Tucker throws a Gem; River Dell downs Pascack Hills

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Junior Aidan Tucker threw a complete-game six-hitter for River Dell, which improved to 10-2 with a grind-it-out, 3-2 win at Pascack Hills on Monday.

MONTVALE – Pascack Hills had River Dell starter Aidan Tucker on the ropes. In the first two innings alone, the River junior right-hander had thrown 49 pitches and in this era of the Pitch Count Rule, he looked like he would soon be butting up against the arbitrary number that would trigger his removal well before the end of a game with serious league title implications in the Big North Conference – United Division.

Pascack Hills hit two ringing doubles in the second inning in taking a two-run lead and got a leadoff single in the third from Anthony Cieszko to further turn the screws.

“We had a chance to really get to that kid [Tucker]. He threw 49 pitches in the first two innings and I really felt like we were going to have a chance to steal [a win] against their ace,” said Pascack Hills head coach Kevin Kirkby. “And then we let them off the hook.”

Actually the hook never appeared as Tucker, who played his first two high school seasons at Bergen Catholic, settled in big time. After allowing four hits through the first three innings, he allowed only two more the rest of the way and both of those baserunners were erased on the base paths. Instead of an early exit, Tucker was still around to finish what he started, a complete game six-hitter in a 3-2 River Dell win that might just have given the Hawks the upper hand in the league title race.

“We were going to let Tucker go and get as many innings as he could give us. He finished with 110 pitches on the nose even after throw 28 in the second inning alone. He threw a gem,” said River Dell head coach Brandon Flanagan. “He wanted the ball in the seventh inning, he asked to go back out there and it wasn’t like I was going to take him out anyway. He settled in and gave us time to grind for runs. We just had to find a way to score one more than they did and that was exactly the kind of game I was expecting coming in here.”

Tom Brown about to connect on his second inning double that gave Pascack Hills an early 2-0 lead.

Runs were always going to be at a premium in this matchup between two teams with identical 9-2 records. River Dell had one league loss while Pascack Hills, which shot out of the gate with eight straight wins to start the season, had yet to lose inside the division.

Tucker got himself in trouble when the only walk that he issued in the game was drawn by Paul Sullivan to start the bottom of the second inning. A Marc Hernandez double to right center and then a balk that gave Sullivan a free pass to the plate gave Pascack Hills a 1-0 lead. Tom Brown then made it 2-0 with his double to deep left centerfield and was a second base with one out and the Cowboys had a chance to break the game open.

Instead, Tucker (7 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 9 K, 1 BB) struck out two of the next three hitters to get out of the inning and proceeded to face just one batter over the minimum over the final five innings. He got stronger as the game went along, used his fastball to get ahead in counts and then mixing in his breaking stuff to keep the Cowboys guessing.

“I felt like it was my game. I felt confident even though I had a rough second inning. I usually get off to a slow start anyway, so I am used to having to battle a little bit early in games,” said Tucker, a junior righthander. “I like to get ahead and then I can work my off-speed in later in the count.”

With Tucker settled in after the second inning, River Dell had time to scratch out some runs and it got one back in the top of the third as Connor McCorry drew a leadoff walk and Steve Yelin (1-for-3, RBI) got a free pass with one out before Garrett deMarrais stroked a single to left field that that got the Hawks on the board. Pascack Hills starter Brandon Siegenthaler (3 1/3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 8 H, 4 K, 3 BB) did well to escape further damage as he got two ground balls to get out of a bases loaded, one-out jam with his team still in front by a run.

Connor McCorry had two hits and scored twice for River Dell, which improved to 10-2 on the season.

But River Dell got right back to work in the fourth as Jeff Krasas’ leadoff bloop single started a rally. McCorry (2-for-3, 2 R) got involved again to keep the line moving and David Estevez’s single that would have loaded the bases instead tied the game when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, which allowed Krasas to score from second. Yelin, the last batter Siegenthaler faced, was nearly robbed of the go-ahead RBI when Anthony Cieszko made an all-out dive to his right and got his glove on the low liner, but the ball squirted free and McCorry scored to make it 3-2.

McCorry is not the prototypical lead-off hitter, not the kind just looking to drive up pitch counts or slap the ball to the opposite field. McCorry takes his rips, he reached safely in three of his four plate appearances and his lone out was a flyball that was caught just a few feet from the left field fence.

“I have never really hit in the leadoff spot before. It is new to me, but I just go up there looking to battle and looking to find the best pitches to hit and then drive them somewhere,” said McCorry, the Hawks’ starting first baseman. “I just want to get on base, get in scoring position and let these guys behind me drive in the runs. I have a great lineup behind me and this was a great team win.”

There was not much action on the bases over the three-and-a-half innings. Pascack Hills ran itself out of the fifth as River Dell turned a 6-3-5 double play to end it and then had its last base runner picked off of first base after a leadoff single in the seventh. Pascack Hills sophomore Ryan Ramsey (3 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 K, 0 BB), who has yet to allow a run this season, came on in the top of the fourth and retired all 11 hitters he faced to close out the game.

The weather is likely to wash out the rematch on Tuesday, but whenever it is played, there will be plenty on the line. River Dell is now 6-1 in league play, while Pascack Hills fell to 4-1.

“We just have to find a way to be better. We had a chance to win today get up in the league, to open a two-game lead on everybody and we gave that away,” said Kirkby. “Now we pretty much have to win out to have a shot at the league. We have to play River Dell again [on Tuesday] or Wednesday and then we have Ramsey next week. It is going to be a battle.”