The display of offensive brawn up and down the DePaul lineup will unquestionably be the lasting image from its sudden and explosive showing on Saturday.
Rightfully so, considering the complete hitting exhibition by the Spartans, one that featured 22 hits, including 16 amassed during two consecutive, game-breaking innings.
But, ask sluggers Sean Jones and John Scarr to trace the origin of the uprising and they'd be the first to admit their muscle was secondary to George Monsen’s hustle.
With DePaul trailing by a run and one out in the top of the fifth, Monsen laced a wicked ground ball that Hawthorne second baseman Ricky Grofsick grabbed with a spectacular diving stop to his left. However, the throw from his knees to first was ruled just late as Monsen legged out the infield single on a defining example of a bang-bang play.
“If he doesn’t beat that out, I don’t think that rally happens,” Jones said. “You gotta give it to him. He runs hard and I think he’s the fastest guy on our team. It was a huge momentum builder for us.”
Believe it or not, huge may be an understatement. More like unfathomable considering what Monsen’s infield single triggered.
Behind a hitting epidemic that featured the power of Jones and Mike Lembo, the consistency of John Scarr and depth of DePaul’s batting order, the Spartans embarked on a clinic in the art of making solid, productive contact. Monsen touched off a string of eight straight hits and a two-inning outburst that captured the range of DePaul’s lethal capabilities.
The one-run deficit it entered with in the fifth was a distant memory by the time starter Nick Fondacaro recorded the final out in the bottom of the sixth to seal seventh-seeded DePaul’s 15-4 triumph over sixth-seeded Hawthorne in the semifinals of the Passaic County Tournament at Passaic Tech in Wayne.
The Spartans amassed 16 hits and 14 runs over the fifth and sixth innings, marching 22 batters to the plate. In the process, they unloaded two homers and three doubles and saw 13 players contribute either a run or a hit to the production.
And, to think it all started with a guy just determined to light a spark. Instead, Monsen ignited an inferno.
“It shows what these players are about,” DePaul coach Joe Lennon said. “They never give up. It was a fantastic play by their second baseman and George is still busting it all the way down to first base. He really fired us up.”
“All we needed was one hit to get us going,” said Monsen, who accounted for two as well as two runs and an RBI during the splurge. “The whole team, 1 to 9, hits as soon as someone got on base. I knew we were going to get it going.”
The bigger concern was whether it was ever going to stop.
Lembo, who went 3-for-5 with four RBI, followed Monsen’s play with a two-run homer to left to put DePaul in front, 3-2. Jones backed that withs a solo blast, his second home run of the contest, and Scarr, who went 5-for-5 delivered the first of his two doubles.
“We knew George’s hit was the start of a big inning,” said Scarr. “George is a real hustle player. We were all ecstatic when he reached.”
Matt Betz stroked a single that scored two as part of the eight-run fifth that powered DePaul (13-12) to a 9-2 advantage.
Hawthorne got a run back in the bottom half when Grofsick doubled and scored on Ryan O’Hea’s ground out but it was going to need much more than that to keep pace with a DePaul onslaught that picked up where it left off by pushing across six more in the sixth.
Scarr supplied an RBI double and an RBI single as the Spartans sent 11 men to the plate and collected seven more hits to extend the lead to 15-3..
“We’ve been hitting like this pretty much for the last two or three weeks,” noted the red-hot Jones, who is batting .750 in the PCT (9-for-12) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI in three games. “I knew it was only a matter of time before our bats came alive.”
DePaul advanced to the PCT final on Monday at 10:30 back at Passaic Tech, where it will meet fourth-seeded Wayne Hills, which got a colossal two-run homer from Justin Avedissian, gutsy pitching by senior right-hander Chris Amato and superb outfield defense from Mike Abate in a 2-0 triumph over ninth-seeded Clifton in the second semifinal.
Hawthorne (18-7) was actually the team that got off to the hot start. Leadoff batter Eddie Kreger opened the bottom of the first with his first home run of the season and LB Marte lined an RBI double to give the Bears an early 2-0 edge.
Jones cut that deficit in half in the third with a two-out solo shot to right-center field.
While DePaul’s bats were in peak form, their starter wasn’t too shabby either. Nick Fondacaro, a converted reliever, went the distance, allowing eight hits and one walk while fanning five to run his record to 4-0.
After his tough start, the right-hander settled in, retiring 11 in a row before Ken Tousignant connected for a one-out double in the fifth and eventually scored on Mike Dittfield’s sacrifice fly.
Kreger finished 2-for-3 with a double to go with his home run and Marte also went 2-for-3 for Hawthorne.
Wayne Hills (21-6), which pushed its winning streak to eight, got a leadoff single from Jason Avedissian in front of his twin brother, who launched a mammoth two-run homer into the middle of the second parking tier well beyond the left field fence in the bottom of the fourth.
Amato complemented the homer by fanning four and walking one in a five-hitter.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner