Raiders Hit Their Stride In Blowout Victory Against Montclair
Mont Who? You heard right. The Nutley Raiders bounced back in a colossal way Friday afternoon against Montclair, following a tough 9-2 loss at the hands of Livingston on April 19th. 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. Montclair was ranked fourth and Nutley was ranked seventh.
High school baseball only plays a regulation of seven innings per game; however, this match only needed six. Senior Mike Zitola played the game in its entirety, throwing 108 pitches, striking out six batters, and allowing only three hits and four runs. As the game went on, Zitola hit his stride leading to a quiet day at the plate for Montclair. Along with Zitola’s success 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.
Montclair struck first with one run at the top of the first inning. Then the Raiders were up to attempt to even the match. Senior lead-off outfielder Justin Cifelli started this game with a bang, hitting a triple to start the game off strong. This eventually led to a tie at one a-piece at the end of the first inning. He wasn’t done at the plate, as in the bottom of the second inning, Cifelli went yard, hitting a two-run home run which gave the Raiders a 3-1 lead. It was all quiet in the third inning; however, Montclair answered back, leveling the match at 3, but some good at-bats by the Raiders managed to add another run. This gave them a one-point advantage heading into the fifth inning.
At the top of the fifth, some base hits by Montclair led to the tying run to score, leveling the game at four. Then came the Raiders. Led by a triple by the sophomore captain, Drew Slomkowski, Nutley managed to score three runs. Also in the inning, several Nutley batters were walked by Montclair pitchers. It was a total of three Montclair pitchers that were all subbed out within a span of two innings because of walks and hits allowed.
Now it was 7-4 heading into the sixth inning, and it was looking good for Montclair. Raider’s pitcher Mike Zitola struck out two of five Montclair batters, the other out coming from a ground out. It was now the bottom of the sixth inning, and things were about to go from bad to worse for Montclair. Nutley’s Ben McNeil, David Sanchez, and Erik Thompson were all on base, and Drew Slomkowski was at the plate. On the fourth pitch, he hit a bomb to straightaway center field and the ball was out of the Oval and onto Franklin Avenue. Slomkowski added a grand slam to his performance, which already included a triple, with a total of 7 RBIs. That was the nail in the coffin for Montclair as the Raiders steamrolled Montclair by a final score of 14-4.
The Raiders will travel to Millburn to face a red-hot 10-2 Miller's squad on April 24th at 4 pm at Millburn High School.