West New York Tigers Top Gators
for CERBO New Jersey Championship
by Sal Nesto
“Miller Stadium” in West New York played host to the CERBO National Baseball League’s New 15’s “New Jersey AA Championship” game between the Garden State Gators and West New York Tigers. The two top seeded, and Division Championship, teams did not disappoint the dozens who filled the historic ballpark, as both clubs showcased their considerable talents. The Tigers were able to jump out to an early lead, and then hold on for a hard fought 8-4 victory, and the CERBO State Championship.
After the Gators were retired in the visitors’ half of the first, the Tigers got two men aboard in their turn at-bat, but Matt Nesto fielded a hard hit ball and flipped to shortstop Tyler Martis for one, who fired on to Eric Driver at first for the inning ending double play. After the Gators were set down one-two-three in the second thanks to a hit robbing play by the Tiger shortstop on a well hit ball off the bat of Kevin Mahala, West New York scored three in the bottom of the inning to grab a 3-0 lead.
The Gators would finally touch up the flame throwing Tiger hurler for a run in the third. Mark Nahorniak opened the frame with a rocket double to left. After two hard hit ground balls off the bats of Ryan Place and Jack Garno, JC Rizzi showed his blazing speed by beating out an infield hit as Mark Nahorniak crossed the plate. However, when West New York came to bat in the bottom of the inning, they pushed across four more runs for a seemingly comfortable 7-1 lead as the home fans whistled and chanted in approval. Only JC Rizzi's all out running grab of a bomb to center prevented the home team of an even bigger inning.
As always with this Gator group, they would not give up without a battle, and proved as much by plating three runs in the fourth to get things close at 7-4. Eric Driver singled to open the frame, followed by a base on balls issued to Tyler Martis. Matt Nesto then lined a single to load the bases, and after Vinnie Colaneri skied to right, Keith Skinner followed with a base hit to score Eric Driver. With two outs, Chris Nichols singled to right to chase home Tyler Martis and Matt Nesto, to close the gap.
West New York would threaten to add to their lead, but a gorgeous 5-4-3 double play started on a fine backhand stab by Chris Nichols to Matt Nesto to Eric Driver ended the Tiger threat. In the Gator fifth, Mark Nahorniak stroked his second safety of the evening and advanced to second when Jack Garno walked. However, solid play by the Tiger outfield shut down the potential Gator rally, as long, solid drives off the bats of JC Rizzi and Matt Facas were reeled in. The Gator defense returned the favor in the bottom of the frame, as pitcher Dalton Fischer fielded a Tiger popped up bunt and fired a strike to first baseman Matt Facas to complete the double play and end the inning.
The Gators could not get closer in their half of the sixth, as the West New York centerfielder raced deep into the outskirts of the stadium to haul in a blast by Tyler Martis. With the Tigers still leading 7-4, the hosts pushed the game’s final run across the plate in the sixth for an 8-4 lead. Further damage was avoided when second baseman Matt Nesto made a diving stab up the middle and slid into the bag to force the Tiger base runner and end the inning. The 8-4 West New York lead would hold up, as the Gators were retired in order in the seventh.
The Garden State Gators once again proved their character by never once giving in to the relentless West New York pressure throughout the game. After the contest, the Gators proudly posed with their Hudson County rivals in a display of sportsmanship and class.
This Fall 2008 season will go down as one of the most memorable in Gator lore. The ball club expanded its horizons by traveling the state to display its considerable talents. After completing a 10-2 regular season, the Gators swept through the three-game West “AA” Divisonal Playoffs to earn its berth in the CERBO State Finals tonight. As always, the young men in “navy and orange” played together as one to reach their goals of excellence on the diamond. Teamwork, steady defense, solid pitching, timely hitting and smart base running was once again the Gator recipe for success, with one more most important ingredient…the passionate support of the faithful fans of “Gator Nation”!
Gator pitching kept opposing teams at bay throughout the season. The staff, anchored by Jack Garno, Dalton Fischer, Vinnie Colaneri and Chris Nichols was dominant, and at times, over powering. The catchers, Keith Skinner and Sam Ahsler, did a great job of handling the hurlers, as well as keeping opposition base runners on their toes. Gator infield play was superb and stifling, led by Tyler Martis and Matt Nesto up the middle, and Matt Facas, Eric Driver, Jonathan Berntsen and Kevin Mahala at the corners. JC Rizzi, Ryan Place and Mark Nahorniak once again patrolled the vast outfields, shutting down opposing rallies with solid glove work and strong arms. With the loyal Gator fans cheering the boys on every step of the way, the Garden State Gators enjoyed yet another Championship campaign!