Immaculata cruises past Phillipsburg
There are distinguishable signatures in each batter’s swing.
The subtle swirl in Tyler Fox’s bat as he readies for an offering, which seems only fitting of a leadoff hitter that stirs Immaculata’s potent offensive mix.
The high, one-handed finish that punctuates Mike Roethke’smooth, effortless cuts.
Or, the inward twitch in Andrew Rava’s front leg, a trigger mechanism of sorts that clears out to make space for his left-handed swing to get through the strike zone.
Every little nuance is a defining characteristic of an individual’s approach at the plate. However, there is one common thread that runs from Fox at the top to Wolfgang Erdel at the bottom of the Immaculata batting order and it’s the impact every batter applies to the baseball.
“We all go up with the mindset we’re going to hit the ball as hard as we can,” said Erdel.
The ball seems to jump off every bat that’s handled by an Immaculata hitter, which the Spartans needed only five innings to confirm as 10 different players contributed at least one hit to back the impressive pitching display of Rafael Tous in an 11-0 victory over Phillipsburg on Tuesday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Immaculata (11-0), No. 4 in The MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, pounded out 13 hits, including home runs from senior first baseman Kellen Sperduto and Erdel, a senior designated hitter.
“We spend a lot of time hitting,” Immaculata coach Tom Gambino said of the formula that has driven his team to average 16.5 hits and 16.2 runs over its last four outings. “They will take three sets of 15 swings at practice. And, they try to sneak in a few more before a game. They get their repetitions and we take good swings.”
Fox established the tone right from the outset, jumping on an 0-1 pitch and hammering it into the right-center field gap for a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. Luke Bonfield and Jimmy Rice delivered two-out, RBI singles to spark Immaculata to a quick 3-0 lead.
“I try to do my job because I know they’re behind me to pick me up,” said Fox, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. “I feel like I start the engine a little bit. But, every game, there is always someone that comes up big.”
No one was excluded from that label. Erdel led off the second by launching a hanging curveball to left for a home run, Ronnie Sessa lined a run-scoring double and Kellen Sperduto belted a two-run blast to right that extended the advantage to 7-0.
In the fourth, Erdel laced a two-run double up the middle, Roethe turned on pitch and sent an RBI double into the left-field corner and Sperduto lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 11-0.
“The hitting is so contagious,” Fox said. “You never want to get out.”
While the offense clicked on all cylinders, Tous went about his business on the mound in a relaxed and efficient manner, filling the strike zone with fastballs.
“When you have an offense like that backing you, it really helps,” Tous said. “It’s soothing out there. It makes it so much easier to pitch. You don’t have to worry about making that mistake pitch because you know the offense has your back.”
Tous crafted a two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and three walks. Phillipsburg (6-5) mounted a mild threat in the first, putting two runners aboard with one out. However, the junior right-hander responded with consecutive strikeouts to extinguish the threat. He yielded two walks in the fifth but was aided by a double play before ending the game with a strike out.
“Our pitchers are good,” praised Fox of a staff that’s yielded a total of 30 runs with Tous (3-0), Chris Zampini (4-0) and Chris Polaski (3-0) all having a shutout to his credit. “They are always there when we need them. Tous pitched a great game.”
Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit and pinch-hitters JT Himmelrick and Matt Yuhas came off the bench to provide one apiece. Sperduto and Erdel finished with three RBI each. Devin Grade and Tyler Plesnarski each singled for Phillipsburg.
No. 7 Steinert 7, West Windsor North 5: James Locklear was 2-for-4 with a run scored, an RBI and two stolen bases out of the leadoff spot for Steinert (13-0).
No. 3 Jackson 4, Rumson 0: Brandon Holup tossed six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and Matt Thaiss hit a two-run homer.
Freehold Borough 8, Colts Neck 4: Jason Lundy was 2-for-3 with a double and three runs scored while Anthony Vazzana and Travis Rudic each knocked in two runs for Freehold Borough.
No. 13 Toms River South 8, Point Pleasant Beach 4: After yielding four runs on two hits in the first, John Leiter threw six hitless innings to improve to 3-0. The senior right-hander notched 11 strikeouts. James Burke was 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and Andrew Hourigan added a two-run single. Russell Messler finished 2-for-3 with a run-scoring triple. C.J. Lopez delivered a three-run double in the first for Point Pleasant Beach.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner