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Kuhen, Northstars slug past Notre Dame
JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer May 24, 2002
HAMILTON -- Spirit is never in short supply at Nottingham High.

Enthusiastic baseball coach Pete Capone, who can always find a silver lining in the darkest of clouds, generates a winning spirit from the first pitch to the final out.

So yesterday was no exception as he rallied his Northstars from an early three-run deficit to a 7-4 victory that shattered Notre Dame's six-game winning streak and spoiled the Irish's final game of the season.

Paul Talbot doubled home a run for ND in the first inning, then back-to-back doubles by Derek Shunk and Mike Graziano chased home two runs in the third frame that gave ND a 3-1 lead. Nottingham had manufactured a run in the first to take a short-lived early lead.

It hardly looked like the Northstars would win their final home game of the season when Notre Dame scored again in the fourth, this run courtesy of an infield hit, sacrifice bunt and Paul Vacca's seemingly harmless fly to right that the 'Stars surrounded and somehow allowed to drop for a hit.

But that was ND's last hurrah.

Ten Northstars batted in the fifth and nine reached base. Hits by Bill Langdon, winning pitcher Scotty Kuhen, Frank Bennett, Jason Scarlata, Bill Crawford and Charlie Iacono sent Irish pitcher Bill Petitto down to defeat as six runs crossed home plate.

Petitto was the third of four pitchers used by ND, who gave their seniors a final fling in this their last career contest. Chris Cannizzaro started for the Irish and was followed to the mound by Ryan Goodwin, Petitto and Jay Graber.

Nottingham needed only Kuhen on the mound and the three-sport senior hung tough to get his fourth win of the fast fading season.

"It crossed my mind a little bit before the game that this was my final start, so I wanted to come out and have a good game," said Kuhen.

"I felt good, felt strong. I was a little bit wild in the early innings, not hitting my spots, but, as the game went on, I felt comfortable on the mound."

He wasn't overly concerned when Notre Dame dashed away to its early lead.

"We knew that we could come back because we have a pretty good hitting team. And lately we have been scoring a lot of runs," Kuhen pointed out.

The 'Stars had scored eight in one inning on Wednesday in a victory over Lawrence.

Scarlata, who had struck out in his two previous plate appearances, delivered a key hit in the big fifth, a two-run single off a 2-2 count that chased home the 'Stars tying and go-ahead runs.

"I was nervous the first two times up, but hugged the plate the third time up, looking for a curve-ball and hit it," said Scarlata.

"It wasn't really a curve-ball, just an outside pitch. I was happy to get the hit, proud of myself. Last game I came through for the win and did the same thing today."

Scarlata had doubled twice in one inning during the 'Stars triumph over Lawrence.

"Seniors are coming up with the big hits and the underclassmen are taking their cue from them," Capone pointed out as his player's celebrated the win.

"Everbody has contributed, which is what we have been looking for all year long.

"Last couple games we have been hitting the ball, which is what we have been looking for.

"Kuhen did a nice job. He's a tough kid. We supported him defensively. He kept his calm, kept his cool and made the pitches when we needed them down the stretch."

LOGUE'S LINES: CVC batting leader Iacono, limping noticeably from an aggravated old injury, still went 2-for-2 at the plate...Nottingham concludes its season Tuesday with an away game against West Windsor North...Paul Talbot and Chris Romano each had two hits for ND, which had four doubles among its nine safeties.



Notre Dame notches 6th straight
S.J. GUIDOTTI, Staff Writer May 23, 2002
HAMILTON -- If Notre Dame could exchange the latter part of May for the earlier days of the month, the Fighting Irish would be smiling a lot more these days.

The winning streak coach Joe Drulis' team needed to qualify for the state tournament two weeks ago is being run off now. Hamilton got in the way of the skein yesterday and fell victim to it.

ND scored all of its runs in two innings which started with Brian Stuetz's two-run homer in the first, then Chris Voigtsberger and Justin Binder combined on a five hitter to insure the Fighting Irish of a 5-4 victory and their sixth straight win.

Hamilton coach Jimmy Maher paid the ultimate compliment to the Fighting Irish.

"They're the best team in the league. How they have that record (12-9) I have no idea. That amazes me. They have the most talent in the league, by far. I don't think it's close," he said. "I compare their guys to our guys, man for man. We don't match up. Player for player, they beat us in every position. They beat us, West Windsor (Plainsboro South) and Steinert the last three games."

Earlier in the season, ND got stuck in a six-game losing streak and failed to earn a spot in the NJSIAA South Jersey Parochial A Tournament before the .500 record cut off date.

"It's a nice compliment from him (Maher). We ran into a little bad streak," Drulis said. "Right now, we're doing the little things that make us win. Unfortunately, it's a little late. You gotta give our players a lot of credit. We were 6-9. We could have packed it in and we didn't."

The Fighting Irish also threw a monkey wrench into the Colonial Division race of the Colonial Valley Conference.

Hamilton fell into a first place tie with West Windsor South with identical 12-3 records, followed by Steinert's 11-5 CVC Colonial mark.

Stuetz tagged starter Pat Sharples for a two-run homer, which smacked off the glove of rightfielder Steve Rinz and went over the fence for a 2-0 lead.

"We're playing with no pressure," said Stuetz. "It would have been nice if we beat everybody the first time around. We really got a lot of talent."

The Hornets got one run back in the bottom of the second on Matt Mayhew's run-scoring single. Hamilton added two more runs in the fourth inning to take the lead, 3-2.

Tom Metzler singled. Sharples and Rinz walked. Mike Papp's sacrifice fly scored courtesy runner Guy Ritt. Eric Ammirata, running for Sharples, stole home before Rinz was tagged out in a run down between first and second on an attempted delayed double steal.

Notre Dame answered with three runs in the top of the fifth to go in front for keeps, 5-3.

