An unheralded baseball program like Morris Tech may not play every game looking for respect, but that is exactly what happens when the state tournament presents itself as a chance to make school history.
The Devils entered the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 tournament as the 13 seed and were making the program’s second appearance in the sectionals. Since its first appearance in 2010, Morris Tech had not been playing in a conference and therefore never had enough power points to be placed in a playoff bracket.
The Devils are in the New Jersey Athletic Conference now, but making the odds appear even greater against then were the facts that they had lost their last three games and six of their past seven and were facing fourth-seeded Newark Tech, a senior-laden ball club that entered the ballgame with the ability to pour on the offense, having scored 117 runs in 13 wins.
What the odds did not take into account was Morris Tech pitcher Jake Marchione’s ability to make Newark Tech batters unable to square up the baseball. The junior righty absolutely baffled hitters through six innings, allowing just two hits and three walks, and his 106-pitch effort pushed the Devils to a history-making 3-1 victory in the first round Wednesday at Weequahic Park in Newark.
It was the first state tournament victory for the Morris Tech program.
“From the beginning of the season, everyone has treated us like it’s an easy win, and I get it, we’re Morris Tech,” Marchione said. “But sometimes you have to step up and surprise them. Maybe a lot more teams will take us seriously now.”
Hoping to build on making school history, Morris Tech (6-11) will travel to face sixth-seeded Caldwell (16-7), an 11-1 winner over 12th-seeded Leonia (9-3), in the sectional quarterfinals on Saturday.
“It’s crazy. It’s only our second appearance at states and our first win, so to be a part of something like that is amazing,” said junior Scott Anderson, who pitched a tense inning of relief. “We came in with confidence and we came out with a win.”
Marchione not only stymied the Newark Tech bats, he triggered the offense as well, leading off the game with a single to right, stealing second, taking third on a wild pitch and scoring on a Carter Hauge infield single. Morris Tech led 2-0 after Hauge scored when Anderson hit into a fielder’s choice.
Newark Tech (13-6) cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the second inning when Richard Marte reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a single to left by Carlos Camacho.
Newark Tech threatened again in the third, getting runners on first and third with two out. Marchione battled Terriers cleanup hitter Allendy Lluberes through a 12-pitch at-bat before finally getting a danger-ending strikeout.
“He kept on fouling it off, and I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the curveball right there,” said Marchione, who finished with four strikeouts. “I was hitting the corner with the fastball and he was fouling it off, so I went inside with the two seam and he missed it.”
Morris Tech added a crucial insurance run in the fifth inning. Anderson doubled into the left field corner and advanced to third on a groundout before Hayden Boos was awarded first base for catcher’s interference.
Boos took off for second base and hesitated long enough to encourage the Newark Tech infielders to get him in a rundown. While Boos had their attention, Anderson broke for home and scored on an errant throw.
“We’re a real scrappy team,” Anderson said. “We try our hardest every game. We just try to get the bat on the ball, and good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
Morris Tech was forced to play scrappy baseball because Newark Tech’s Anderson Portorreal was terrific through six innings of relief. Taking over for starter Edony Reyes Vasquez in the second inning, Portorreal allowed just three hits and three walks in six innings and struck out five.
“Our starter didn’t have it today, so we had to go to Anderson a lot earlier than we wanted to and he pitched amazing,” Newark Tech coach Todd Romano said. “That’s one thing I told the guys after the game. With Anderson’s performance today, if everyone performed that way, we’d be in a different situation.”
Newark Tech did not go quietly, getting the tying runs on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh after Aramis Torres walked and Aaron Nieves singled.
But Anderson struck out the last two batters to end the game.
“I got a little nervous at the end but closed it out and that’s all that matters,” he said.
“This will be a confidence booster, that’s for sure. The guys are hyped up right now,” Morris Tech coach Kevin Brophy said. “We have eight juniors coming back, so this game is something we can look at positively for next year.”
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