GLASSBORO – Catcher Ross Micka had the best seat in the house.
“I’d say B-minus, and he beat them. That tells you about the resilience of the kid,” Micka said. “He’s phenomenal.”
The Williamstown High School baseball team rode its Bentley — junior standout pitcher Denny Bentley — to a berth in the Group 4 state final following its 5-1 victory over Central Jersey champion Old Bridge in Wednesday’s state semifinal at Rowan University.
“Denny wasn’t even that sharp,” Williamstown coach Joe Smith said. “He held a great team down, but he may have only had one or two Denny Bentley innings. But he was good.
“To hold a team to one run without his best stuff … that’s pretty good.”
Williamstown (21-5-1) will face North Jersey champion Millburn in Saturday’s state final in Toms River. Millburn defeated Randolph 4-0 in the other semifinal.
While even Bentley agreed to not having his best stuff, the left-hander proved to be the difference on this day.
“Winning is all that matters,” he said.
Bentley scattered three hits en route to his 10th victory without a loss, needing just 76 pitches. He threw less than 10 pitches in the first, fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
“I tried my hardest,” Bentley added. “I wanted this team to go to the championship so bad. I felt like I had to put my team on my back for a little bit.
“I wanted to put it all out there for my team.”
Noted Smith: “They swung at a lot of first pitches. We knew they’d be aggressive, so we tried to keep the ball out of the zone on the first pitch.”
The Braves took a two-run lead before Bentley even took the mound.
Zach Martinez drove in Dan Musilli with an RBI single to left, while Bentley helped his own cause with an RBI single to plate courtesy runner Jelani Moore.
The South Jersey champions would add three more runs in the fifth on bases-loaded walks to Tommy Gibson and Musilli, while Anthony Racobaldo was hit by a pitch to force in another.
Williamstown had just five hits, three coming in the first inning. Fittingly, Bentley was the only player with two hits.
Old Bridge (20-13) got a third-inning double from losing pitcher Tyler Hopman, a fourth-inning single by Zach Attianese and an RBI single by Attianese in the sixth.
A double play in the sixth, with third baseman Steve Hawk getting the force out and then firing across the diamond to Tyler Apt at first, ended the Knights’ comeback bid.
Bentley closed out the game with a 1-2-3 seventh.
“This is amazing,” Micka said. “If you look at the beginning of the year, no one expected us to do this. It was Eastern, Toms River North … It’s a great feeling and something all of us have dreamed about for a long time.”
In his first season as coach, Smith felt he would have a talented team. But even he couldn’t have imagined Williamstown playing on the final Saturday of the season.
“We had some returning starters who had been playing for two or three years and one of the best lefties in South Jersey,” he said. “I knew we’d having a winning season, I knew we’d compete.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com
OLD BRIDGE 1
• Player of the game : Junior left-hander Denny Brady needed 76 pitches to throw a three-hitter.
• Play of the game : A 5-3 double play ended the sixth inning for Old Bridge and a possible comeback.
• Well said : “It’s the best feeling in the world to pitch with the lead. I felt like we won already.” – Denny Bentley, who had a 2-0 lead before taking the mound.