By Bob Behre
Lefthander Kyle Nepton stifled Park Ridge on a one-hitter to send Middlesex to a 3-0 victory and its second straight NJSIAA Group 1 championship at Veteran’s Park in Hamilton on Saturday.
Nepton (7-0) carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Vinnie Pinto led off the inning with a check swing single through the right side. Nepton, however, was unaffected by losing the gem and retired the next six batters in order to preserve the shutout.
Nepton threw just 76 pitches in the fast-paced game that was concluded in just 1:25. “I felt good all week and it was easy to stretch out in the heat,” said Nepton. “I just took it pitch-by-pitch like I always do.”
Most of those pitches were in or around the strike zone as Nepton utilized a four-seam and two-seam fastball and repeatedly through his curveball for strikes to keep Park Ridge (20-7) off balance.
“I didn’t know for awhile that I had the no-hitter, but I did when they got that check swing hit,” said Nepton who struck out eight and walked one. Nepton’s father was the winning pitcher in Middlesex’s first Group 1 title in 1990.
Middlesex (24-4) scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of huge one-hits by Jared Zimbardo and Ryan Vollmer. Jarrett May started the rally innocently with a leadoff walk. Zimbardo singled with one out and Jack Hnylycia dropped down a sac bunt attempt to the left side.
Park Ridge pitcher Cole Triano fielded the bunt, wheeled and fired to third looking to get a force out. But the throw got away allowing Tyler Dymond to score as Zimbardo raced to third. Vollmer, a freshman, followed with a double into the left-center field gap that scored both runners and boosted the lead to 3-0.
The righthander Triano limited Middlesex to three runs, two of which were earned on four hits. He struck out three and walked two.