standing and one of only eight public schools in all of New Jersey with at least one game left on their schedule.

The rise from the No. 8 seed to the Group 2 state semifinals has been a whatever-it-takes effort as personified by McMorrow, a sophomore who is now the second baseman, who used to be a rightfielder, who also is sometimes the catcher and bats second in the order.

“I never played the outfield before [this season] and then I got moved into the infield and I am also the backup catcher. I am carrying a lot of equipment around; gloves, catcher’s gear, everything,” said McMorrow. “I love it. It’s been a great experience so far and I just want to keep going. We all do.”