"We didn't want to give up the lead. We owed them one from the last time we played them," said junior second baseman Mike Graziano. "We're up. We're winning a lot now. We're upset we couldn't do this during state (tournament qualifying) time."

Chris Romano led off with a single. Sharples was lifted. Mike Oliver came on, walked Derek Shunk and surrendered a two-run double to Graziano. That prompted Maher to yank Oliver and bring in Ammirata, who yielded an RBI single to Dan Czepiga, scoring Graziano.

"Sharples hasn't thrown in two weeks. He's had a bad elbow," Maher said. "This is the first day he was cleared. I thought he threw well. I thought it was time to make a move. Oliver and Ammirata did the job the other night (against Lawrence). You got to throw strikes."

The Hornets pulled to 5-4 on Tom Metzler's solo home run over onto the roof of the Hornets' fieldhouse in rightfield during the sixth inning.

Voigtsberger prevented further trouble in the sixth and gave way to Binder to close out the seventh. The sophomore righthander retired the side in order.

"We really got a lot of talent," said Stuetz. "It's a shame we didn't put it together quicker. At least we're going out well."



Trenton Times

Late push is earning Notre Dame respect

Thursday, May 23, 2002

By AARON BRACY




HAMILTON - The team Hamilton High coach Jim
Maher calls the best in the Colonial Valley Conference lost nine of its first 15
games this season.


He is referring to Notre Dame,
not his Hornets, who suffered a 5-4 setback to the streaking Irish yesterday at
Hamilton High.


It was the sixth win in a row
for Notre Dame, a team that had its state-tournament and CVC hopes dashed a long
time ago. Standing at 6-9, coach Joe Drulis' squad dug in and set a goal to
finish with a winning record.


The Irish were a happy bunch
after yesterday's all-around effort guaranteed they would finish above .500.


"I just can't explain our
start," said Notre Dame junior Chris Voigtsberger, who pitched six strong
innings to earn the win. "All the pressure was off when we were 6-9. We
just wanted to finish strong and have a winning season."


Notre Dame (12-9, 11-6) was
solid in all facets, as it has been through this recent surge.


Voigtsberger allowed four runs
on just five hits, striking out four, in six innings. Mike Graziano was 2-for-3
with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored, and Brian Stuetz hit a first-inning,
two-run homer. Justin Binder, called on after Voigtsberger had reached his
innings allotment, pitched a perfect ninth for the save.


"We wouldn't be in this
position if we'd have been doing the things all year that we're doing now,"
Voigtsberger said.


"Unfortunately, it's a
little late," Drulis said. "But you have to give the kids credit. They
could've packed it in but they didn't."


Despite Stuetz's homer, which
went off the glove of Hamilton right fielder Steve Rinz before caroming over the
fence, Notre Dame trailed 3-2 entering the fifth. The Irish started the go-ahead
frame by loading the bases with no outs, then took the lead on Graziano's
two-run double to left. Dan Czepiga's single to center field brought Graziano
home to make it 5-3.


The Hornets pulled within 5-4 on
Tom Metzler's towering shot over the high wall in right, but they didn't muster
any more offense.


Despite the loss, it's no time
for the Hornets (18-6, 12-3) to pack it in, either. Maher knows he will need a
better effort, though, in their three remaining CVC contests (against Trenton,
West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Steinert) to pull out their sixth league
title.


Hamilton is a game behind WW-P
South, a 9-6 winner over Steinert yesterday, in the CVC Colonial Division race.


"If we play like we played
today," Maher said, "we won't win it."


Maher got a decent outing from
starter Pat Sharples, who gave up three runs on six hits in four innings after
being sidelined for the last two weeks with an injured elbow.


Ultimately, Hamilton didn't do
enough against a team Maher thinks is much better than its record indicates.


"They've got the best team
in the league," he said. "Honestly, we don't match up with them player
for player. I have no idea how they have that record."


Drulis has a sound answer.


"It's the little things
that make you a winner," Drulis said. "Right now, we're doing all the
little things right."



Notre Dame rallies past Trenton for fourth straight win
S.J. GUIDOTTI, Staff Writer May 18, 2002
Losing streaks? Notre Dame High's baseball team has been there and done that, taking the hard hit with six straight losses that kept it from qualifying for the state tournament.

"The losing streak, we knew what that was like," said senior centerfielder Dan Czepiga. "Once we got winning, as a team we didn't want to go back to losing and we just kept that momentum."

Recently, the Fighting Irish have experienced a reversal of fortunes.

Notre Dame overcame a two-run deficitwith pairs of runs over the last two innings, and sophomore pitcher Justin Binder shut the door on a potential game-tying rally in the seventh inning to preserve the Fighting Irish's 6-4 victory over host Trenton High, which earned ND its fourth straight win yesterday.

"Found a way to win when we had to," said Notre Dame coach Joe Drulis. "Sometimes when you get on that roll of being confident, you just feel you can do it. You've won three in a row, now it's four in a row."

ND starter Jay Graber was protecting the visitors' two-run edge entering the bottom of the seventh inning. Jose Gomez reached on second baseman Paul Talbot's error with one out. Ty Drummer walked.

Exit Graber. Enter Binder.

"I really wasn't expecting to come in today," said Binder. "I thought Jay would pull it out. I'm used to these situations 'cause that's what I'm for. I'm a relief pitcher."

The righthander quickly put an end to the tension by getting Corey Thomas to bounce into a five-three double play.

"I wanted to either strike the kid (Thomas) out or hopefully yield a ground ball and get a double play and end it," said Binder.

"Too many mistakes," said Trenton coach Frank Partyka. "The kids don't know how to win. That's difficult to do here. We're not quite there."

Trenton had taken a 3-1 lead after three innings. Gomez and Drummer smashed back-to-back doubles for one run and Thomas singled home Drummer.

ND closed to 3-2 on an errorwhich allowed Andres Guadarrama to score from third, but the Tornadoes got the run back in the fifth. Gomez's single scored Brian Seiber from third to make it 4-2.

The Fighting Irish tied the score in the sixth on Zack Melker's two-run single.

Czepiga, who slashed three singles, scored twice and stole three bases, opened the sixth inning with a single, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Dan Federico walked with one out. Melker pinch hit for Kevin Drulis and delivered the game tying two-run hit which chased Drummer.

"We're relaxed and finally came together a little too late 'cause we didn't get into the state tournament," said Melker. "I think we just felt confident today. We're playing for pride and will bounce back and show people we're not as bad as people think we really are."

Thomas came in from playing left and relieved Drummer to prevent further trouble but was touched for the go-ahead runs in the seventh inning.

Brian Stuetz and Czepiga singled with one out. Courtesy runner Andy Larkin and Czepiga executed a double steal andTalbot's sacrifice fly scored Larkin. Czepiga came home on Federico's single.

The come from behind meant that much more to ND.

Mike Graziano, the junior starting second baseman and number three hitter in the lineup, injured his elbow in the second inning. He was removed to have x-rays taken but may feel a bit better today knowing his mates rallied.

"Now even when we're down, you kinda have that feeling that 'Hey, were gonna do it,' '' said Drulis. "Whereas when you're going bad, you're kinda like, 'Well, what's going to go bad.' When we were 6-9, we could have folded our tents and called it quits. Right now, we're playing good baseball."



Unlucky Irish end tourney wishes
S.J. GUIDOTTI, Staff Writer May 16, 2002
LAWRENCE -- Notre Dame High's baseball team pulled out the road map to see what direction it would be headed in for the rest of the season. There weren't too many destinations left.

The Fighting Irish took an early exit from the Mercer County Tournament and didn't qualify for the NJSIAA South Jersey Parochial A Tournament.

"It's hard. It's hard," said coach Joe Drulis, the disappointment of a six-game losing streak that gyrated the Fighting Irish to oblivion still etched on his face. "I told them (his team) now it's pride. How do you want to be remembered as a Notre Dame baseball player? If I were in your shoes as a player I want to be known as a winner. After we were out of the states, the only thing left was pride."

A bit of that Fighting Irish pride appeared yesterday.

Chris Voigtsberger and Bill Petitto combined on a two-hitter, while ND erupted for six runs over the three later innings against newly crowned MCT champion West Windsor- Plainsboro South High for a proud 8-2 triumph and its third straight triumph.

"The little things got us," said Drulis, reflecting on the season's slide. "It's really a shame. Right now, we're playing really good baseball, but we lost three one-run games, lost two extra inning games where if a ball's hit this way or a ball's caught here, we are playing in the states, but that's baseball."

WW-P South coach Don Hutchinson didn't take anything away from ND's pride.

"They're (ND) a good ball club. They've fallen on hard times this year. They're a very talented team, as talented as anybody around. They just had some tough breaks that put them in a little hole early in the year." said Hutchinson.

Voigtsberger hurled the first five innings and stymied the Pirates on two hits and one run. South loaded the bases in the second inning, but just got one run out of the threat on a bases loaded walk to J.T. Hutchinson.

The Pirates managed an unearned run off Voigtsberger in the fifth. That was on shortstop Derek Shunk's throw away of Justin Muir's bouncer that scored Hutchinson.

Petitto arrived at the top of the sixth and held the Pirates hitless over the last two innings.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish made sure they didn't dig themselves into a hole against the MCT kingpins.

Notre Dame scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. Center-fielder Jeff Fisher dropped Dan Czepiga's fly ball, letting two runs score.

ND never trailed again, and slowly tore into Pirates' starter B.J. Watkin beginning in the fourth inning.

Dan Federico drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Kevin Drulis' single. Andres Guadarrama's bounce out chased them to second and third. Watkin uncorked a wild pitch to score one run.

Mike Graziano seemed destined to be stranded at third base in the fifth inning with two out. He opened the frame by being hit with a pitch, stole second and tagged to third on Brian Stuetz's fly out to left. Paul Talbot came up and belted his fourth home run of the year over the leftfield fence, scoring Graziano ahead of him for a 5-2 edge.

"Just a winning record, pride," said Talbot, what ND is shooting for now. "We just come out here and have fun. We're coming more together as a team. We're better friends now."



SPARTAN SLAYER: Talbot's blast helps Notre Dame avenge earlier loss to Steinert
JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer May 11, 2002
Trentonian Photo/ GREGG SLABODA Steinert's Dan Mattonelli is tagged out at the plate by Notre Dame's Brian Stuetz during yesterday's 4-3 Notre Dame win.
LAWRENCE -- Snap, crackle and pop.

No, this is not a Rice Krispies commercial.

That snap you heard was Notre Dame snapping a six-game losing streak yesterday by handing Steinert a 4-3 defeat.

And the pop was supplied by Paul Talbot and Kevin Drulis, who slammed home runs as the Irish simply overpowered the Spartans.

The win gained sweet revenge for that never-to-be-forgotten shocker earlier in the season when Steinert came from eight runs back to edge the parochial club, 9-8.

Yesterday's lightning came off the bat of Talbot, who greeted Steinert relief pitcher Tom Meyer with a two-run homer over the left-center field fence that provided the margin of victory.

The teams were deadlocked at 2-2 when Dan Federico opened the bottom of the sixth with a solid single.

That brought Steinert coach Brian Giallella to the mound, where he waved off starter Matt Perks and signaled Meyer in from the bullpen.

Talbot was up there to bunt the go-ahead run into scoring position.

"I fouled off the first pitch," recalled Talbot, "then I held back on the next one, which was a ball. Then I fouled off the next pitch, which meant I then had to swing away."

And swing he did, connecting for his third home run of the season.

"It looked like a breaking ball that he left high and in," said Paul of the ball he hammered over the fence.

"I knew it was going when I hit it," said Talbot. "I was really excited. I was glad to help the team out."

