The cell phone buzzed with a text message on Greg Trotter’s phone at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning and the Roxbury head baseball coach just knew it wasn’t going to be good news.
Senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Keefe sent his coach the pre-dawn message that he was up all night with a stomach bug and that Keefe wouldn’t be able to make his scheduled start later that afternoon against Chatham.
“I wouldn’t say I was concerned,” Trotter said. “But I knew that if I went with Busby, I could only have him for 65-to-70 pitches. I wondered whether we would have enough pitching.”
When Trotter, who produces more quality pitchers than Detroit makes Chryslers, mentioned the name “Busby,” he wasn’t talking about proven junior righty Nick Busby. No, this was Nick’s little brother, sophomore lefty Alex, who worked out of the Gaels’ bullpen all season, but had yet to get a start.
“We brought him up early and he’s been lights out in relief,” Trotter said. “He’s been so good for us that he hasn’t pitched an inning of (junior varsity) this season.”
The younger Busby had no idea he was getting the start until he arrived at school Thursday.
“I was definitely excited,” Alex Busby said. “I felt it was important to get the team up, because we hadn’t been doing well lately.”
The Gaels entered the game on a little two-game hiccup, losing to Mendham and Randolph in succession. Now, they were giving the ball to a basically unproven sophomore to get them out of the doldrums.
Before Alex stepped on the mound, he got help from a very familiar source, namely his older brother.
Nick Busby delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the first inning and that was basically all Alex needed to secure his first varsity victory, a solid 9-1 win over Chatham.
It was a day to remember for the Busby family, as Alex earned his first win by pitching four solid innings, allowing only one unearned run and three hits while striking out five and Nick had two hits, including a double, and the two RBI.
“It’s great, because we always wanted to have the chance to play together on the same team since we were little,” Nick Busby said. “It was great for me to be able to help him out. After we got the runs for him early, I knew he was going to have a great game. It was so important to score the early runs and gain the early momentum.”
Trotter agreed, especially since the Gaels (6-3-1) were in a bit of a tailspin.
“We saw some pretty good pitching the last two games, so it was very important for us to get a lead,” Trotter said. “We weren’t able to make any adjustments at the plate in the two losses, but I saw a lot of hope when we scratched together those two runs. Nick is always helping out his brother. I’m very lucky to have both of them.”
The Gaels scored two in the first and one in the second off losing pitcher Dan Viola, who walked four in the second to push in the third run.
“I think it’s important to extend a lead once you get it,” Trotter said. “We were having good at-bats today, better at-bats than we had in the last two games.”
The Cougars (4-6) got their run in the home second, when Bob Pierce reached on an error and came home to score on Andrew Winter’s bloop single, slicing the lead to 3-1.
The Gaels then put the game away, scoring twice in the fourth and three times in the fifth. Blake Isakson had a two-run double in the fourth, also with two out, to push the lead to 5-1 and Nick Busby doubled and scored the first of three fifth-inning runs on Kyle Young’s RBI double.
Surrendering two-out runs didn’t please Chatham head coach Ed Collins.
“We had a chance to close out both innings, needing to get that third out and we didn’t get it,” Collins said. “It really causes an emotional swing. You think you’re about to get out of the inning and then you give up more runs. It changes the whole dynamics of the game. Who knows what might have happened if we got the third out? From that point, it became real challenging.”
Collins is seeing what life is like playing in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference’s National Division.
“We got bumped up a division in the conference and we’re seeing good teams, day in and day out,” Collins said. “We have five games this week. I have to worry if I have enough pitching depth.”
Collins will at least be able to give ace Matt Sorrentino the ball in the Morris County Tournament preliminary round game against Hanover Park on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
“That’s the way it is,” Collins said. “It’s become a big challenge.”
Trotter liked the way his team responded to a bit of adversity.
“It was a good bounce-back win,” Trotter said. “Chatham is a scrappy team that is well-coached. It was really important to get back on track.”
After the younger Busby departed, Trotter got a scoreless inning from Brad Thurnes and two scoreless frames from Joe Maugeri. All three hurlers are underclassmen, showing that they keep rolling off the assembly line like Chryslers.
“This was a lot of fun, sharing this with my brother,” Nick Busby said.
Chances are that it won’t be the last time the Busby brothers enjoy one together.
Roxbury (6-3-1) 210 230 1 – 9 9 3
Chatham (4-6) 010 000 0 – 1 3 1
2B: R-Blake Isakson, Kyle Young, Nick Busby. C-Matt Sorrentino.
WP: Alex Busby (1-0). LP: Dan Viola (0-1).