Summit baseball advances to UCT semifinals for first time since 2015; Hilltoppers top top-seeded Cranford in 8 innings

Carlson walks with bases loaded for winning RBI and Reddy tosses complete-game, nine-hitter to improve to 5-0; Hilltoppers now 11-5

Emory Carlson walked with the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the eighth to give Summit the lead once again and then Matt Reddy retired Cranford on three pitches in the bottom of the eighth.
All of a sudden the visiting Hilltoppers found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Summit baseball advanced to the Union County Tournament semifinals for the first time in four years.
The Hilltoppers are now two wins away – after beating Union County Conference Watchung Division schools Westfield in the first round and Cranford in the quarterfinals – from winning the event for the first time since 1998.
Reddy, a senior right hander, tossed a nine-hitter Saturday to help lead eighth-seeded Summit past top-seeded Cranford 3-2 in eight innings in the UCT quarterfinal round game played at Cranford’s Memorial Field.
The semifinals are tentatively scheduled to be played Friday at Kean University, although that could change.
No matter, Mountain Division squad Summit – which improved to 11-5 – will be ready.
“Beating Westfield and Summit is a nice accomplishment for our boys,” said Summit head coach Kevin Zaleski, at the helm of the Hilltoppers since 2007.
In his 13 seasons now as the head coach at Summit, Zaleski – a 2001 Hanover Park graduate – has guided the Hilltoppers to the UCT semifinals twice. The first time was in 2015 when Summit was the 10th seed and won at second-seeded Scotch Plains 8-7 in the quarterfinals. That Summit team then lost to eventual champion Cranford 12-2 in the semifinals at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.
For the first time Summit will play in the semifinals at Kean University, unless the site is changed for some reason.
“We have a senior-dominated team, with a lot of the players having been around for the past three years,” Zaleski said. “We’ve pretty much been on an even keel, executing well what we’ve done so far.”
After Reddy blanked ninth-seeded Westfield 3-0 in Monday’s first round game at Summit’s Memorial Park field, he gave up only single runs in the fourth and fifth innings Saturday at Cranford.
Reddy, who will be starting on the mound for Summit again in the semifinals, improved to 5-0 and owns a stingy 1.47 ERA. He is 2-0 so far in UCT play and has given up only two runs in 15 innings.
After Summit took its 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth against Cranford, Reddy came back out to the mound in the bottom of the frame and retired the only three batters he faced on a ground out, a fly ball and a pop up. He threw less than 100 pitches.
“Matt was in a zone the whole game,” Zaleski said.
Reddy is a three-year varsity starter who also lettered as a freshman.
“He just mixed it up on all counts,” Zaleski said. “He doesn’t overpower anyone with his fastball, but his fastball was sneaky quick against Cranford because he was getting his other pitches over.
“They had to be ready to swing because he was in a zone.”
Reddy was 2-1 last year and in the mix with other starting pitchers Alex Boburka, now also a senior, and Will Hellings, a junior. Hellings is 4-0 this season and Boburka 1-4.
“Matt went from being our No. 3 last year to this year just kind of being in a zone for the most part,” Zaleski said.
Cranford, which received solid pitching from senior right handers Jake Van Dam and Kevin Donovan, tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth and then again at 2-2 in the fifth.
Trevor Mutolo led off the top of the eighth for the Hilltoppers with a double and then Hellings singled and moved to second when the ball was bobbled in the outfield. Justin Weiss was then intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force at any base.
Carlson then walked for his second RBI. He was 1-for-2.
Summit did not score again because the next two batters were retired on a 1-2-3 double play and a ground out to third.
Banging out two hits each for the Hilltoppers were senior Dan Isralowitz, Mutolo, Hellings and Reddy. Hellings had Summit’s other RBI.
Weiss also excelled behind the plate, throwing out four Cranford runners attempting to steal, three at second base and one at third.
“He was incredible,” Zaleski said.
Weiss, a three-year starter, will continue playing baseball at the next level at Division 1 Lafayette College.
Cranford, which last won the UCT in 2015 for the ninth time and last reached the final in 2017, exited in the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
It’s rare that you get to the UCT semifinals and don’t see both Westfield and Cranford, the teams with the most UCT championships. Westfield is the leader with 15 and last won the crown in 2017, beating Cranford in the final.
All four Mountain Division teams – leader Johnson, Summit, Union Catholic and New Providence – had wins over Watchung Division teams before the April 22 seeding meeting. Johnson defeated Westfield, Summit beat Elizabeth, Union Catholic topped Scotch Plains and New Providence won at Cranford.
As a result, all four were seeded among the top eight, with Johnson the fourth seed, Union Catholic the fifth and New Providence the seventh.
“The big thing is that we all had wins against those (Watchung Division school) teams,” Zaleski said.
Summit, which captured Valley Division championships in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and then the Mountain Division crown in 2017, is presently tied for second in this year’s four-team Mountain Division standings with Union Catholic at 2-2. Johnson leads at 3-1.
Summit has division games remaining at home against Union Catholic and at Johnson.
“We’ve been throwing strikes and playing defense and that keeps you in most games in high school,” Zaleski said. “We make sure to make the plays.
“I think we just have veteran guys who are very confident at the plate, whether it’s to get a hit or get a bunt down.”
NOTES: Behind senior left hander Danny Wilkinson, sixth-seeded Scotch Plains won at third-seeded Union 1-0 in Saturday’s other quarterfinal round game that was played.
Moved to Monday were fifth-seeded Union Catholic at fourth-seeded Johnson – the winner to play Summit – and 10th-seeded Elizabeth at second-seeded and defending champion Gov. Livingston – the winner to play Scotch Plains.
Those games may have to be moved again to Tuesday because of all the rain on Sunday and the additional rain in the forecast for Monday.
Starting times if they are played on Monday include 4 p.m. for UC at Johnson and 4:30 p.m. for Elizabeth at GL.