Drulis, son of head coach Joe, got his first starting assignment as the ND skipper shook up his starting lineup in an effort to break the losing streak.

His first scholastic home run came in the second inning.

"I didn't know I was starting until 10 minutes before the game," said Kevin. "I had some butterflies, but after the first inning everything fell into place.

"I jumped on a 3-1 pitch, a fastball that was in my zone. I just cranked it. I was hoping it was going out. Happy when it did," said the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder.

Steinert scored single runs in the second, fifth and seventh innings.

Dan Sczweck doubled home Mike Platas, who had connected for the first of his three singles, in the second, then Jim Sapia reached on an error in the fifth, one of three miscues committed by the Irish in that frame, and reached home plate on a miscue.

In the seventh pinch hitter Nick Gessner singled with one man out and Matt Fryczynski came in to run for him. A walk to Dan Mattonelli, a wild pitch and Mike Carney's infield out plated what was to be the last run of the afternoon.

Justin Binder had started on the mound for Notre Dame and pitched a strong game, departing in the fifth only because his defense let him down. Bill Petitto came on to finish the contest and pick up his second win of the season.

"We lost six in a row so we tried a little different lineup and it was successful for us," said coach Drulis.

"Got a couple home runs and we were patient when we had to be. We made the pitchers work for Steinert and I felt that helped us be successful today.

"Justin Binder has done a great job for us all year. We are really lucky because he is only a sophomore.

"Had we played a little bit of defense behind him he would have gone a little bit longer.

"We are just happy to shake that losing streak. When you lose two extra inning games and three one-run games it is really tough.

"Today we made the plays and Billy Petitto came on and shut the door, doing a good job for us."

LOGUE'S LINES: Spartans left fielder Joe D'Andrea made two nice catches in the fifth inning, diving to snare Chris Romano's sinking liner, then backhanding Dan Czepiga's drive while on the run ... Steinert had two men cut down at the plate, while ND pulled off a snazzy double play in the sixth when Mike Platas rounded second base on Mike DeRose's drive to deep center, only to be nipped at first on Czepiga's catch and great throw as Mike tried, unsuccessfully, to scamper back to the bag.



IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER: Late rally lifts Lawrence over ND in MCT
JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer April 28, 2002
Trentonian Photo/BOB CASTELLI Lawrence's John Haggerty beats the tag of Nottingham's Derek Shunk.
LAWRENCE -- Notre Dame was one out from victory. Lawrence was one out from defeat. Time to dust off that old baseball cliche...the game isn't over until the final out.

Trailing in the seventh inning by three runs, Lawrence High had rallied to get back two of them. But the Irish were still one out from advancing in the Mercer County Tournament.

Kevin Schneider, the work horse of the Cardinals mound staff, was at the plate. Batting cleanup. The one guy coach Brian Carter wanted up there in such a crucial situation.

Schneider jumped on a Jay Graber curve ball and lashed a run-producing single to left field, tying the score.

With the momentum having shifted, the 10th seeded Cardinals went on to score six runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat seventh seeded Notre Dame, 9-3, and advance to a MCT quarter final round date next Saturday with second seeded West Windsor South.

"We were having a tough time staying back on him (Graber) all game, popping 'em up, hitting the ball hard on the ground," Schneider noted. "So for me, that was a good at bat."

What does such a big win do for his club?

"This is huge, beating Notre Dame, winning a Mercer County Tournament game. We haven't been playing to our full potential. We have been inconsistent. We showed at the end that we can really do some nice things."

Schneider, the winning pitcher in four of the Cardinals five victories, hurled the entire nine innings, striking out 11 and walking only three batters.

Junior Charlie Park had a double and single and drove in three runs for the Cardinals, two of the RBIs coming during the tying rally when he singled sharply into left field.

"We tried to pump each other up, especially late in the game," said Park. "We wanted to win this game real bad. I was waiting on the pitches late in the game, concentrating a lot more."

Park not only contributed a key single to the seventh, but also singled home a run in the ninth when the Cardinals sent 10 men to the plate, connected for six hits against ND relief pitcher Justin Binder and pulled off the first major upset of the MCT.

Jared Smith also worked his way into the limelight during that inning, tripling home three runs.

"Schneider was throwing well, even in the last inning," felt coach Carter. "I was going to take him out if he got another guy on, but he waved me off. I have to put the ball in his hands, he's our workhorse. He got us to that point, offensively and defensively. He was around the plate, so we had to go with him."

The coach had high praise for most of the players in his lineup.

"In the North Hunterdon game, we scored three runs with nobody on, two strikes and two outs, we started no on, no outs, no strikes here so I told them there was no reason we couldn't do the same thing. And the kids finally believed in themselves. They are good players, so they had to go out there and show it."

John Haggerty had three hits and stole two bases. Schneider had two hits, as did Brian Bunn. All told, the Cardinals connected for a dozen hits.

Paul Talbot blasted a 373-foot home run for the Irish en route to a 3-for-5 day but the Irish attack consisted of only six hits.

Graber pitched well for ND, blanking the Cardinals through the first six innings. However, four of the seven batters he faced in the seventh connected for hits and an error, one of four charged to the Irish, kept the Lawrence inning alive long enough for them to tie the score.

"When you are leading by three runs in the last inning with your top pitcher on the mound it should be a done deal," theorized ND coach Joe Drulis.

"It wasn't so you have to give Lawrence a lot of credit. Down 3-0, two outs and Kevin came up big for them. He made the big hit.

"Obviously, we all feel we should win. Coaches, players. But you have to go out and make the plays.

"You don't win games in the newspaper. Potential is a strong word. Doing it is the bottom line. And right now you can't give the other team six outs and expect to win. You have to make the basic plays. You have to catch pop ups. Runner on third with less than two outs, you have to put the ball in play.

"We aren't doing those things and we almost got away with it because our pitcher pitched a great game. He pitched outstanding, but he ran out of gas. Them we bring in Justin Binder and he does a great job.

"That last inning we just gave them too many outs and they cashed in. Give them credit. They had the will to win and came through."



A JACK OF ALL TRADES: Multi-talented Graber leads Notre Dame past Nottingham
By S.J. GUIDOTTI April 14, 2002
Trentonian Photo/FRANCO SAVINI Notre Dame's Jay Graber delivers a pitch.
 

Staff Writer

LAWRENCE -- If there are any weaknesses in the ability of Jay Graber, they'd be difficult to find in the three-sport athlete.

The heralded junior's the standout quarterback for the Fighting Irish's football team. He's a smooth shooting guard on the basketball squad with a specialty from three-point range. In baseball, Graber's becoming ND's premier lefthander.

"Jay Graber is like the best athlete in Mercer County,'' said baseball coach Joe Drulis. "When you have somebody who throws 21 touchdown passes, hits 80 threes (in basketball), second team All-County basketball. In baseball, he's just a natural, a winner.''

As Graber fired a marvelous five-hitter, the Irish parlayed seven of their nine hits to score all their runs in two innings and topped Nottingham High, 5-1, yesterday in a speedily played contest that took a pleasurable one hour and 25 minutes.

"He threw strike one. He got the first strike over. He kept them off balance. He was focused,'' said Drulis.

"I just mixed my speeds, kept them off balance,'' said Graber, who struck out three and walked none.

"Graber pitched a good game,'' said Nottingham coach Pete Capone. "He kept us off stride, got the strikes when he needed to. He came up with the big pitch when he needed to. Hats off to him.''

Graber didn't permit a runner past first base until the Northstars made some rallying noise in the seventh inning after ND had built a 5-0 cushion.

Through the first six innings, Graber silenced the visitors on two hits. He retired 16 of the first 18 batters he faced, yielding a single to Ryan Flaherty in the second and an infield hit to Billy Crawford in the third.

In the seventh inning, the first three Northstars reached to load the bases on two singles and a hit batter.

"I was tiring,'' said Graber. "I was getting the ball up a little bit.''

After yielding a one-out RBI single to Billy Langdon, Graber retired the next two hitters to insure the Northstars would suffer their second straight loss.

Graber was locked into a scoreless duel with Flaherty through the first three innings.

"Flaherty's a very good pitcher. We just had to be patient and wait back on the ball a little bit. Hats off to him for keeping us off balance as long as he did,'' Drulis said.

"I just wanted to go out and pitch my game,'' said Graber. "I knew we'd come through with a couple of runs.''

The Fighting Irish snapped the scoreless string with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Mike Graziano was safe on an infield hit to deep short to open the inning. Don Petito singled into rightfield. Crawford's relay was thrown over third base, sending the runners to second and third.

The runners held as Dan Federico grounded to first. Zack Melker ripped a double into leftfield to score Graziano. Petito raced to third on the hit and scored on Paul Talbot's fielder's choice which forced Melker at second.

"(Notre Dame) fielded the ball. They threw the ball. They did what they had to to. They came up with the big clutch hits when they had to,''Capone said. "It was their day today.''

Brian Stuetz led off the fifth inning with a double and moved to third on Andres Guadarrama's single. After Guadarrama stole second, Dan Czepiga tripled to rightcenter with two strikes on him, scoring both runners.

Czepiga was later tagged out in a run down between home and third, but Graziano drew a two-out walk. He scooted to second on catcher Shane Mull's errant pick off throw and scored on Petito's double to rightcenter which was more than enough for Graber to protect.

"Jay Graber is an excellent pitcher,'' said Drulis. "He gave us an big lift against a team that is very good. They're ranked 12th in the state coming into the season and they're well coached. In the big game, Jay Graber wants the ball. Today he got it and he delivered for us. He came through for us big time.''



Trenton Times

Notre Dame conquers Nottingham
Sunday, April 14, 2002

LAWRENCE - Dan Czepiga tripled and drove in two runs, and Mike Graziano and Don Petito each had two hits to pace the Notre Dame High baseball team to a Colonial Valley Conference win over Nottingham, a 5-1 decision yesterday.

Jay Graber went the distance for the Irish (3-2), scattering five hits.



Trenton Times
Thursday, April 11, 2002

LAWRENCE - Mike Graziano ripped four hits and drove in six runs as Notre Dame (2-2) pounded out 18 hits en route to a victory.

Zack Melker added four hits and three runs scores, while Jay Graber stroked three hits.

Justin Binder got the win in relief, throwing six innings while striking out eight.



Graziano, Melker lead Notre Dame past HoVal
April 11, 2002

LAWRENCE -- Mike Graziano collected four hits and six RBIs and Zack Melker had four hits as Notre Dame romped past Hopewell Valley, 13-6, in Colonial Valley Conference baseball action yesterday.



Benner, Davis spark Blue Devils past Irish
By JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer April 09, 2002

LAWRENCE -- They are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Craig Benner, the calm, confident Ewing senior with a world of experience. And Kyle Davis, the sure-handed freshman shortstop with the potential to be one of the best in Blue Devils baseball history.

Yesterday, they proved to be a dynamic duo as Ewing came away from Notre Dame with a 4-3 victory over the Irish in a well- played game that had to be a spectator's delight

Benner, who walked only one man in his initial outing against Lawrence one week ago, again issued only one walk with another display of pin-point control.

Craig, who won eight games last season, gave up a run in the fourth inning when a walk, Don Petito's double and Brian Stuetz's sacrifice fly enabled ND to get on the scoreboard.

In the sixth Stuetz walked and Dan Federico blasted the first home run of his scholastic career, a 345-foot bomb over the left-center field fence.

"I was hoping it was going out," said Federico, who is in his third year of varsity baseball. He is a torrid 6-for-8 at the plate in three games.

