No one knew how long it had been since Boonton won a game in the Morris County baseball tournament. Not even the team’s resident historian, Billy Hecox.
“I know it has not been since I’ve been here,” said Hecox, a senior left-handed pitcher. “I think it’s like five or six years.”
Hecox took matters into his own hands, firing a two-hit shutout, striking out 10 and walking just one, in Boonton’s historic 1-0 victory over Kinnelon in the preliminary round of the Morris County Tournament Sunday afternoon.
Hecox (4-0), surrendered an infield single to Kyle Presti in the first inning and a single by Ross Halkins in the fourth. Hecox was in complete control from the outset, defeating the Colts for the second time this season.
“I knew that they had seen me, so I just changed things up a little,” Hecox said. “I had my good curveball and I live and die with that curve.”
“He really doesn’t care who he’s facing,” Boonton head coach Chris Reardon said. “He throws a lot of strikes. It makes things easier for our infield defense when he’s pitching.”
“Their pitcher pitched great,” Kinnelon head coach John McDonald said. “It was the second time we faced him. It was just a good baseball game and we came up a little short.”
The Bombers (6-5) scored their lone run in the bottom of the fifth.
With one out, Brandon Finnerty got the rally going with a sharp single to left field off hard-luck losing pitcher R.J. Giannetti, who also pitched a brilliant game, scattering four hits while fanning eight.
Finnerty stole second base and with two out, Reardon sent left-handed hitter Mike Gianatassio up to pinch hit.
“I was very nervous,” Gianatassio said. “I have been in a slump for a while. I didn’t know what I would do, but I was trying to be positive.”
“It was a lefty-righty matchup,” Reardon said. “Although (Giannetti) was in a groove, Mike is the kind of kid who can go up there with a clear mind and give you a quality at-bat. With two strikes, he just served it down the left-field line.”
Gianatassio said that he had been concentrating more on hitting the ball to the opposite field.
“The coaches all tell me to go the other way,” Gianatassio said. “That’s what I did and I’m happy it got us the win.”
It was all Hecox needed.
“Because they saw Billy before, they changed their lineup a little,” Reardon said. “But Billy went right after it. He’s a strike-throwing machine. He’s not overpowering, but when he’s throwing that curve for strikes, he’s tough because he has the other team guessing. He moves the ball around.”
The Bombers have already surpassed their five-win total of a year ago.
“They’re doing great,” Reardon said. “This was our opportunity to make some noise and get some attention.”
The Bombers travel to face top-seeded Delbarton, the defending county champion, on Saturday.
“I hope it’s going to be a good game,” Reardon said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to be there. I’m happy for our kids. They’re giving their best and that’s all I can ask for.”
Hecox will surely get the ball Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Hecox said. “I’m very excited about the getting this win and moving on. It’s a big win for us. We were able to grind it out.”
Kinnelon (3-7) had a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the top of the seventh. Giannetti led off by reaching on an error and Kyle Presti walked. Strategy might have called for Colts catcher Ross Halkins to bunt the potential tying and winning runs over.
“I’m not bunting with my No. 4,” McDonald said. “He’s been hitting well lately. He’s the guy we wanted up and we wanted him to swing away.”
Hecox bore down and got Halkins looking for his final strikeout victim. The next two hitters popped out and flew out and Boonton its first MCT victory in several years.
Kinnelon (3-7) 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
Boonton (6-5) 000 010 x – 1 4 1
WP: Billy Hecox (4-0). LP: R.J. Giannetti (2-1).