SPRINGFIELD – The baseball season is like a blur.
Games played on consecutive days blend into each other with a bit more important ones in between soon forgotten with the next day’s first pitch.
So we stop for a brief moment to acknowledge two teams off to 5-0 starts, the leaders of the Mountain Division of the Union County Conference.
Union Catholic, the 2011 champion, visited Dayton, the 2012 and 2013 champs – Dayton also won the Valley Division in 2010 – Friday afternoon, with the winner taking the early Mountain Division lead.
Dayton, which played Thursday and is scheduled to play again on Saturday scored in the first inning and never trailed.
Union Catholic, which will continue with games on Saturday and Sunday, came back in the sixth inning to pull to within two, but could do no more further damage.
So for a brief moment in the season, Dayton’s 6-4 win over Union Catholic at Ruby Field put the Bulldogs in first place in the Mountain Division and dropped the Vikings to second.
Dayton improved to 6-0 overall and leads the Mountain Division at 5-0. Union Catholic is 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain.
The teams will meet again in league play, scheduled to face each other at Union Catholic’s field turf field in Scotch Plains on May 13.
Dayton senior catcher Joe Iuliano, who will continue playing football at MoreheadState, gave the Bulldogs the lead for good in the bottom of the first when he produced an RBI-double for a 1-0 advantage. Dayton went ahead 2-0 after adding on an unearned run when Drew Farbstein produced an RBI-single.
Union Catholic threatened in the top of the first against Dayton starter Chase Kimmel, loading the bases with one out. However, Kimmel, a junior right hander, got out of the inning without giving up a run.
“Sometimes the first inning could be the biggest inning,” Dayton head coach Mike Abbate said. “Chase was a bit amped up in the beginning, but then he started to get ahead.”
Kimmel, now 2-0, pitched the first 5 and 2/3 innings and then fellow junior righty Andrew Lashuk tossed the final 1 and 1/3, retiring all four batters he faced to earn a save. Lashuk retired the only batter he pitched to in the top of the sixth – on a ground out to second – with the tying runs on base. Union Catholic scored all four of its runs in the sixth.
“Had we scored in the first inning it would have been a different game,” Union Catholic head coach Jim Reagan said. “It was a lack of key hits. We did not play well and only lost 6-4, so that’s some consolation.”
Dayton went ahead 3-0 in the fourth as the result of an outfield error after a base hit.
The Bulldogs further distanced themselves with three runs in the fifth, the big hit an opposite field shot over the right fielder’s head by junior Ben Steel that plated Dayton’s fourth and fifth runs. Lefty-swinging Alec Marcantonio, who was 3-for-3, followed with an opposite field bloop single to left that drove home Steel, who just slid ahead of the throw home, his right hand touching home plate before the tag was applied.
Those hits knocked out Union Catholic starter Ryan Kahn (2-1), a senior left hander who will continue playing in college at Moravian.
“Ben also had some big hits for us yesterday (a 12-2Mountain Division home win over Roselle Catholic Thursday),” Abbate said. “He didn’t have his best at-bats before our last two games and has now hit the ball well our last two.”
“Kahn didn’t have his best stuff, he fell behind early,” Reagan said. “When he loses we usually don’t score.”
Union Catholic avoided getting shut out for the first time this season and came oh so close to tying the game in the top of the sixth.
Now down 6-0, senior and lefty swinging Drew University-bound third baseman Anthony Colletti led off with an opposite field single to left and moved to second when Ryan DePaul singled up the middle. Following a strikeout, the next two batters were hit with pitches, the second one being relief pitcher Luis Rojas, a righty who will continue playing at Rutgers-Newark.
Kahn followed with an opposite field RBI-single to right and then lefty swinging A.J. Bonadies produced a two-run single up the middle on a 3-2 fastball, which was the last pitch Kimmel threw.
Kahn struck out the side in the fourth during a four-batter inning that included no hits.
Drew Tomlinson produced Union Catholic’s only hit during the first five innings, a single off Kimmel.
Rojas got out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the sixth by retiring the next three Dayton batters he faced – striking out the first two swinging – to keep the score at 6-4.
On a 3-1 pitch, Colletti grounded out to first as the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh. Lashuk retired the game’s final two batters on a ground out and pop up.
“I didn’t like the approach we had at the plate in the seventh inning,” Reagan said.
“Going into this game we were nervous, excited and amped up,” said Colletti, a four-year varsity starter who walked his first two times up. “We haven’t been hitting in the early part of games. In the first inning we couldn’t do anything.”
Union Catholic will host Oratory Prep Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in league play and is then scheduled to play Sunday morning at 9 in the first of the last four games of the 6th annual Roselle Park Dad’s Club Invitational.
Dayton is scheduled to host Newark Arts Saturday at noon.
“Baseball is a game of ebb and flows,” Abbate said. “What I was proud of today was that we played better, specifically running the bases and on defense.”