"I'm probably not going to overpower a lot of hitters," Benner pointed out, after achieving his first victory of the season. "I work on control, hitting my spots, keeping the ball low and getting ground balls." Twelve outs were recorded on ground balls.

"We made the plays in the field. Last week, against Lawrence, in the first inning I just wasn't with it. (Lawrence scored four runs). Today I came out more prepared and did the job against a good hitting Notre Dame team."

As for Mr. Davis, he was a steady influence in the field and. offensively, knocked in the winning run.

Ewing had gotten to Irish starting pitcher Andres Guadarrama for three runs in the third inning. Tom Carroll and Eric Ervin drew walks with one man out and Jason Rogers doubled them home with a shot down the left field line.

Benner's drag bunt single set the stage for Andrew Furman to drive in Rogers with a solid single up the middle.

What proved to be the decisive run crossed in the sixth when sophomore Brian Raike singled, Frank DiDonato moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and Davis dropped a double into center field that fell just short of outfielder Dan Czepiga's desperate dive.

"He just put the ball out there, a good fast ball, and I put a good swing on it," said a modest Davis. "My teammates set the stage, put me in position to drive in the run."

Davis really isn't surprised at his success.

"Not really," was his honest reply when asked that question. "I'm pushing myself and my teammates are always on me, which helps me a lot."

As for his calm demeanor in the field, where he has handled all of the routine plays and the difficult ones, Kyle has a quick explanation.

"Like Mr. K (Ewing coach Jim Kovalsky) says, a ground ball here is like a ground ball anywhere else, so you just have to make the plays."

He's been doing it with a world of confidence.

"It was a well-played game by two good teams," noted Kovalsky. "The key to the game for us was coach (Andrew) Estrada with his pitch selection and the fact we played fundamentally good baseball."

LOGUE'S LINES: Notre Dame leadoff man Czepiga came out of an early season 0-for-8 slump with a solid double down the right field line in the fifth inning ... Petito's double in the fourth just did sail over center fielder Rogers' glove ... Guadarrama struck out three of the first six batters he faced before Ewing sent eight men to the plate and scored three runs in the third inning.



Trenton Times
Petito's blast powers Notre Dame to victory
Sunday, April 07, 2002

Lawrence -- Don Petito's three-run home run capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning which led the Notre Dame High baseball team to a 5-4 win over Bensalem yesterday.

After that, Ryan Goodwin closed out a complete-game pitching effort in which the senior right-hander scattered eight hits, struck out six and walked two to bring the Irish their first win.



Notre Dame squeaks past Bensalem, 5-4
S.J. GUIDOTTI, Staff Writer April 07, 2002
LAWRENCE--There were mixed emotions for Joe Drulis, but not for his Notre Dame High baseball team.

"It's tough because I teach there,'' said Drulis. "I know a lot of the kids. They're great kids. They're good baseball players. You wish it can be a tie, but it can't be.''

And how.

The Fighting Irish used Ryan Goodwin's first varsity appearance ever which turned out to be a nifty eight hitter and Don Petito's fifth inning, three-run homer to sail past Bensalem, 5-4 yesterday.

"Joe (Drulis) used to work for me,'' said Bensalem coach Jim Jones. "He was the jayvee coach before he got the job over here (ND). We're going to play them next year too.''

"Jim Jones is a great coach. I coached with him a couple of years ago,'' said Drulis. "He's done such an outstanding job at Bensalem. When he first took over he was like 3-17. Last year, they were 18-8 and (league) co-champs.''

Goodwin, who was 6-0 on the ND jayvee last year, hurled the route to give the Fighting Irish its' first win of the season, and the spirit to rebound from last week's heart breaking 9-8 loss to Steinert High after ND wasted an 8-0 lead.

"Ryan's been in the program for four years,'' said Drulis. "Today, he did an outstanding job. He threw strikes. He kept them off balance. He hit his spots. He pitched against a very good team and did really well.''

Goodwin struck out seven and walked two and held the Owls hits the first three innings.

After getting nicked for three runs on four hits in the fourth, the senior righthander held Bensalem to one run on four hits the rest of the distance.

"After what happened the other day against Steinert I told the coaches I wanted the ball. I wanted to get it done,'' said Goodwin. "They believed in me. I never pitched varsity. The first inning I came out very nervous to tell you the truth. I walked the first batter.

"After that I tried to settle down. I had in mind to get through five (innings). Then, we'll see what happens after that. The defense did a great job all day long. My slider really worked today.''

Meanwhile, his mates rallied from a 3-1 deficit against starter Brian Konyves.

Paul Talbot singled with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and stole second. Derek Shunk singled with two out, setting runners at the corners. Chris Graziano's infield hit to deep short scored Talbot. Then, Petito unloaded over the fence in rightcenter for his second homer of the season which lifted ND in front, 5-3. Petito had belted a grand slam in the loss to Steinert.

"Donny Petito, huge. . .again, big. . .big. . .big lift today. You're down 3-2. He got a fast ball he could hit and he just drives the ball. The ball's a beach ball for Donny right now. For some kids, it's a pea,'' said Drulis.

Petito had vowed to Shunk he'd blast Notre Dame ahead.

"I walked in the dugout that inning. I said I'm taking the lead for the team. I said it to Derek Shunk, 'I'm getting us the lead.' He (Shunk) came up (singled and stole second), second and third. I came up and hit the home run. He (Konyves) gave me a fastball. When I came back in the dugout, he (Shunk) goes, 'You're right, aren't you?' I told him, 'When I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it.' ''

Bensalem got one run back in the sixth inning with two out. Mike Wolset singled and stole second and scored on Bob Smith's single before Goodwin got Enrique Arroyo on a fly to right for the third out.

The Owls threatened a bit in the seventh inning with Matt Kantor's two out single, but Goodwin retired Bob Jackson on a fly to center for the final out.

Earlier, Zack Melker's RBI double in the second inning pushed Notre Dame in front 1-0.

