This past Tuesday was the first home game of the season for the Montclair State University Red Hawks baseball team, and it definitely did not disappoint.
The Red Hawks ended up winning a 10-inning thriller over the Manhattanville College Valiants by a final score of 8-7. Red Hawks baseball head coach Jared Holowaty talked about what it was like to play and get a victory in the team’s first game at its home venue, Yogi Berra Stadium.
“It’s great and you know it’s even better,” Holowaty said. “We have such a young group sprinkled with veterans here that it was nice. Not only did we get to come back home but we got a nice win, an emotional win.”
Montclair State got off to a fast start when they took advantage of some sloppy defense from Manhattanville.
It all started in the bottom of the second when sophomore designated hitter Andrew Ollwerther got hit by a pitch, then advanced to second on a wild pitch, allowing senior left fielder Nick Martinez to drive him in with a single to get the Red Hawks on the board.
Later on in the inning, after loading the bases with back-to-back walks, Montclair State managed to squeeze out two more runs. The first was on a double play that allowed Martinez to score from third. The other was when Valiants pitcher Christian Cefaloni threw a failed pickoff attempt past the Valiants first baseman, allowing freshman third baseman Matthew Manning to score.
In the bottom of the third inning, Martinez hit a two-run double to give Montclair State a 5-0 lead.
From that point on, the Valiants would slowly start to get back into the game. It started in the top of the fourth when Hathaway Roper hit a beautiful ball to right center field for a triple. He then scored on a failed pickoff attempt to get Manhattanville on the board 5-1.
Red Hawks freshman starting pitcher Nicholas Selfick was sharp on the mound. He pitched six innings, allowing just one run, and threw three strikeouts. Most of all, he came up big when his team needed him most in bases loaded jams.
In the top of the fifth, after getting the first two outs, Selfick allowed three straight base-runners to load the bases. However, Selfick got a weak ground ball to first to get out of the jam.
In the top of the sixth, the Valiants once again loaded the bases, this time with just one out. Selfick managed to come through once again, striking out a batter, then getting a ground ball to second to once again keep the Valiants at bay.
The game took a completely different turn come the top of the seventh, as Selfick’s day was done and the Red Hawks went to the bullpen. In that same inning, Jack Matero hit a two-run home run to reduce Montclair State’s lead to 5-3.
However, Montclair State was able to get a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning when freshman first baseman Donald Gonnelli hit an RBI single to make the score 6-3 heading into the top of the ninth inning. Justin Kosinski came in out of the bullpen to close it out and it seemed Montclair State would walk away with the easy win.
However, the ninth inning was when the Valiants would turn this game upside down. It started when Luke Scoggins hit a leadoff double, then scored on a single from Peter Iannarilli. Pinch hitter Stephen Merrile managed to continue the rally with an RBI double to make the score 6-5. Luke Teboit hit a two-run double to complete the Valiant comeback, stunning the Red Hawks and taking a 7-6 lead.
The game would then head to the bottom of the ninth with last licks for the Red Hawks, needing at least one run to tie the game and stay alive. Martinez would give his team just that, hitting an absolute bomb to left field for a game-tying solo home run.
Martinez had a monster night at the plate, going 5-5 with a two RBI double and a solo home run for three total RBIs. Manhattanville would then get three straight outs to retire the side and send the game into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Silva beaned the first batter he faced, Roper, allowing him to advance to first, then advance to second on an out, giving the Valiants the go-ahead run in scoring position.
However, with two outs, Red Hawks junior catcher Justin Bates threw out Roper trying to steal third, retiring the side.
The Red Hawks started the bottom of the 10th off in a big way, as junior shortstop Hayden Reyes slapped a ball down the third base line. The ball was ruled fair, and Reyes managed to leg out a leadoff double giving Montclair State the game-winning run in scoring position.
Freshman second baseman Dominick Leuizzi then bunted, allowing Reyes to move to third on the sacrifice.
Freshman Kyle Forcini then came to the plate with one out and a chance to win the game for Montclair State. Forcini would do just that, hitting a bomb to right field that got down for a hit, allowing Reyes to score from third, giving the Montclair State Red Hawks the victory.
Coach Holowaty was satisfied with the win, but would have rather it not come down to the wire the way it did.
“A wins a win but I much rather would have liked to have won 5-1,” Holowaty said. “But sometimes those are character-building wins. You know when you have to grind back and show the character, or lack of character, of a team. I thought it was nice that we didn’t give up. We didn’t give in. We battled back to tie it up and then win it.”