For the second consecutive day, the Randolph baseball team won a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-National Division showdown in unconventional fashion.
A day after defeating West Morris, 1-0, without the benefit of a single hit, the Rams bounced back Thursday afternoon and defeated rival Delbarton, 6-4.
At least this time the Rams banged out 12 hits, but also committed five errors and watched their ace — defending All Daily Record Player of the Year David Sacco — totally unravel in a bizarre sixth inning.
For five innings Thursday, Sacco was breezing along. In fact, the talented right-hander (who is headed to Fairfield in the fall) didn’t surrender a single hit.
“Is that true?” Randolph head coach Ryan Casey asked after the game. “I didn’t know.”
Nor did Sacco.
“Not at all,” Sacco said. “I was more focused on trying to hit my spots.”
Sacco was also having a day at the plate, belting a two-run homer in the third inning and adding an RBI single in the fifth.
So the Rams were in cruise control, sailing along with a 6-0 lead, courtesy of a two-run single from junior center fielder Andrew Hafner in the sixth inning. Hafner — one of the team’s newcomers — had three hits, including a double and those two RBI.
Then in the home sixth, Sacco first lost his no-hitter when Delbarton catcher Chris Schafer reached on an infield single. After a hit batter and another single, Sacco just lost command of his pitches.
Sacco walked in one run, hit another batter for another run, then walked in a third. That was all Casey had to see.
“He busted his tail in the offseason and deserved the chance to be out there,” Casey said. “He just got tired.”
Sacco admitted that he was nowhere near his best Thursday, despite the flirtation with the no-hitter.
“I don’t think I had my best stuff,” Sacco said. “For the first couple of innings, I just tried to find myself. I have to be better against a team like Delbarton.”
Casey went to his bullpen and called for junior left-hander Pete Huber, who was entering his first-ever varsity game.
“We have a couple of guys who are tall, lanky and lefty like Pete,” Casey said. “We had to find out what he had.”
Huber uncorked a wild pitch that brought in the fourth run of the sixth inning. You could sense the uneasy feeling coming from the Randolph dugout.
But Huber settled down and got Green Wave centerfielder Jesse Reina to line out to centerfield with the bases loaded, ending the threat.
“I think Reina had a good at-bat and got a good swing on it, but unfortunately, it was right at the guy,” said Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel, who watched his young team drop to 0-2 on the young season. “We didn’t do enough offensively in the first five innings. I thought we had some good at-bats early against Sacco, but we didn’t do enough to extend his pitch count. We didn’t come on until later. It’s hard to win games like that.”
Shatel lost a ton of talent to graduation and is using a pitching staff comprised of sophomores, like Thursday’s starter and loser Matt Zebrowski.
“It’s an opportunity for our younger guys to get thrown into the fire and see what they can do,” Shatel said. “I think they’re going to get better as the year goes on.”
Huber pitched his way through the seventh inning to record a save in his first varsity appearance.
“He saved my butt, that’s for sure,” Sacco said. “The kid had to go through a lot of stress in his first game, coming in like that. He did a fine job.”
So as it turned out, Hafner’s sixth-inning two-run single became the margin of victory.
“I knew I had to put the ball in play and get at least one run home,” Hafner said. “I just had to find a hole and we scored a couple of runs. I thought we had the game in the bag. You never know until the final out. We needed as much run support as possible after (Wednesday’s game against) West Morris. This was a conference game, so every win is important.”
So one day there’s a win on a no-hitter, the next your ace implodes and you survive, getting another win.
“I think we’ve said in back-to-back days that a win is a win,” Casey said. “We’ll take it. I knew we had to play solid baseball in these conference games. Well, I don’t know how solid we were, but I’ll take it.”
Besides Hafner and Sacco’s offensive prowess, the Rams received three hits and a run scored from Matt Vicaro and two hits and a run from James Bertelle, the No. 8 and No. 9 men in the Rams’ lineup.
Randolph (2-0) 003 012 0 – 6 12 5
Delbarton (0-2) 000 004 0 – 4 3 1
2B: R-Andrew Hafner.
HR: R-David Sacco.
WP: David Sacco (1-0). LP: Matt Zebrowski (0-1). Save: Pete Huber (1).