The Owls answered with three runs in the top of the fourth inning.

"We swung the bat. We have not done that in the last week and a half,'' Jones said. "We've been horrible, horrible. So, I'm not happy we didn't win, but we hit a lot of balls hard today. A lot of guys took a lot better approach at the plate. We were a lot more aggressive which we haven't been. Soon, they'll start falling in.''

Jackson doubled home a run in the fourth. Wolset and Smith laced run-scoring singles in the same frame before ND's rally and Petito's homer.

"I told Donny,'' said Drulis, " 'Whatever you're doing, if you're making your bed a certain way, eating pasta for breakfast, whatever you're doing, keep doing it.' ''



THE FRIENDLY SKIES: Darkness, 9-run rally helps Steinert shock Irish
JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer April 04, 2002
TrentonianPhoto/DAVID P. CARDACIOTTO Notre Dame pitcher Harold Grant lets one go against Steinert yesterday.
HAMILTON -- Baseball games are usually decided by hitting, pitching and fielding but the decisive factor in yesterday's Notre Dame-Steinert game was darkness.
With what many may considerthe greatest rally in the history of Steinert High baseball, the Spartans bounced back from an eight-run deficit to shock the Irish, 9-8.

Notre Dame actually pushed over a run in the top of the sixth inning to apparently tie the game, but when umpires Vince McKelvey and Bill Friedman decided it was too dark to continue playing, the top of the sixth was erased and the score reverted to the previous inning, making Steinert the winner.

"With players who have limited experience on the varsity level, this team just believes in itself," said Steinert coach Brian Giallella. "They just kept playing. And we said in the dugout, you never know what can happen.

"We put the ball in play and they made some mistakes, which cost them runs. But we made a lot of mistakes early."

"When (Don) Petito hit the grand slam, a lot of teams would have folded. But I saw kids pick everyone up."

Notre Dame, playing its season opener, scored an unearned run against Steinert starting pitcher Kevin Bachalis in the first inning, then sent 12 men to the plate in the second inning and scored seven runs for what appeared to be an insurmountable 8-0 lead.

The big blow for ND was Petito's grand slam, a 388-foot blast the cleared the left-center field fence and landed on the distant soccer field.

"It came on the first pitch, a fastball," said Don. "He walked the guy before me, so I figured a fast ball was going to come. I jumped on it. Right down the middle of the plate. As soon as I hit it I knew it was going out."

Irish starter Harold Grant blanked the Spartans for three innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth when former Babe Ruth League World Series standout Dan Mattonelli singled home two runs and Joe D'Andrea duplicated that feat. D'Andrea reached base in all four appearances at the plate.

Five runners crossed the plate during that rally, which set the stage for a dramatic fifth frame that proved to be the final one of a dismal day, weather-wise.

Nick Dawidowski singled with one man out in the fatal fifth, then Mattonelli singled and Mike Carney walked to load the bases against ND relief pitcher Jay Graber.

Pinch hitter Jim Marinos struck out, but D'Andrea was hit by a pitch to force home Mike Iannaci, who was running for Dawidowski.

Jim Sapia then singled to left field to chase home Mattonelli with the tying run and Carney with what proved to be the decisive run.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and he threw me a nice fastball. We just held on to the rope," explained Sapia, of his team's ability to hang tough. "That's our thing.

"Everything came together for us towards the end. Now this will enable us to go to Maryland with a 2-0 record. And this win shows people that Steinert may be rebuilding, but with a team effort like this, anything can happen. It showed we have a lot of heart."

Super relief pitching by sophomore Chris Turissi played a major role in the Spartans win. He came on in the second inning and pitched shutout ball the rest of the way to pick up his first varsity victory.

"A lot of people don't expect great things for us," noted Giallella, "but the kids believe in themselves and that is fine. Sometimes when you are not the favorite, the players find something from within."

Yesterday they found a way to rally and win a game that just could change their entire season.

So hold that obit. The Spartans are alive and kicking and still the team to beat in the Colonial Division of the Colonial Valley Conference.


Trenton Times


Notre Dame left in the dark
Thursday, April 04, 2002
By RED BIRCH

HAMILTON - To understand just how close the Colonial Valley Conference Colonial Division baseball race figures to be this season, you only needed to be in attendance for the Notre Dame-Steinert game yesterday, and, despite quickly falling temperatures and strong winds, stay for the duration.

Those who fought off the cold saw an incredible game in which Notre Dame built an eight-run advantage only to see Steinert put together an unthinkable rally to take the lead after five innings.

Then with darkness quickly falling, the Irish were momentarily given hope as they scored the tying run in the top of the sixth, only to have the score revert to the previous inning when the umpires ruled it was too dark to complete the bottom of the sixth. Thus, the Spartans came away improbable 9-8 winners.

The Notre Dame players left the field upset, yet confident.

``We're disappointed, but now we see what we have to do,'' Irish senior designated hitter Don Petito said. ``We were up eight runs, then, all of a sudden, we slowed a bit and they came back. Even then, Zack Melker got us going again when he hit a double (in the top of the sixth) and we tied the ballgame, only to be told we can't finish it. If it went seven innings, we would have won this game.''

Instead, Petito saw his second-inning, 388-foot grand slam to left field go for naught, along with the 8-0 lead ND had built after chasing Steinert starter Kevin Bachalis by scoring seven runs in the top of the second inning.

``There's something to be said about this team,'' Spartans second-year head coach Brian Giallella said. ``They are players with limited varsity experience, yet played key roles in American Legion and Babe Ruth last summer. Down eight runs, a lot of teams could have folded. These kids believe in themselves.''

While sophomore right-hander Chris Turissi was settling things down after coming on in relief of Bachalis following Melker's grand slam, it took Steinert's offense until the fourth inning to get going vs. Irish ace Harold Grant.

