Old Tappan opens with a shutout of PV

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

James Steindl threw 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball for Old Tappan, which beat Pascack Valley, 5-0, in the season opener for both teams on Monday,

OLD TAPPAN – Pascack Valley had been on its home field for spring practice exactly twice before its baseball season started on Monday, once before the big snow and once after. So when I fly ball went up into short rightfield in the bottom of the second inning, it turned into a predictably unpredictable situation. The ball fell untouched, the recovery throw went to the wrong base and missed its mark anyway in the midst of a four-run inning that Northern Valley/Old Tappan used as the turning point in its 5-0 victory.

“That pop-up that was hit behind the second baseman was probably the first ball that our guys have seen that has been hit higher than a gym ceiling all preseason. I called the guys in yesterday at 5 o’clock and that was the second day we had been out on our field. The second day was on Sunday night the day before the opener,” said Pascack Valley head coach Will Lynch. “That being said, we are a veteran baseball team and we have to make those plays. There are no excuses for us.”

It has been a struggle for every team in every spring sport to get some kind of normalcy, but Old Tappan’s baseball team seemed unaffected on its Opening Day. Senior left-hander James Steindl went 4 1/3 scoreless innings and was backed up by Brock Lombardi, who went the final 2 2/3 innings to finish off the shutout.

Quality pitching and a couple of timely hits work every time.

“Actual innings pitched during our spring training were few and far between. You get bullpens in the gym, but it is not the same as being out there, so I am happy with the kind of pitching we got today from both guys,” said NV/OT head coach Tim Byron. “We battled. We had that one inning where we got a couple of key hits, they made a couple of mistakes, too, but we put some pressure on them and, hey, I will take a win on Opening Day.”

Pascack Valley third baseman Austin Pierkowski was the only hitter for either team to have a multi-hit game.

Pascack Valley starter Riley Weis retired the first four hitters he faced, but an error on a one-out groundball hit by Alex Clyde in the bottom of the second opened the door to the game’s lone sustained rally. Deenae Sujak followed with a single, Joe Moskowitz’s double brought home Clyde with the game’s first run and Logan Butler singled in the second run. Then back-to-back errors on balls hit by Aidan Bilali and Steindl doubled the Golden Knights’ lead to 4-0.

Old Tappan tacked on another unearned run in the bottom of the third when Erik Slater reached on an error, went to third on Clyde’s single to the opposite field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sujak.

That was more than enough for Old Tappan’s pitchers even if Steindl did not go as deep into the game as he might have wanted. He threw 83 pitches and left with one out in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded after giving up a single to Alex Criscuolo, a bunt hit to Alex DeRosa and after having hit Frank Cascio with a 3-1 pitch.

“Pascack Valley is always good, they beat us in a state game last year and I really wanted this one. I knew I had to throw strikes and try to get something going in the first three pitches of every at bat,” said Steindl (4 1/3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 2 K, BB), who will pitch at LIU-Brooklyn next season. “I told Coach [Byron] that I felt good and I tried to pull the ball away when he went to grab it, but that is the pitch rule this year. I am not going to get as many starts in as I did last year with the new rule, but we have other guys that can throw and we all have confidence in each other to get it done.”

Deenae Sujak had a hit, scored a run and drive in another for Old Tappan.

That confidence was well-founded as Lombardi (2 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, H, K, 0 BB) came on and put out the fire. He got a pop-out and a line out that found the glove of second baseman Mark Marotta to leave the bases loaded with Indians. Lombardi retired eight of the nine hitters he faced and worked a 1-2-3 seventh to secure the save.

Pascack Valley’s Austin Pierkowski (2-for-3) was the only hitter on either side to have a multi-hit game as he led off both the fourth and sixth innings with singles. Weis went the first 4 2/3 innings on the mound for PV and only two of the five runs charged to his account were earned. He gave up four hits, struck out three and walked one.

Most of the offensive damage done came from the six, seven and eight spots in the Old Tappan lineup. Sujak scored a run, drove in another, stole a base and drew a walk. Moskowitz was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored and Butler was also 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.

These teams are scheduled to play again on Wednesday under the Big North Conference’s new initiative to play back-to-back league games to keep opponents from lining up their No. 1 starters to only pitch against certain opponents. It is an interesting experiment, if only the weather will cooperate. For now, Byron will take the win and move on to what he hopes will be a successful season.

“We have a lot of guys that are back. We have experience and what could make it happen is team chemistry. We have that this year,” said Byron. “The guys have to get along, guys have to pull for each other and last year that was a part of the problem. We have a pretty good team here right now and I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.”