It was a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning between Randolph and Belleville in the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV semifinals Thursday afternoon and Randolph shortstop Matt Iantosca was just a little angry at his coaches.
You see, there were runners on the corners with two out and a play was called to get David Sacco intentionally in a rundown between first and second, just long enough to allow Luke Ronchi to possibly scamper home with the game’s first run.
But Iantosca didn’t like that idea one bit, because he wanted the chance to swing the bat and drive the run in on his own.
“Yeah, I was definitely upset,” Iantosca said.
“I hope he got mad,” Randolph head coach Ryan Casey said. “We were trying to see if we could steal a run, but the pitcher (Josh Caba) kept his composure and held the ball. But I’m glad Matt was mad.”
Not biting one bit on the set-up, Caba allowed Sacco to steal second base without releasing the ball, with Iantosca patiently waiting at the plate.
“That definitely got me pumped up,” Iantosca said.
One pitch later, Caba threw Iantosca another fastball and he hit a two-run single up the middle that broke the scoreless tie and enabled Randolph to roll to a 5-0 victory over Belleville.
The victory enabled the Rams (23-6) to advance to Friday’s sectional title game against top-seeded Wayne Valley in Wayne, with first pitch slated for 4 p.m.
“I was definitely surprised that he threw me another fastball,” Iantosca said. “He left it up and I was able to hit it hard. It definitely was a great feeling.”
Iantosca’s clutch two-run, two-out single was all that Sacco would need to collect his sixth victory of the season against one loss. Sacco allowed just three hits and walked one in hurling the shutout, striking out just three.
Sacco had a tough call, considering he was supposed to pitch this game on Tuesday. The Rams loaded up the bus, came all the way to Belleville, only to have the game postponed by rain when the Rams just arrived.
Sacco was then supposed to get the ball again on Wednesday, but again the game was postponed, this time due to the threat of thunder showers.
“We were all ready to play Tuesday and they called us when we were five minutes from the field,” Sacco said. “It was tough to keep that focus for two days in a row. But I was ready today.”
Sacco knew that he had to keep his pitch count down in order to stay in the game due to the blistering heat. It was 96 degrees at first pitch.
“But I saw that they were pretty free swinging and swinging at first pitches,” Sacco said. “I just tried to get my pitches over. I was popping the ball pretty well.”
“With the elements, Dave did exactly what we wanted,” Casey said. “He was perfect. He was able to keep himself in the game.”
Sacco needed only 74 pitches to dispose of the second-seeded Buccaneers, whose season ended at 23-4.
“That’s ridiculous,” Iantosca said. “When Dave’s on, he’s on. And he’s hard to beat.”
After Iantosca delivered the clutch hit, the Rams added another run in the three-run fifth, when Quentin Truncale smacked a double down the right field line, scoring Iantosca and pushing the lead to 3-0. Truncale added another double later on.
Thomas Asbaty then capped the scoring with a long two-run homer to right in the top of the sixth, scoring Ronchi again. Ronchi had one hit, but scored twice and had three stolen bases.
Sacco was happy that it was Iantosca who delivered the big hit.
“We needed a guy to step up and get us going,” Sacco said. “That was huge for Matt. It also feels fantastic knowing that the guys can count on me to go out there and get us a win. It was a nice, hot day. I like pitching in this weather. I’m a lot looser out there when it’s hot.”
And it was only 51 degrees warmer than when Sacco pitched six innings against Roxbury in the Morris County Tournament title game.
“It works either way for me,” Sacco said.
Casey said that the best is yet to come for his junior right-hander.
“He has a lot more potential,” Casey said. “He gets better each time he goes out there.”
Casey also liked Iantosca’s fortitude.
“He’s come up with a couple of big hits this year,” Casey said. “But today’s hit was huge. We were waiting for the first run to come across and there he was, coming through.”
Now, the county champs will look to add state sectional champs to their resume Friday.
“We actually have a chance to win two championships in the next two days,” said Casey, who reminded reporters that the Rams will face Roxbury once again Saturday with the NJAC National Division on the line. “Our pitching is lined up now that Dave took care of things today.”
Fellow junior Tyler Poulin more than likely gets the ball Friday to face Wayne Valley.
2B: R-Quentin Truncale 2.
HR: R-Thomas Asbaty.
WP: David Sacco (6-1). LP: Josh Caba (7-2).