Clinton Wins State Connie Mack Title
by Lowell M. Snare
Question: What does it take to win a New Jersey Connie Mack Baseball State Title?
Answer: It takes great pitching and some timely hitting as the bottom line.
The Clinton Knights American Legion baseball team got both in the a 6-0 finals win over Hoboken this past August at Gebhardt Field to capture the state championship, behind lefty pitcher Mike Borkowski and lefty hitter Mike Newland.
Borkowski, a recent graduate of North Hunterdon High School, had perhaps his best game of the year on the mound, fanning a season-high 10 batters, walking just one and scattering 5 hits, in throwing the shutout for the Knights.
Clinton left fielder Mike Newland, a recent Delaware Valley High School grad, consummated his tournament-long assault on pitching for the Knights, crashing a pair of homers for five RBI to lead the offensive effort. He also was on base four times and scored three runs. The championship game concluded a huge series for Newland, who hit 6-8 at the plate, scored five runs and had 11 RBI in four games, with four home runs. He finished the season with a .432 batting average.
"What a great job by these guys," beamed coach Mike Moreland after the championship game. "To win a State Championship, after the way this season started is unbelievable. We just hit a great streak, got some quality pitching from a lot of guys and got some big hits, and at big times with Mike Newland big for us in the tournament. We just played good baseball, didnít make a lot of mistakes and beat some quality teams along the way.
"It is just a great tribute to these kids, the way they hung in there after a 3-3 start of the season," Moreland added. "I could not be more proud of a group of ballplayers. Bork was phenomenal today. I have coached him since he was ten years-old, and this is simply the best game I ever saw him pitch. I thought the last game he pitched was his best, but this beat it. He had great location, and made some big pitches. Heís worked hard for us, and has become a very quality pitcher."
Borkowski improved his record to 6-0 on the season, and worked out of two big jams. "I felt good out there today, and things went my way pretty much.," Borkowski said about his effort. "I had a good change-up today, and we made some good plays in the field. I didnít expect to come out and pitch like that today, but it felt good. I had 10 strikeouts, and I never strike out a lot of guys. Thatís just the way the day went."
Clinton got on the board right away off big Hoboken lefty Erik Diaz, as Billy Weiss lined the first pitch of the game to left for a single, and after one out, Newland launched a two-run homer, that cleared the right field fence with room to spare for the early 2-0 lead.
Thatís the way it stood until the top of the sixth when Newland led off with a walk and went all the way to third on an errant pick-off attempt by Diaz at first. Lenny Racco then singled hard past the drawn-up infield to drive Newland home.
In the seventh, Knightsí second baseman Jimmy Ray got plunked by a pitch by reliever Mike Cunningham and right fielder Matt Sutor doubled past third to put runners on second and third. Newland then unleashed his second home run of the game and fifth of the season, a three-run blast over the right-center field fence. That blast made it 6-0.
"This is really exciting for me, really awesome feeling," said Newland after the game and his big day. "Iíve never been part of a championship team before, and these guys have worked so hard for this and I was glad to be a part of it. We set goals for the season, and winning a championship was one of them. This is just a great feeling to win one.
"I got a fast ball up the first time and got it good, and the second home I was fooled a little but still got enough of it," said Newland of his two dingers. Needless to say, he got most of both of them.
Knight catcher Travis Hoffman picked a Hoboken runner off second base in the last of the seventh for the third out to end the game and start the celebration.
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