By: Matt Lamb
August 6, 2016/ Lincroft, NJ – After escaping a frantic 9th inning rally to defeat the Monmouth Monarchs on Thursday night, the Freehold Clippers were able to once again hold off the Monarchs, pulling away late to seal a 7-3 victory at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. With their win the Clippers took home their first-ever Jerry Lillis ABCCL Championship Cup.
The Clippers stayed undefeated throughout the postseason, in the process handing the Monarchs their only playoff losses. The Monarchs had won the Jerry Lillis Cup the past three seasons, setting multiple League records in the process.
In Saturday’s deciding game, each team was neck and neck early on. The Clippers struck first, getting an RBI single from Jon Baturgil (Freehold, NJ/ Chestnut Hill College, PA) in the home half of the first inning, scoring Nick Ruscingno (Teaneck, NJ/ New Jersey City University) who reached third base on a throwing error during his team’s first at-bat. Baturgil had two hits and three RBI on the day. “We’ve all been seeing the ball really well and it came together today,” Baturgil said after the contest. “We weren’t too anxious, we stayed patient in our at bats and we made the most of our opportunities.”
The Monarchs answered in the top of the second when Joe Santigate (Staten Island, NY/Wheaton College, MA) and Joe Iacobellis (Morganville, NJ/Alvernia University, PA) produced back-to-back singles. Crescenzo Ciliberto (Philadelphia, PA/ Mercer County CC, NJ) brought both runners home with a double to right but was thrown out attempting to stretch his two-bagger into a triple.
Trailing 2-1, the Clippers tied the score back up at 2-2 when C.J. Gearhart (Robbinsville, NJ/ The College of New Jersey) laced an RBI single through the left side, scoring Steve Edelstein (Staten Island, NY/Stockton University, NJ), who had tripled to lead off the inning.
In the top of the 4th inning, the Monarchs regained the lead when Luke Hoyl (Dallas, TX/ St. Edward’s University, TX) slid under a tag attempt on a high throw to first base. He then stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Hoyl completed his journey to the plate on a deep ground-out to shortstop, reclaiming a 3-2 advantage for the Monarchs.
Mistakes would prove costly to the Monarchs in the bottom of the fifth inning. A walk to Baturgil, stolen base and infield error produced the game-tying run. His foray around the bases was followed by a single from Austin Lindsay (Allentown, NJ/ Mercer County CC, NJ) and a second single by Edelstein, scoring Lindsay and giving the Clippers a 4-3 lead that they would never relinquish. On the play, Edelstein was thrown out on a strong throw by Ciliberto while attempting to leg his hit into a double.
On the day, the Monarchs made several other impressive plays in the field, which helped keep the score within reach, including two diving catches by Ciliberto in right field. Alex Galy (New Orleans, LA, Tulane University, LA) and Joe Rotelli (Morganville, NJ/ Brookdale CC, NJ) also saved extra bases and potential runs with their web gems. But those defensive highlights could not change the final outcome.
The major turning point in this game for the Clippers came in the next inning. In the top of the sixth, the Monarchs’ Christian Estevez (River Edge, NJ/ Rider University, NJ) singled to lead off the inning. After two batters were retired he stole second base, and when the pitcher uncorked a wild pitch Estevez easily moved to third base. However, as the ball bounced away from Clippers’ catcher Harrison Preschel (Teaneck, NJ/Long Island Univ.-Brooklyn, NY) Estevez continued his dash for home. The daring play didn’t end well for Estevez and the Monarchs as Preschel recovered the ball and flipped it to starting pitcher, Mike Pepio (Freehold, NJ/ East Stroudsburg University, PA) who applied the tag, preventing the tying run from scoring and ending the inning.
In the Clippers half of the frame, three walks filled the bases for Baturgil, who delivered a single that drove in two runs to extend the lead to 6-3 after six. “We went from last place two seasons ago to first place this season. It’s been great getting to play with this group of guys this summer. We’ve played good baseball all year and the work has paid off,” Baturgil said.
The Clippers final tally came in the seventh when Preschel blasted a home run to center field. Preschel, who had three hits on Saturday, said, “I saw two pitches before the one I hit for the homer and I was able to turn on it well. Luckily it made it over the fence.” Preschel modestly down-played his outstanding effort, noting, “It was a team effort all season. I came from North Jersey to play with these guys. We were all excited to play together and wanted to be here. It’s a great feeling.”
For his part, Clippers starter Pepio threw 6.1 solid innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. Connor Lindsay (Allentown, NJ/ Montclair State University, NJ) came on in relief for the Clippers and allowed only a double to Luis Hidalgo (Ridgefield, NJ/Bloomfield College, NJ), who had two hits on the day, to secure the victory and championship.
Clippers genral manager and head coach, Rich Gawlak, had this to say about his team’s accomplishment after the game, “It has been a pleasure coaching such a talented group of players this summer. They bought into our philosophy immediately and came together. I’m happy that all their effort and hard work paid off in the end. At the beginning of the season the team goal was to win a championship while also improving as individuals. I’m satisfied in saying that both goals were accomplished. It was a great season playing against some truly wonderful competition. To be able to cap it off against a talented group like the Monarchs, the defending league champions, made the victory that much more challenging. I’d just like to thank the team for letting me be a part of their success.”
With the ABCCL season now concluded, our over 250 players can only wait until their school year begins and regular college season gets underway. For fans of the ABCCL, we’ll be counting the days and looking forward to another exciting summer of outstanding college baseball in 2017.