Mountain Lakes has advanced past the preliminary round in the Morris County Tournament for the second straight season after a 2-1 victory over Morris Knolls on Saturday.
Lakers left-hander Kevin Stewart threw a complete game for his second win of the season. Stewart was able to bear down in the game’s key moment in the top of the sixth inning with the tying run at third to produce an inning-ending double play.
Morris Knolls seemed to figure Stewart out for the first time in the sixth, with two baserunners off of a walk and single. Ryan Bornemann scored on an error, giving the Golden Eagles the opportunity to tie the game before Stewart shut the door.
Mountain Lakes (5-3) will face No. 2 Delbarton in the second round of the MCT on Saturday.
“We got fortunate that they hit it hard right at us and [second baseman Ryan Pond] turned it and we got out of it,” Mountain Lakes head coach Kevin Wallace said. “It feels good to get a victory…It’s nice to get a second [consecutive MCT] win in a row.”
Stewart eventually finished off the Golden Eagles (3-6) in order in the seventh to put a bow on his performance. He allowed one unearned run on two hits over seven innings while striking out eight.
“Coach was calling a good game and everything just clicked today. It hadn’t yet this season, but it did today,” Stewart said.
‘Stew,’ as he’s called by his teammates, also collected the game’s eventual decisive hit in the bottom of the third inning, driving home teammate Ryan Pond with one out on a single to center after Pond had lead off the inning with a triple.
Stewart’s RBI single gave the Lakers a 2-0 lead midway through the contest and was the second consecutive inning the team had scored.
“I was really just going up looking for a pitch to hit,” Stewart said. “Anywhere that I could handle I was going to go for it and I was just fortunate to get one over the plate that I could put back up the middle.
The 15th-seeded Lakers got off to a good start in the second inning through small-ball tactics as Stewart was driven home on a suicide squeeze bunt by Collin Pond.
“We did the squeeze [because] we’ve been having a little trouble getting guys in from third with less than two outs so we wanted to put the run and bunt play on,” Wallace said. “We’re excited to play Delbarton. … We’re going to take it as an opportunity.”