KENILWORTH – Starting pitcher Sal Gorka gave host Brearley a huge lift by throwing five shutout innings in only his third start of the season.
The senior left hander then gave the Bears an even bigger spark by coming through in the clutch with a two-out, hard-hit, two-run single to left in the bottom of the sixth.
Gorka’s third single of the game – the righty batter was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate – provided fourth-seeded Brearley with the margin of victory as his game-winning hit propelled the Bears past 13th-seeded Hoboken 4-2 in one of Monday’s eight scheduled first round North 2, Group 1 baseball playoff contests.
Brearley improved to 7-12 and snapped a seven-game losing streak with its first victory in May. The Bears will remain at home to host a quarterfinal encounter Thursday vs. fifth-seeded North Arlington.
Hoboken finished its 2016 campaign with an 8-18 record.
Five-and-a-half months ago at Kean University it was Hoboken’s football team that defeated an 11-0 Brearley squad 34-12 in the 2015 N2, G1 championship game.
Brearley’s baseball team, and Gorka in particular, is feeling a lot better about itself after a home state tournament win that earned the Bears another home state tournament contest.
“We have a young team, but if we play with high intensity we feel we can beat anyone in our section,” Gorka said.
This was Brearley’s first win since a 10-8 conference-crossover triumph at Rahway on April 27. Brearley finished fourth in the Union County Conference’s Valley Division at 3-5, while Rahway repeated as Sky Division champions, this time with a perfect record of 8-0 after going 7-0 last year.
Gorka’s first start, he was coming back from an injury, wasn’t until he faced Roselle Park on the road on May 12. His next start was a home game against Dayton last Monday.
In his five complete innings, Gorka allowed no runs on four hits – all singles and two of them infield singles – while striking out eight (six swinging and two looking) and walking none. He threw 66 pitches and retired the side in order in the first and second innings.
When head coach Joe Capizzano brought in senior Eric Loneker from third base to pitch the final two innings, Brearley led 2-0 after scoring single runs in the bottom of the third and fourth.
“I felt loose,” Gorka said. “They weren’t really catching up with my fastball. Later on I mixed in my curve.”
Gorka managed to get out of the only jam he faced as Hoboken, down 1-0 in the top of the fourth – loaded the bases with one out. Opposing starting pitcher John Casella led off by reaching on his first of two opposite field infield singles to short and then Nick Sobolov followed with a bloop single to center. After Gorka registered his sixth strikeout, Aram Assadourin reached base on an infield error to load them up.
Gorka regrouped and managed to strike out the next batter and then the one after that on a ground ball to Loneker at third, who stepped on the third base bag for the inning’s final out.
“I just buckled down there and made pitches,” Gorka said. “That’s when I began to mix in my curve.”
Capizzano, a 1988 Brearley Regional graduate now in his 19th season at the helm of the Bears, didn’t want to push Gorka any further than five innings, despite a relatively low pitch count.
“He’s had just three starts, all in the last two weeks, and counting today he’s thrown just 13 innings,” Capizzano explained. “When he’s on he can be so effective. He pitched this way at Roselle Park.
“He had a nice curve today and showed some heady stuff out there on the mound.”
Brearley took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when, after the first two batters were retired, Gorka blooped a single the opposite way to right field. Then Brearley’s No. 3 batter in the lineup, Jesse Goncalves, produced an opposite field, standup RBI-triple to right-center to snap the scoreless deadlock.
Brearley made it 2-0 in the fourth by executing small ball to perfection. Tyler Brydon led off with a shot over the left fielder’s head that went for an easy standup double. He was then moved to third by a ground ball hit to second by Brian Griffin, who did his job of moving the runner over while down 0-2 in the count.
Then with Hoboken employing a drawn-in infield, Joe Scanio lined a single past Red Wings shortstop Sobolov that brought home Brydon with Brearley’s second run.
Loneker, who earned his first victory of the season in five decisions, had to battle to get the three outs he needed in the top of the sixth. He walked the leadoff batter and then after a daunting fly out to left, gave up a single to right. Loneker then hit the next batter to load the bases.
