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May 13, 2009 > Newark outlasts Irvington in baseball playoff

Newark outlasts Irvington in baseball playoff

By Gary van den Heuvel

After Newark Memorial's baseball team beat the Irvington Vikings, 2-1, in early April, there was a sense that that game was just the first bullet fired between these two stellar teams. Everything was pointing to the May 8 season finale at Newark - as long as neither team stumbled, there would be a highly anticipated rematch to decide the MVAL championship.

Neither team disappointed. Newark continued to slice through their league foes, last week dusting Washington, 9-1, and Mission San Jose, 6-2, to set up the climactic matchup; Irvington kept their end of the deal, spanking American, 9-4, and Logan, 15-0.

When the dust had cleared, Irvington had captured a share of the MVAL crown, their first since 1982, with an 11-8 slugfest win at Newark, equaling the Cougars' won-loss record of 11-1. But that result forced a one-game playoff to decide which team would be the number one seed in the Shaughnessy Tournament, which would give home-field advantage to the winner. In true championship form, Newark clawed back from an early deficit to edge the Vikings, 4-3, in 10 nail-biting innings.

On Friday, Irvington's bats were on fire early, with three first-inning runs scored by a Trevor Ramos two-run double, and a double by TJ Meyer, which scored Ramos. Newark scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, but from there the bats went dormant until the top of the fifth.

The Cougars nearly escaped the inning unscathed, but with two outs and Viking runners at first and third base, Newark catcher Bobby Neves made the questionable decision to try to throw out base-stealing Ross Larson at second. The throw sailed wildly into centerfield and Meyer scored from third to give Irvington a 4-2 lead.

At that point, the floodgates opened: Matt Silvernale walked, Sean Yoshikawa singled in Larson, Ryan Tella (who was also the starting pitcher) scorched a two-run double, and Ramos singled in Tella. The inning finally ended with the Vikings ahead, 8-2.

Irvington continued the onslaught with three more runs and yet still Newark rallied and had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the seventh inning when the Vikings moved Yoshikawa from shortstop to relief pitcher. Yoshikawa delivered with a strikeout.

The next morning both teams met again under a blazing sun at Irvington High. Newark started the scoring in the first inning when Cody Zimmerman, who'd gotten hit by a pitch and stole second, scored on a double by Anthony Sao. Irvington struck back in the bottom of the first with two runs on a double by Ramos, and in the second inning added another run with a two-out rally: after a single and a walk, Yoshikawa (who following his save on Friday was the starting pitcher on Saturday) hit an RBI single and the Vikings led, 3-1.

Newark cut Irvington's lead to 3-2 with an Anthony Sao leadoff homerun in the fourth inning. The Cougars tied the game, 3-3, in the fifth inning when a two-out infield pop-up by Zimmerman was dropped and the Newark base runner scored all the way from first.

From that point, each team came tantalizingly close to scoring the go-ahead run on several occasions and the game headed into extra innings. Shortstop Zimmerman took over the mound duties for the Cougars in the seventh inning and kept the Vikings at bay with his mixture of off-speed pitches.

Newark finally ended the suspense in the 10th inning. Following a leadoff walk to Sao, Vikings coach Larry Harrington made a pitching change and handed the ball to Connor Ratte. A bunt by Antone Inciong resulted in an error when Ratte fielded the ball and threw wildly to first, putting runners at first and second. Another Newark bunt was fielded niftily by Vikings first baseman Ramos, who fired to third base to nail Sao. But Irvington unraveled at this point, with two consecutive walks to Grayson Hudgins and Neves, forcing in Inciong.

In the bottom of the inning, Zimmerman retired the Vikings in order and the Cougar celebration was under way. The Shaughenessy Tournament, which starts Wednesday, May 13, will feature the top four MVAL teams, which means there is life remaining for James Logan (8-4) and Mission San Jose (6-6).

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