SPRINGFIELD – The first time Dayton had two baserunners on, No. 8 batter Robert Kinloch was ready to rev up the Bulldog offense once more.
With runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the second, the lefty-swinging Kinloch hit a shot to the gap in left off Roselle Park lefty Paul Sep that split the outfielders, allowing Ben Steel and Mike Iuliano to score the game’s first two runs.
His two-run blast the opposite way was the start of another offensive onslaught by the home team, with Dayton on its way to banging out 13 hits in support of starter Tommy Walsh.
“We were as confident as possible,” Kinloch said. “We tried to size up Sep. He had good stuff, but we were focused and ready.”
In order to capture its first sectional title under the present format, Dayton had to win three state tournament games in three straight days after Mother Nature did not allow for the section to be played out when it was supposed to.
Rainouts didn’t matter one bit to the fourth-seeded Bulldogs, who on Saturday on a hot and humid sundrenched afternoon rolled to a more-than-decisive 13-3, five-inning triumph over 14th-seeded Roselle Park in the North 2, Group 1 championship game played at Dayton’s Ruby Field.
“We wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Kinloch said. “We’ll play again tomorrow. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Not only did Dayton have to win its quarterfinal, semifinal and final contest in successive days, but the Bulldogs had to beat a team – Roselle Park – it was swept by in two Union County Conference-Mountain Division contests.
As a result, Dayton – which won its 13th straight, improved to 20-4 and posted its second straight 20-win season – will next play North 1 champion Pompton Lakes in Tuesday’s 4 p.m. Group 1 semifinal at William Paterson University in Wayne.
Tuesday’s other 4 p.m. Group 1 semifinal pits Central Jersey champion Middlesex vs. South Jersey champ Pitman at Rutgers.
The semifinal winners will clash next Saturday – June 8 – in the Group 1 state championship game at one of the three Toms River high schools. Those matchups will be announced immediately following Tuesday’s group semifinals.
Dayton reached a sectional final for the first time since 2005 when it was defeated at home by repeat champion New Providence 14-10 in the Central Jersey, Group 1 championship game.
Roselle Park last reached a sectional final two years ago when the Panthers captured North 2, Group 1 for the first time since 1999.
Under fourth-year head coach Mike Abbate, Dayton was defeated in the North 2, Group 1 semifinals the past three seasons, falling to High Tech 4-2 at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus in 2010, at home to Hoboken 6-0 in 2011 and at Ridgewood 3-2 in eight innings in 2012, in a game that had to be continued the next day because of rain.
Those consecutive state tournament setbacks only made the program gaining its first sectional championship that much sweeter.
Dayton’s last loss was its second to Roselle Park, which was a 7-5 defeat at home on April 30 in a game it had a lead in. The pitching matchup was the same that day, with Sep on the mound for the Panthers and Walsh (8-1) absorbing his only loss.
On Saturday, Walsh tossed a five-inning seven-hitter, allowing three runs, while striking out two, walking none and hitting one batter in a 69-pitch performance.
“I tried to throw a lot of strikes,” Walsh said. “I don’t have an overpowering fastball, so I just tried to get them to put the ball in play.”
Sep was knocked out of the game in the third inning after Dayton went ahead 5-0.
Dayton scored 13 runs on 13 hits one day after knocking out eighth-seeded Harrison 11-1 in six innings. The Bulldogs, who opened their season with a 12-2 division loss at Roselle Park back on April 2, ended up outscoring four sectional opponents by an impressive margin of 46-4, including two shutouts.
Although Roselle Park did not come out on top, the Panthers can say that they were the only team to defeat Dayton twice this season. Roselle Park rebounded nicely from a 3-8 start to post another winning campaign, this one at 17-13.
“What we did was a tribute to our seniors,” said Roselle Park head coach Nick Agoglia, who played at Roselle Park before graduating in 1995 and who guided the Panthers to the 2011 N2, G1 title. “We got off to a rough start and have nothing to be ashamed of. It wasn’t easy for us after we snuck in as the 14th seed.”
Roselle Park took out the defending champion, winning at second-seeded Ridgefield 8-4 in the first semifinal played Wednesday.
“Give Dayton all the credit,” Agoglia said. “Mike (Abbate) does a great job. We played hard, but this was Dayton’s day.”
The only teams Dayton played this season that it did not defeat were Group 4 Watchung Division squads Westfield and Linden. Dayton fell at Westfield 9-1 in a conference-crossover contest April 23 and four days later the Bulldogs were topped at home by Linden 7-4 in a Union County Tournament first round encounter. Linden senior right hander and Division 2 Adelphi University-bound T.J. Santiago, who went 15-10 in his four-year varsity career, beat the Bulldogs that day.
Dayton scored in every inning but the first Saturday against Roselle Park. In a four-run third inning, senior Chas Bohannon delivered an RBI-single to center and two batters later Steel drove in two more runs with an opposite field single to right.
