Nutley Improves To 4-7 With Crucial Win Against Bloomfield
Tuesday, May 3rd was a bad day to be a Bloomfield Bengal. The Nutley Raiders bounced back in a huge way Tuesday afternoon against Bloomfield, following a tough 10-3 loss at the hands of Columbia on April 26th. Nutley was looking to move up in the rankings in the SEC American division, New Jersey’s toughest baseball conference at the high school level. Heading into Tuesday’s matchup, Bloomfield was ranked first in the Liberty division and Nutley was ranked sixth in the SEC American division.
High school baseball only plays a regulation of seven innings per game, and this match only needed the full allotted time. This matchup was supposed to be played in Bloomfield, but weather conditions moved the game to Nutley’s Park Oval. Sophomore captain Drew Slomkowski pitched five of the seven innings, throwing 92 pitches, striking out three batters, and allowing seven hits and five runs. In the fifth inning, Senior Mike Zitola came in, striking out one batter at a pivotal moment in the game, allowing only one hit and two runs. Along with the pitchers’ good plays on the mound, the fielding by the Raider defense was nothing short of perfection, making crazy plays and great catches. However, the Raider's time at the plate was anything but quiet.
The Bengals struck first with one run at the bottom of the first inning. Then the Raiders were up to attempt to even the match. Senior lead-off outfielder Justin Cifelli started the second inning strong, hitting a single to get the Raider’s momentum going. However, there were no runs scored by Nutley in this inning. It was all quiet in the second inning, but the Raiders hit their stride once they reached the third. Derek Lanza, Mike Zitola, Joe Ciffeli, and Drew Slomkowski’s at-bats all brought in four runs, giving the Raiders a three-run advantage at the end of the inning.
At the bottom of the fourth, some base hits by Bloomfield drove two runs in, making it a 4-3 Raider lead. Then came the Raiders. Led by a triple by Mike Zitola, and along with hits by Justin Ciffeli, Erik Thompson, and Brandon Lucia, Nutley managed to score two more runs. This gave Nutley a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. There, Bloomfield managed to match Nutley’s runs with two of their own, making the score 6-5 in favor of the Raiders.
In the top of the sixth inning the Raiders were looking to widen their one-point lead. Senior Derek Lanza led off and launched the ball to straightaway center field, the ball almost rolling into the Raiders’ end zone. This was the second triple for Nutley, and it couldn’t have come during a more pivotal time, and along with more hits at the plate, the Raiders regained a three-run advantage. Both the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh innings was quiet for both teams at the plate, leaving it all down to pitcher Mike Zitola to try and capture the Raider’s fourth win under new Head Coach Eric Puzio. Bloomfield Senior Keithdem Perez started off the inning with an inside-the-park home run, quieting Nutley supporters. Zitola answered back, striking out the next batter. However, another run came in to score, and now the Bengals had a chance to tie, or worse, win the game with a walkoff hit. There were two outs, a man on second, Bengal’s batter Jake Sullivan skies one to center field, the Oval is quiet. The ball falls into the glove of Justin Ciffeli for the third and final out of the game, giving the Raiders a narrow 8-7 victory.
The improved 4-7 Raiders will remain home to face a 7-6-1 Seton Hall Prep squad on Wednesday, May 3rd.