Linden baseball edged in N2, G4 quarterfinal at Westfield; Johnson, Cranford advance

New Providence, Dayton, Roselle Park, Union Catholic and Roselle Catholic still alive in state tournament play

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Linden senior right hander T.J. Santiago went 15-10 for his four-year varsity career.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Linden senior right hander T.J. Santiago went 15-10 for his four-year varsity career.

WESTFIELD – A game that took exactly five minutes less than two hours came down to two pitches.

The home team produced on the first one, while the visiting team just missed wrecking the contest on the second.

A two-out, RBI-single by Jake Greenberg in the bottom of the fourth scored Liam Devin with the game’s only run to support a combined three-hitter thrown by starter Brad DeMartino and reliever Quinn Dursee as 10th-seeded Westfield went on to post a 1-0 win over 15th-seeded Linden in the last North 2, Group 4 baseball quarterfinal played Sunday at Bob Brewster Sr. Memorial Field.

Linden leadoff batter Joe LeBlanc just missed hitting a grand slam with two outs in the top of the fifth, blasting a shot to deep left that was caught right in front of the fence and just to the left of the 347 foot sign.

That would have been enough for hard-luck hurler T.J. Santiago, who in his final high school game tossed a two-hitter.

Westfield, which captured the section two years ago, will host 14th-seeded Perth Amboy Tuesday in the semifinals. The Blue Devils won for the fourth time in a row to improve to 16-11.

Linden fell to 6-20 and will wrap its season Monday vs. Sayreville at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.

With Devin, who walked on four pitches with one out, on second and two down, the lefty-swinging Greenberg stepped to the plate with a plan.

“We noticed that Santiago was throwing the ball right down the middle on the first pitch,” said Greenberg, who in his only other at-bat walked on five pitches in the second inning.

The only swing Greenberg took in two at-bats proved to be the game-winning hit, a single to right that was laced hard through the hole between the second and first basemen. Devin slid home ahead of a relay throw that was knocked down by Santiago.

“It was a good pitch and I was able to hit it well and to the outfield,” Greenberg said. “The way Brad was pitching I thought that was all we would need.”

Santiago, who shut out second-seeded Edison 1-0 Monday in Edison in first round play, finished 4-4 this year and 15-10 for his four-year varsity career.

“It was a splitter he hit,” said Santiago referring to Greenberg’s RBI-single. “You tip your hat to him.”

Linden’s Luis Rivera – who went 2-for-3 and was the game’s only player with more than one hit – connected on the only extra-base hit with one out in the sixth when he smashed a shot to left field that hit the fence on one bounce four a double. However, Linden could not advance Rivera or Jason Szurlej – who reached second on a 6-4-5 fielder’s choice – any further.

DeMartino walked Linden designated hitter John Sheehy to lead off the seventh and was then taken out in favor of Dursee, with Westfield head coach Bob Brewster replacing one lefty with another. Linden’s Brian Santiago hit a slow grounder to second for the first out at first, with pinch runner Troy Myers advancing to second.

After Dursee struck out pinch hitter Chris Beyer swinging, Beyer reached first base on a 1-2 wild pitch that bounced past Westfield catcher Michael Ionta. That gave Linden runners on first and third with one out.

After striking out the next batter on an off speed pitch, Dursee got LeBlanc to foul out to Ionta behind the plate for the game’s final out.

DeMartino (3-4) allowed only three hits in six innings plus one batter, striking out seven, walking three and hitting one batter in an 73-pitch outing.

“Lately I’ve been able to go longer in games,” DeMartino said. “I’ve been feeling a lot stronger.”

DeMartino did not allow a Linden batter to reach scoring position until the fifth when the Tigers finally got something going. After Chris Faria grounded out to DeMartino, the southpaw walked Sheehy on a 3-2 inside fastball.

DeMartino then hit Brian Santiago on the wrist, putting pinch runner Jake Kawko at second and Santiago at first with one out. After getting his fifth strikeout, DeMartino walked Eddie Mack on a 3-2 count to load the bases with two outs.

