KENILWORTH – Phil Lagana was given the ball to bring home the division championship.
The senior right hander didn’t disappoint.
Lagana went the distance – tossing a six-hitter – and at the plate produced two of his team’s seven hits, including an RBI-single in the first to give the Panthers the lead for good, as Roselle Park went on to defeat arch rival Brearley 6-3 Wednesday in Union County Conference-Valley Division baseball action at Brearley High School.
As a result, Roselle Park finished 9-1 in the Valley Division to capture the division title for the third time and second in the last three years. The Panthers previously won the UCC’s Valley Division crown in 2011 and 2015.
“It feels good,” Lagana said. “We also won it my sophomore year. We’re starting to put it together as a team.”
Roselle Park won its second straight and has won four of five to improve to 16-5-1 overall.
Roselle Park scored two runs in each of the first three innings to give Lagana a 6-1 lead going into the fourth. The first run he yielded in the bottom of the first was unearned.
“I just wanted to throw strikes, let my defense make plays and get outs,” said Lagana, who improved to 6-0, with five of the wins coming against division opponents. “The main thing was throwing strikes.”
Lagana, in a 105-pitch effort, struck out five and walked three.
Perhaps the biggest out he recorded came in the bottom of the fifth. Brearley, down 6-2 at the time, loaded the bases with two outs after Lagana issued his third and final base on balls, walking Brearley sophomore Vinny Rappa.
Lefty-swinging junior Danny Smith followed, seeking a big hit to bring the Bears closer. Lagana and Smith battled before Smith connected on a 2-2 pitch – the eighth pitch of the at-bat – and grounded out to second.
Brearley had the tying run on deck with no outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh before Lagana retired the game’s final three batters on a ground out to short, a lineout to short and a groundout that went first baseman Jawahn Gasque to Lagana.
“In the seventh I still felt pretty good and was ready to go,” Lagana said.
While Roselle Park head coach Nick Agoglia was quick to point out to his players following the game what he felt the team lacked, “we’re better than what we’re doing,” he said, citing several examples, he was complimentary toward the mound performance Lagana delivered.
“Phil was great again,” Agoglia said. “Phil, Dylan Camilo and Dan Alvarez have been our conference starters (pitchers).”
While Roselle Park took advantage of three Brearley errors to score the game’s first two runs and take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, the Panthers also had a runner picked off in the frame and then made the first of two errors for Brearley’s first run in the bottom of the first.
“When we have it we’re good,” Lagana said. “There were some plays we should have made.”
“We have good at-bats and then sometimes not so good at-bats,” Agoglia said. “We’re struggling with timely hitting a bit.”
Brearley senior center fielder Jesse Goncalves drove in his team’s first run with an RBI-single to center in the first. He also belted a double to center in the fifth.
Lefty-swinging Roselle Park senior right fielder Tyler Lieberman made it 4-1 in the second when he smashed a shot over the right fielder’s head for a two-run homer. With two outs and nobody on, leadoff batter Juan Nunez walked before Lieberman’s blast.
Roselle Park made it 6-1 in the third when senior catcher Ryan Loevsky produced an opposite field RBI-single to right and then later in the inning against reliever Antonio Sacca, Nunez walked with the bases loaded.
Sacca excelled in relief for the Bears, allowing no runs on two hits in 4 and 1/3 innings.
Brearley pulled to within 6-2 in the fifth when No. 9 batter, junior shortstop Mike Ramos, hit a shot over the center fielder’s head that went for a one-out triple. Ramos then scored when leadoff batter Nick Ferrante hit a ground ball to second and also reached on the play as the result of a throwing error.
Ramos led off the seventh by hitting a long shot to center that was almost run down by Roselle Park junior center fielder Ray Arocha. The ball went off Arocha’s glove, with Ramos rounding the bases for a solo home run to make it 6-3.
Ferrante followed with an infield single after beating the throw from shortstop before Lagana re-focused and got the next three batters out to clinch the victory and the Valley Division title for Roselle Park.
“We’re excited,” Agoglia said. “To win our division and go 9-1, that’s a great accomplishment.
“Hopefully we can carry the momentum over to the states.”
Roselle Park will be the second seed in North 2, Group 1. The Panthers last won the crown in 2011 in dramatic fashion at home against Hoboken and last reached the final in 2013, falling at first-time champion Dayton.
Dayton will be the top seed in North 2, Group 1. The Bulldogs are 14-4 overall and 7-2 in the Valley Division, with their final division game scheduled to be played at home Thursday against Rahway.
If Roselle Park and Dayton are fortunate enough to win their first three state tournament games, then the squads will clash at Springfield’s Ruby Field in the championship game on June 2.
Brearley, which had a four-game winning streak snapped to fall to 8-6 overall and finish 5-5 in the Valley Division, also made the grade in North 2, Group 1.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-VALLEY DIVISION BASEBALL
RP (16-5-1, 9-1-champs) 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 – 6 7 2
Brearley (8-6, 5-5) 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 – 3 6 3
Roselle Park senior RH Phil Lagana (6-0)
7 innings complete, 105 pitches: 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits,
5 strikeouts (3 swinging, 2 looking), 3 walks
1-2-3 innings: third and sixth
Pitch count: 1-21. 2-15. 3-15. 4-12. 5-21. 6-9. 7-13. Total: 105.
Brearley sophomore RH Vinny Rappa (3-2)
2 and 2/3 innings (started), 68 pitches: 6 runs (4 earned), on 5 hits,
2 strikeouts (1 swinging, 1 looking), 3 walks, 1 hit batter
Pitch count: 1-29. 2-25. 3-14. Total: 68.
BREARLEY RELIEF PITCHER:
Senior RH Antonio Sacca
4 and 1/3 innings, 41 pitches: 0 runs on 2 hits,
1 strikeout (looking), 2 walks
1-2-3 inning: seventh
Pitch count: 3-8. 4-13. 5-9. 6-11. 7-13. Total: 54.
Roselle Park – Phil Lagana, Sean Matthews, Vinny Figueredo,
Ryan Loevsky, Tyler Crown.
Brearley – Jesse Goncalves, Vinny Rappa.
Roselle Park – Phil Lagana.
Brearley – Ivan Rosa, Jesse Concalves.
Roselle Park – None.
Brearley – Mike Ramos.
Roselle Park – Tyler Lieberman.
Brearley – Mike Ramos.
ROSELLE PARK PANTHERS:
13-Juan Nunez, junior, left field
5-Tyler Lieberman, senior, right field
11-Ray Arocha, junior, center field
17-Phil Lagana, senior, pitcher
20-Sean Matthews, junior, designated hitter
7-Dan Alvarez, senior, shortstop (did not bat)
15-Jawahn Gasque, junior, first base
14-Vinny Figueredo, junior, third base
8-Ryan Loevsky, senior, catcher
9-Tyler Crown, senior, second base
2-Nick Ferrante, junior, left field
13-Joe Scanio, senior, catcher
3-Jesse Goncalves, senior, center field
22-Vinny Rappa, sophomore, pitcher
6-Danny Smith, junior, second base
5-Ivan Rosa, sophomore, third base
30-Antonio Sacca, senior, first base-pitcher
21-Ryan Griffin, senior, designated hitter
31-Jeff Yosurack, senior, designated hitter
20-Tyler Weiss, senior, right field (did not bat)
9-Mike Ramos, junior, shortstop