Bernards’ second straight regular-season juggernaut ride was sidetracked by a recent lack of hitting and fielding.
The Mountaineers reversed that trend Saturday in a game that desperately called for just about everything they possessed.
Fourth-seeded Bernards (13-3) rallied from a 4-0 hole for a 5-4 victory over No. 5 Bridgewater-Raritan (14-7) in a Somerset County Tournament quarterfinal.
Bernards will play No. 1 seed Watchung Hills at 7 p.m. in the nightcap of Wednesday night’s semifinal doubleheader at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. That will come after the opener between No. 3 Immaculata and No. 2 Montgomery at 3 p.m.
Bernards will be making its first semifinal appearance since 2003 when coach Jeff Falzarano was an assistant.
“It’s a statement for our program,” Falzarano said.
After winning 11 straight to start the season, Bernards slumped, losing three of four. Falzarano thought the team’s pre-game was rocky and it looked worse when the Panthers took a 4-0 lead in the third.
But they held against a team that lost to Hillsborough in the county final last year and had advanced to the semis two years ago.
Bernards senior righty Zach DeLeon (4-1), a major contributor last fall to Bernards’ Skyland football division title as a two-way tackle, willed the Mountaineers through with a complete-game seven hitter. He struck out six and walked four.
“He pitched sharp and they (senior catcher Doug deMarrais) worked well together,” said Falzarano. “We wanted to throw pitches that they were not thinking they would be getting in certain circumstances, keep them off balance but pepper the zone.”
And make sure to complete routine plays — and those not so routine.
With one out in the seventh Matt Koskinen slapped a grounder into the shortstop hole, but senior shortstop Joe Carle caught up to it and nipped Koskinen with junior first baseman Brendan Ball making the stretch.
“I haven’t had a shortstop make that kind of play since I’ve been here,” Falzarano said.
DeMarrais went 3-for-4 with one of the hits driving in the first run in the tide-turning fifth when Bernards took the lead. Junior third baseman Jon Iaione had an RBI single and Luke Bowerbank’s sacrifice fly to center in the inning broke the tie.
A two-out Carle RBI infield single in the fourth followed what could have been a killer 1-6-3 double play. Carle’s hit was then followed by three straight walks that forced home a second run and Bernards trailed 4-2.