While he was taking his warm-up pitches before taking the mound in the Morris County Tournament semifinals Saturday at Delbarton’s Brian Fleury Field, Roxbury senior left-hander Timmy Pilrun felt almost too good for words.
“When I was warming up, I felt confident,” Pilrun said. “I knew I could get a good one.”
How good? Try perfect.
Pilrun did the unimaginable, tossing a perfect game against Montville, leading the Gaels to an 8-0 victory to advance to next Saturday’s MCT title game against West Morris.
Pilrun was the starter and losing pitcher in last year’s MCT final against Randolph, dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker.
“I think back to that game a lot and I just wish I had a little something extra that night,” Pilrun said. “It’s stuck with me for a year and actually motivated me. I wanted to get another shot at winning the county title.”
Pilrun was spectacular, mixing up his five different pitches well. Of the 21 recorded outs, 12 were via groundouts. He struck out only four and needed just 82 pitches to complete the gem, getting Zach Frederick on a little roller in front of the plate to reach perfection.
“It was a surreal experience for me,” Pilrun said. “(Roxbury catcher) Andrew (Baltz) made the throw to first, then I looked at him and he had his eyes and his arms wide open. It was amazing.”
Pilrun had an idea that he was flirting with perfection midway through the game.
“Toward the end of the third inning, I knew that they didn’t have a hit,” Pilrun said. “I knew that to pitch my game, I had to use my changeup, which was exceptional. If I got the changeup right, I could keep them off balance and make them hit the ball on the ground.”
Roxbury head coach Greg Trotter was overjoyed with his pitcher’s performance. In his career, Trotter never had a pitcher throw a perfect game before.
“He’s been pitching pretty close to perfect a couple of times,” Trotter said. “He’s had some great outings with us for the last three years, but this was obviously the best of all. I knew he had his stuff, but you never expect it to be perfect, especially against a good hitting team like Montville. For him to throw a perfect game against Montville, he had to be tough.”
Trotter liked Pilrun’s approach on the mound, like he was a precise surgeon.
“When he’s able to mix five different pitches, go in and out, up and down and throw all of them for strikes, he’s tough to beat, even against a good hitting team,” Trotter said.
Montville head coach Joe Cardinale had to admit that his Mustangs (10-5-1) were overmatched by a masterful performance.
“We knew coming in that Pilrun was one of the best, if not the very best, pitchers in the county,” Cardinale said. “Well, he proved that today. He threw all of his pitches for strikes. I thought we had some good at-bats, but they made some nice plays in the field. But to throw a perfect game in the county semifinals? That’s just great. Sometimes, it’s your day and other times it’s not. It was his day.”
Pilrun’s day was made easier by a potent offense. The Gaels (13-5), now winners of 11 straight games, got on the board in the top of the first inning, when Shawn Leydon walked, stole second and came home on Baltz’s RBI single to left.
“I think it was huge to score early,” Trotter said. “You want to get on top early. You want them to question whether they could beat us.”
The Gaels then added two more runs in the top of the second inning from the bottom of their batting order. Steve Loreng, the No. 8 hitter, singled and then up stepped the team’s No. 9 hitter Kevin Hernandez.
“Coach (Trotter) puts me out there because he knows I can do the job,” said left fielder Hernandez. “I just wanted the chance to prove that I belong.”
Hernandez did that, blasting a long homer to left-center, his second round tripper of the season. Hernandez’s two-run blast off Montville starter and loser Michael Biase gave Pilrun a three-run cushion.
“Ever since we got on this little run, there hasn’t been just one guy contributing,” Trotter said. “No one guy has been carrying us. Even the guys at the bottom of the order are coming up big.”
The Gaels scored another run on Matt Dachowski’s RBI double in the fourth, then blew the game wide open with four runs in the fifth, highlighted by Hernandez’s RBI double and a two-run single from Leydon.
Hernandez had two hits, had three RBI and scored three runs to pace the winners.
After that, it was just a question as to whether Pilrun could complete the perfecto.
“I knew he was perfect,” Hernandez said. “I think we were all rooting for Timmy.”
Pilrun was aided by a great diving catch in right field by Kyle Macrae, robbing Ben Koch of a hit in the top of the fifth inning. The rest was all pure Pilrun, 100 percent purely perfect.
“I never was part of one before,” Pilrun said. “I had only seen them on television.”
“From Day One, he has been pitching that way,” Trotter said. “Nothing ever fazes him. That’s why he’s been so successful for us. Everything is so even keel.”
And it would be interesting to see how even tempered Pilrun is next Saturday night, when he gets his shot at redemption in the county title game, against a West Morris team making its first MCT title game appearance since 1995.
Roxbury (13-5) 120 140 0 – 8 10 0
Montville (10-5-1) 000 000 0 – 0 0 1
2B: R-Kevin Hernandez, Nick Busby, Matt Dachowski.
WP: Timmy Pilrun. LP: Michael Biase.