Middlesex upends Sayreville for GMC title
Chris Petiya spoke of Sayreville ace Christian Campbell with the utmost sense of reverence and there aren’t many more qualified hitters in the state to bestow measures of respect more distinctly than the Middlesex slugger.
Guys who launch homers at the rate Petiya has all season tend to be paid a good deal of homage in the form of walks, be it intentional or otherwise, and become experts in the subtleties of gamesmanship. But, Petiya knew Campbell would be different. The junior right-hander brought a 9-0 mark into the Greater Middlesex County Tournament final on Thursday and didn’t build that record by being timid.
Campbell operates with the same confidence in his fastball and knee-buckling curve as Petiya has for the mighty left-handed swing he figured he’d be able to use against someone willing to accept the challenge of pitching to him.
“We wanted him to come after us and we knew he would,” Petiya said. “He wouldn’t try to pitch around us and he’d try to beat us with his fastball. I’ve been playing with him since I was 14. He’s younger than me, but he played with older kids and was doing the same things then that he is doing now. I respect him so much.”
Just as Petiya suspected, Campbell pitched to him and the appreciative senior designated hitter showed his gratitude by following a solo blast from teammate Tommy Marcinczyk with one of his own. The power surge simply added to the already-established confidence that third-seeded Middlesex rode to a 10-4 decision over top-seeded and third-ranked Sayreville in the GMCT title game at East Brunswick Tech.
For Petiya, it was his 13th home run within an impressive campaign that hinged on his uncomplicated approach at the plate..
“I just try to hit the ball as hard as I can somewhere and if it goes out, it goes out,” Petiya said. “There not mad hacks. I look for the fastballs and if I get them, I hit them.”
Petiya’s blast evened the contest at 3-3 but invigorated Middlesex (25-3) with added life that played out over the balance of the game.
The Bluejays snapped the deadlock in the fourth by manufacturing two runs.Kris Fellin drew a leadoff walk and Tyler Heisch, who went 2-for-3, reached on a high-hop single. Both would eventually score on a pair of errors to hand Middlesex a 5-3 advantage.
The feel-good moment for Middlesex came in the sixth with it clinging to a 5-4 edge. Walter Bylecki and Dan Berardi each singled and Jeff Reinecke walked to load the bases for pinch-hitter Brennan Price.
The junior, who has carved a niche for himself as a key offensive reserve after working his way back following Tommy John surgery in November, crushed a high fastball the opposite way for a grand slam that broke the game wide open.
“That hit sums up all the hard work I had to do,” said Price. “It really is a great way to end my season. The rehab was all repetitive stuff and, at times, it got annoying but I guess it paid off. Once I hit it, I had no idea it was going out.”
Pitching on three days rest, Campbell had better control of his off-speed repertoire than his heat but labored gallantly through a tough start.
“I was a little high and a little low, too,” Campbell admitted. “I was all over the place actually. I couldn’t hit my spots. Coming back on three days rest is kind of tough.”
Sayreville (25-3) came out clicking offensively with Campbell triggering a first-inning rally with a leadoff triple. Matt Bouthillette drove him in with a single and later scored all the way from first on Michael Carey’s double.
Campbell, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI single, did enjoy one milestone. His two-out single to left in the sixth was the 100th hit of his career.
Carey finished 2-for-4 with a double and RBI for Sayreville. Dan Berardi countered with a 3-for-5 effort that included a double and two singles while Heisch, Walter Bylecki and Jeff Reinecke all had two hits for Middlesex.
Marcinczyk yielded three runs on six hits over five innings for Middlesex before giving way to Anthony Keri, who scattered four hits and a walk over four innings to improve to 8-1.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner