Once his Pequannock baseball team lost to Mount Olive in the Morris County Tournament, Bill Arata instructed his Golden Panthers to set their sights on other goals – namely the Independence Division and the NJSIAA North 1 Group II playoffs.
With the NJAC Independence title already secured and tucked in his back pocket, Arata wanted to make sure that his team was now geared up for another great run in the state tournament.
“We’re ready to go now,” said Arata, whose team beat Parsippany 13-0 on Friday afternoon in a game that was halted after the visiting fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.
“We’re more confident than anything,” said Arata, whose team improved to 14-6 with the lopsided win. “The confidence is at its highest point. We’ve been on a run and the confidence is in place.”
After a somewhat slow start, the Golden Panthers have won seven of their last eight games to enter the state playoffs in fine fashion. They went to the sectional title game last year before losing to Mahwah. The Panthers face Dumont in the first round of the states Monday afternoon.
“We want to stay hot,” said first baseman Shawn Lee, who delivered RBI singles in the first and second innings. “We just have to keep hitting the ball and keep scoring runs. We have to just keep it going.”
The Panthers scored four runs in the home first, making life easier for pitcher Anthony Scillieri, who went four innings to earn his fifth win of the season.
Designated hitter Vince Parrotta drove in the first run off losing pitcher Dan Waffenfeld, who had an assortment of slow breaking pitches to try to throw the Panthers off stride.
Lee, Tom Hansen and Dan Short had consecutive RBI singles to give Scillieri a comfort zone.
“It made things a lot easier for me,” Scillieri said. “All I had to do was throw strikes.”
“It was huge for me, because I don’t want to let my team down and not drive in the run with runners on base,” Lee said. “Getting the early lead was big.”
It got bigger.
The Golden Panthers blew the game wide open with a nine-run second inning, a rally that saw Arata pull some of his regulars and give reserves like Matt Blahut and Mike DeSenzo a chance to drive in runs.
Both Blahut, batting for the Panthers’ leadoff hitter and inspirational leader Tommy Maher, and DeSenzo, batting for Parrotta, had two-run singles in the nine-run second frame.
“It was great to see others get a chance to get in good swings,” Lee said. “It was great that they were able to do what they did.”
“The guys I got in are positive supports in the dugout, so it was nice for me to be able to get them on the field,” Arata said. “We’ve been on a run trying to get the conference, but now that’s in place, it was great to give them some quality at-bats. They deserved it.”
Arata was pleased that his team managed to figure out Waffenfeld in a hurry. Pequannock usually faces hard throwers, but the Golden Panthers managed to wait Waffenfeld out and drive pitches they don’t normally see.
“I think that’s just a product of what they have to do, which is get quality at-bats,” Arata said. “We were able to hit a breaking ball pitcher. We usually don’t get a chance to hit many breaking balls. It’s mostly fastballs. But this was a good sign and it’s a sign of our confidence.”
As confidence goes, there’s not much coming out of the Parsippany camp. The Red Hawks, now 6-15, are also headed to the state tournament, facing Caldwell Monday in the opening round of North 2, Group II.
“We still have a chance to turn things around,” Parsippany head coach Ken Dobkin said. “We’ve been up and down all year and we’ve had days like this.”
Dobkin bemoaned the fact that his pitchers walked five batters and hit another in the first two innings. All six of those batters scored.
“That’s what hurt us, the walks,” Dobkin said. “They’re a solid team that can hit the ball. We knew that they could hit. I’d rather see them hit than get the runs the way they did. That’s disappointing. But let’s see what happens Monday.”
Scillieri said he believes that Friday’s win was huge for the entire Pequannock team’s spirits.
“It’s definitely a big lift for us going into the states,” Scillieri said. “We have a strong lot coming into the tournament. We were definitely motivated. We knew we couldn’t take anyone lightly and we had to come out strong.”
Parsippany (6-15) 000 00 – 0 3 2
Pequannock (14-6) 490 0x – 13 12 0
2B: Par-David Samuel.
WP: Anthony Scillieri (5-2). LP: Dan Waffenfeld (2-3).