Zebrowski, Clutch Hitting Push #1 Delbarton Past Pope John in Extra Innings

The Delbarton Green Wave are in the heat of a fierce battle for the bloodbath known as the NJAC-American Division. The state’s top-ranked squad dropped a 12-10 decision to a testy opponent in Randolph Tuesday and looked to rebound in Sparta against a Pope John Lions team that they have had some classic battles with over the years. The second meeting between these two teams did not disappoint, with the Green Wave following up their 4-0 victory on opening day with a 4-2 triumph that needed an extra inning to give them the regular season series sweep. 

The first inning set the tone for the rest of the game, with both pitchers escaping bases loaded jams. Delbarton would load the bases with one out on two hit-by-pitches and an error, but Lions senior pitcher Andrew Prelich would induce a ground ball and allow shortstop Mac Tufts to shovel the ball to the awaiting glove of second baseman Brian McKenna for a throw to first baseman Marco Bonfiglio to set up the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Lions would do their part in the bottom of the inning, as senior Mikey Gallaway would line a single down the right field line. The UMass-Boston-bound catcher would be taken out by courtesy runner Bryce O’Hara, who would steal second. Nick Struble and Chris Manco would walk to load the bags. Delbarton pitcher Ryan Holman would work his way out of the jam, catching Pope John sophomore rightfielder Jack Portman looking at strike three to escape trouble. 

A combination of great pitching and clean fielding would keep the game scoreless until both teams found paydirt in the fourth. The Green Wave would put a run on board after Rob Russo walked, then scored from first on a Zach McBride single after the throw to first sailed into right field. Lions pitcher Prelich would be done after 3.2 innings of work with three strikeouts. Brendan Opat would pitch in relief, but Northwestern-bound second baseman Griffin Mills would pound a pitch into the gap in the first at-bat to score McBride and give Prelich his only earned run of the outing. Opat would then clean up the inning by forcing a popout from shortstop Kevin Hager. Pope John would answer back in the bottom of the inning, with the Stevenson-bound Manco roping one down the right field foul line an legging out a triple to put the Lions in business. Portman would then come up with a perfectly placed hit between the second base bag and center field, scoring Manco and cutting the deficit in half. Sophomore designated hitter Evan Johnson and junior leftfielder Brandon Weir would walk to load the bases, then Moravian-bound second baseman Brian McKenna’s patient eye would walk in a run during a long battle with Holman to knot the game at two. The Green Wave would bring in junior Christian Zebrowksi, and he would escape the inning after rightfielder Marco Maselli made a spectacular catch on a ball smoked by Longwood committed shortstop Tufts. 

The game would go the distance with a 2-2 score, with Zebrowksi not needing much from his fielders as he mowed down hitters and Opat doing the same with some help in the form of a spectacular sliding catch in centerfield by the Lions’ Manco to prevent a potential extra base hit and some great picks at second base from McKenna. Heading into extra innings, the bottom of the order decided to do some damage. Pope John sent out junior Parker Rutkowski after Opat went 3.1 innings with one hit allowed and no runs against. Rutkowski would strike out Russo, but walk Maselli to put a runner on. He would turn around and strike up McBride, setting up a battle with Seton Hall committed centerfielder and ace of the pitching staff Aiden Dill. Dill, the nine hole hitter, came up clutch with the bat and sent a ball all the way out to the fence to score Maselli and turn it over to the top of the order. Mills would add an insurance run, sending another double that found outfield grass between center and right to score Dill. The Green Wave would send it to the bottom of the eighth up two, with Pope John getting last licks to try and tie the game. Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel would send Zebrowski back out and he would seal the deal for the Green Wave, striking out two in a 1-2-3 inning to give them the win. 

Zebrowski was the star for Delbarton, throwing 4.1 innings of no-hit ball in relief while walking one and striking out seven. Mills was the big hitter, going three-for-five with two singles, a double, and two RBIs. Delbarton improves to 7-3 on the season and has Chatham awaiting in a big divisional matchup on Friday. Pope John falls to 6-3 and had their five game winning streak snapped. They also take the field on Friday, in a huge divisional matchup against Randolph. The NJAC-American has been the state’s toughest division this season and almost every game has been a wire-to-wire classic. Keep up with this division, because every team in it has the potential to do some big damage in their respective state tournaments