Hoboken managed its first run on an infield error and then tied the game on a ground out to second after the bases were still loaded. Loneker then struck out the next Hoboken batter on a 1-2 off speed pitch to keep the game at 2-2.
Brearley’s bottom of the sixth started with Scanio leading off with an opposite field single past the Hoboken second baseman. However, he was retired at second after a sacrifice bunt attempt by Vinnie Rappa.
Brearley’s No. 9 batter in the order, Mike Ramos, picked up Rappa by reaching on an infield single as he beat pitcher Casella’s throw to first after a hitting a slow roller toward third. With runners on first and second now and one out, Nick Ferrante grounded out to third, with both runners moving up.
Again, Casella tried to get Gorka out, but couldn’t. On a 1-1 offering, Gorka took a nice level swing and made perfect contact of a fastball by driving the ball to left field. First Rappa scored from third and then Capizzano waved in Ramos, who scored from second on the single to make it 4-2 as Brearley took the lead back for good.
“After my first hits he threw me a curve on the first pitch and I missed it,” Gorka said of his game-winning hit. “Then I was sitting fastball and that’s what he threw me and I hit it.”
“That was such a huge hit,” said Capizzano, whose first year as Brearley’s head coach was in 1998 when Brearley came back. “Since he’s been healthier he’s been on fire.”
Brearley last won a sectional title in 2009 when the Bears captured Central Jersey, Group 1 that season en route to the Group 1 state championship game at Toms River East.
NORTH 2, GROUP 1 FIRST ROUND BASEBALL
13-Hoboken (8-18) 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 – 2 06 1
4-Brearley (7-12) 0 0 1 1 0 2 x – 4 10 3
Brearley senior RH Eric Loneker (in relief)
Hoboken senior LH John Casella
Hoboken – John Casella (2, both opposite field infield), CJ Smith (infield), Nick Sobolov, Jeffrey Garcia, Aram Assadourian.
Brearley – Sal Gorka (3), Joe Scanio (2), Vinnie Rappa, Jesse Goncalves (infield), Mike Ramos (infield).
Hoboken – None.
Brearley – Tyler Brydon.
Hoboken – None.
Brearley – Jesse Goncalves.
Hoboken – None.
Brearley – None.
4-Jeffrey Garcia, catcher
17-John Casella, LH pitcher
3-Nick Sobolov, shortstop
22-Phansaeng Wichata, designated hitter
11-Aram Assadourian, center field
21-Nick Burke, third base
8-CJ Smith, right field
13-Josue Roman, left field
5-Danial Burrell, first base
10-Michael Effinger, second base (did not bat)
4-Nick Ferrante, left field
20-Sal Gorka, LH pitcher
3-Jesse Goncalves, center field
31-Eric Loneker, third base
2-Tyler Brydon, second base
5-Brian Griffin, first base
13-Joe Scanio, catcher
22-Vinnie Rappa, right field
9-Mike Ramos, shortstop
2016 NORTH 2, GROUP 1 BASEBALL
SEEDS: 1-Bloomfield Tech. 2-Glen Ridge. 3-Technology.
4-Brearley. 5-North Arlington. 6-Roselle Park.
7-Weehawken. 8-University Charter. 9-Shabazz.
10-Arts. 11-Secaucus. 12-Dayton. 13-Hoboken.
14-Ridgefield. 15-Weequahic. 16-University.
Monday, May 23
Weehawken 7, Arts 0
Brearley 4, Hoboken 2
Bloomfield Tech 10, University 0
Technology 3 Ridgefield 1
Shabazz 8, University Charter 5
Secaucus 6, Roselle Park 0
Glen Ridge 10, Weequahic 0
North Arlington 9, Dayton 6
Thursday, May 26
TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
9-Shabazz at 1-Bloomfield Tech
5-North Arlington at 4-Brearley
BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
7-Weehawken at 2-Glen Ridge
11-Secaucus at 3-Technology
Tuesday, May 31
At higher seeds
Friday, June 3
At higher seed