LeBlanc, who previously struck out on a 0-2 pitch to lead off the game and then grounded out to DeMartino to end the third, was primed to come through in the fifth vs. DeMartino.

LeBlanc took an off speed pitch off the plate for ball one. He was then ready for a DeMartino fastball on the second pitch and put everything he had into it.

To some it might have looked like it was gone off the bat. The ball carried to deep left about as far as it could go without going over the fence before it was caught.

DeMartino, who one batter into the fifth had retired 10 in a row, had this to say about the blast: “I looked up and said, ‘Oh God here we go.’ I was saying to the outfielder, ‘please, get there.’

“It was the greatest feeling when the ball was caught. That was my one rough inning. I just couldn’t find the strike zone, except for that pitch. He hit a rocket.”

“I didn’t think it was going out, but I thought it might go over the outfielder’s head and we would get at least two runs,” said first-year Linden head coach William Mastriano. “The lower part of our order did a great job of getting on base.”

After hitting Eric Demers in the back leading off the bottom of the fifth, Santiago retired the final six batters he faced, including a 1-2-3 sixth.

“I went out there with a lot of confidence and pitched my game,” said Santiago, who will continue pitching on the Division 2 level in college at Adelphi University. “That’s all you can do.”

“A two-hitter is what T.J. is capable of,” Mastriano said. “He tips 89-90 (mph) and pounds the strike zone.”

In six innings complete that included 88 pitches, Santiago gave up only one earned run on two hits – both singles – while striking out four, walking two and hitting one batter.

“We only had two wins that weren’t his this season,” Mastriano said. “The energy level of our team when he pitches is phenomenal.

“He only had four strikeouts and he had just three vs. Edison, so we played well behind him. We go as he goes. He’s a gamer and he’ll do well at Adelphi.”

NOTES: Here is Santiago’s and Linden’s year-by-year record the past four seasons:

2013: Santiago (4-4), Linden (6-20, with one game to go)

2012: Santiago (5-4), Linden (7-14)

2011: Santiago (3-2), Linden (4-16)

2010: Santiago (3-0), Linden (12-11)

Santiago – at 15-10 lifetime – won half of Linden’s wins (29-61, with one game to go) the past four seasons.



15-Linden (6-20)                       0    0     0       0     0     0     0 – 0  3  0

10-Westfield (16-11)                0     0     0       1     0     0     x – 1  2  0



T.J. Santiago, senior, RH (4-4)

6 innings complete, 88 pitches: 1 run (earned), 2 hits (two singles),

4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 hit batter.

Pitch count: 1-14. 2-23, 3-7. 4-18. 5-13. 6-13. Total: 88.



Brad DeMartino, junior, LH (3-4)

6 innings plus one batter, 71 pitches: 0 runs, 3 hits (two singles, one double),

7 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 hit batter.

Pitch count: 1-8. 2-10. 3-11. 4-7. 5-22. 6-11. 7-4. Total: 73.



Quinn Dursee, senior, LH

1 inning, 14 pitches: 0 runs, 0 hits, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks, 1 wild pitch.

Pitch count: 7-14. Total: 14.


SINGLES: Linden – Luis Rivera, Chris Faria. Westfield – Matt Storcks, Jake Greenberg.

DOUBLES: Linden – Luis Rivera. Westfield – None.

TRIPLES: Linden – None. Westfield – None.

HOME RUNS: Linden – None. Westfield – None.






Tuesday, May 28

14-Perth Amboy at 10-Westfield




Tuesday, May 28

4-Mendham at 1-Cranford




Tuesday, May 28

5-New Providence at 4-Dayton


Tuesday, May 28

14-Roselle Park at 2-Ridgefield




Tuesday, May 28

8-Monmouth at 5-Johnson




Tuesday, May 28

6-Union Catholic at 3-St. Peter’s Prep




Tuesday, May 28

9-Roselle Catholic at 1-St. Rose, Belmar