Steven Loevsky put Roselle Park on the scoreboard with an RBI-single to center to make it a 6-1 game in the fourth. Dayton answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning, with Iuliano producing an RBI-single to right and Bohannon a sacrifice fly RBI to center.
Roselle Park drew to within 8-3 in the fifth after back-to-back RBI-singles were belted by junior Luis Amaro, the other way to left, and by Sep.
Dayton finished the game by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth to enforce the 10-run rule. Iuliano had another RBI-single after the previous run scored as the result of an error. Steel then drove in two more runs with a bloop double to short center.
Kinloch, who drove in the game’s first two runs, also drove in the final one when he produced a single to center that scored Bohannon from third.
Dayton then began to celebrate the program’s first sectional championship.
“Not a lot of teams would have had the pitching to win three games in three days,” Walsh said.
“Because we’re a small Group 1 school sometimes we’re not taken seriously,” Kinloch said. “We’re not a joke school, not a pushover. We’re legit.”
Winning the group semifinal in order to have the opportunity to get on the bus and make that trip to Toms River is a tricky proposition. Brearley accomplished the feat in 2009, while Roselle Park fell a bit short in 2011.
“I’ve been working on this for four years,” Bohannon said. “This is a dream come true, to be one of just four teams left.
“We knew New Providence would be tough again and felt that if we got it going against them that we would get hot. We got our bats going more against Harrison and scored some runs and continued that today.
“On Tuesday we have to keep doing more of the same. We’ve come a long way this year, including our younger players.”
After facing Sep back on April 30, Abbate had a strategy mapped out to be a bit more successful this time.
“We wanted to take away his fastball on the outside corner and get him to bring his pitches inside and then, hopefully, we would be quick enough to turn on them,” Abbate said. “We made him come inside and our kids did a nice job by putting the ball in play.”
Walsh, like Bohannon and Alec Marcantonio on the mound before him, was in control of his pitches as evidenced by not walking a batter.
“We had maybe one or two walks the last three games,” Abbate said. “If our pitchers don’t walk people we’re usually in good shape.”
Dayton repeated as Mountain Division champions, with its only league losses being the two to Roselle Park. That’s three division titles in four years under Abbate, including the Union County Conference’s Valley Division crown in 2010, which was Dayton’s first divisional title since the Bulldogs captured the Mountain Valley Conference’s Mountain Division championship in 2005.
Including winning records of 14-12 in 2010, 17-7 in 2011, 20-5 in 2012 and 20-4 so far in 2013, Dayton is 71-28 (.717) under Abbate.
“We won the conference three of the last four years and today we took the next step by winning our section,” Abbate said. “You make your breaks in this sport by being there every year, which is what we’re trying to do.
“The more you battle the more the results will pan out.
“Now it’s a tournament of four. You never know in baseball.”
NORTH 2, GROUP 1 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AT RUBY FIELD
14-ROSELLE PARK (17-13) 0 0 0 1 2 – 3 7 2
4-DAYTON (20-4) 0 2 4 2 5 – 13 13 0
WINNING PITCHER: Tommy Walsh.
LOSING PITCHER: Paul Sep.
DOUBLES: Roselle Park – Mike Figueredo. Dayton – Robert Kinloch, Alec Marcantonio, Ben Steel.
TRIPLES: Roselle Park – None. Dayton – None.
HOME RUNS: Roselle Park – None. Dayton – None.
2013 NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 2, GROUP 1 BASEBALL
SEEDS: 1-Dunellen. 2-Ridgefield. 3-Bloomfield Tech. 4-Dayton.
5-New Providence. 6-Weehawken. 7-North 13th St. Tech. 8-Harrison.
9-University Charter. 10-Secaucus. 11-Hoboken. 12-Belvidere.
13-Science Park. 14-Roselle Park. 15-Whippany Park. 16-North Arlington.
Monday, May 20
Dunellen 11, North Arlington 1 – at Dunellen
Harrison 10, University Charter 0 – at Harrison
New Providence 12, Belvidere 2 – at New Providence
Roselle Park 5, Bloomfield Tech 1 – at Bloomfield Tech
Weehawken 6, Hoboken 3 – at Weehawken
Secaucus 9, North 13th St. Tech 0 – at North 13th St. Tech
Ridgefield 2, Whippany Park 1 – at Ridgefield
Tuesday, May 21
Roselle Park 19, Science Park 0 – at Roselle Park
Friday, May 24
Harrison 11, Dunellen 10 – at Dunellen
Roselle Park 7, Weehawken 0 – at Weehawken
Sunday, May 26
Ridgefield 4, Secaucus 3 – at Ridgefield
Thursday, May 30
Dayton 3, New Providence 0 – at Dayton
Wednesday, May 29
Roselle Park 8, Ridgefield 4 – at Ridgefield
Friday, May 31
Dayton 11, Harrison 1 – at Dayton
Saturday, June 1
Dayton 13, Roselle Park 3 – at Dayton
Defending champion: Ridgefield.