Dan Sczweck singled to open the bottom of the fourth with the Spartans' third hit. Then, after Grant hit Michael DeRose with a pitch and walked Nick Dawidowski, Dan Mattonelli delivered a two-run single to put the home team on the scoreboard.

With two outs, Joe D'Andrea singled in two runs, moved to second base on an error, then scored on Jim Sapia's double, which pulled Steinert to 8-5.

Sczweck led off the bottom of the fifth inning with another single, which spelled the end for Grant. Jay Graber relieved him and retired the first batter he faced before giving up consecutive singles to Dawidowski and Mattonelli, which chased home Sczweck.

Michael Carney walked to load the bases. After pinch hitter Jim Marinos struck out, D'Andrea was hit by a pitch to force in the Spartans' seventh run. Sapia played the hero when he singled to center field to plate Mattonelli and Carney, giving the home team a 9-8 lead.

``We held onto the rope, and just came together at the right time,'' Sapia said. ``This was a great team effort. People think Steinert's rebuilding this year, but this team shows a lot of heart.''

In the end, that heart won out after Melker doubled and his pinch runner Paul Vacca scored on two wild pitches in the top of the sixth, only to have the run erased because of the setting sun.



Trenton Times

Division titles seem to be up for grabs
By RED BIRCH

Monday, April 01, 2002

The reshuffling of the CVC's Colonial and Valley conferences for the 2002 season has baseball teams in both divisions anxious to see if it will help them challenge for league and/or state tournament berths this season.

Nottingham and defending Valley Division champion Notre Dame are two of the front-runners in what is viewed as a wide-open Colonial Division race.

Nottingham has senior right-handed pitcher/shortstop Scott Kuhen, who had the best earned-run average of any of the conference's returning players at 1.26, and senior outfielder Charlie Iacono, who batted .488 (39-for-80) last season, third-best among returning players, to highlight a talented group.

``We'll have more depth this season, but our seniors will still have to lead us in a positive direction,'' Northstars head coach Pete Capone, whose team was 17-13 last season, said. ``There's a lot of parity in our league this year, so we will have to learn to win close games. Last season, when we fell behind by a couple of runs, we'd struggle. This year, we have to be able to come back.''

Notre Dame also oozes talent, beginning with senior left-handed pitcher/left fielder Andres Guadarrama and senior right-handed pitcher Harold Grant, each of whom won five games last spring. The Irish also have senior center fielder/left-handed pitcher Dan Czepiga back after hitting .483 (29-for-60), and tying for the league lead in steals (14) last season.

``This is definitely a bigger challenge for us this season,'' ND second-year head coach Joe Drulis, whose team was 16-9 last season, said. ``It's going to be quite a race.''

Drulis knows Colonial Division kingpins Steinert and Hamilton are not about to fade from the picture.

Defending divisional champ Steinert, fresh off a 28-4 campaign in which four of its starting pitchers graduated, may have a young pitching staff, but hurlers like senior right-hander Tom Meyer, and junior right-handers Matt Perks, Kevin Bachalis and Tim McElvaine gained some valuable big-game experience last summer with Hamilton American Legion Post 31, which should pay dividends.

``Last year, there was a lot of pressure for everybody,'' said second-year head coach Brian Giallella, who saw his team win its fourth consecutive Group IV Central crown, then lose to Toms River East in the state semifinals. ``Now those expectations (of others) aren't there. They will still have their own, but last year was extra added pressure they didn't need.''

Hamilton finished close behind the Spartans last season, then advanced to the Group III Central final before its 23-6 campaign came to a close. A good portion of that team returns, including All-CVC shortstop Nick Massari (.375), senior second baseman Scott Brettell and junior southpaw Pat Sharples, who was 6-0 on the mound last season.

West Windsor-Plainsboro High South, with senior left-hander/center fielder Justin Muir - who finished right behind Kuhen with a 1.33 ERA last season - and Lawrence High, with senior right-hander Kevin Schneider (1.67 ERA), also are capable of making runs for the Colonial Division crown.

Even Trenton, with Corey Thomas, Will Johnson, Mitchell Green and Rashaun Dawkins back in its lineup to aid junior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Jose Gomez, could surprise some people.

Notre Dame's move also opens up the Valley Division. Many consider Ewing to be the front-runner since the Blue Devils have senior right-handed pitcher Craig Benner back after leading the CVC in victories (8) and posting a 3.06 ERA last season, and junior center fielder Jason Rogers, who won the league's batting crown last season (.493).

`'Last year we were forced to play some kids who were young,'' Ewing head coach Jim Kovalsky said. ``Even though we're still young, those kids have experience. But they've still got to go out and prove (they can win).''

Hightstown head coach John Mariano lost seven players to graduation, but is confident in the abilities of those he has returning to play a darkhorse role in the Valley. Senior third baseman Brandon Lugannani leads that group, as do senior pitcher/outfielders Paul Reyes and Greg Milesnick.

First-year coaches John Costantino at Hopewell Valley and Greg Short at Princeton High also have their teams looking to take advantage by improving this season. Junior shortstop/pitcher Matt Barrett is one of the top returnees for Costantino's club, while senior pitcher/infielder Jon Trapasso is among the best for the Little Tigers.

Allentown has seven seniors and a nice group of newcomers to help it improve upon a 3-19 finish a year ago. In just its second varsity season, WW-P North is not as lucky, with only two seniors.

Another change in the league is the departure of McCorristin, which will be an independent this season before moving to the Burlington County Scholastic League next year. Seniors Tom Sweeney and Nick Adams will carry much of the load for second-year head coach Ryan Pandolfini's team, which was 13-11 last season.



Trenton Times
Keep an eye on . . .

Monday, April 01, 2002

Players to watch
Dave Griffiths, CF, Allentown
Craig Benner, 3B/RHP, Ewing
Nick Massari, SS, Hamilton
Brandon Lugannani, 3B, Hightstown
Matt Boyle, RF/RHP, Hopewell Valley
Kevin Schneider, RHP, Lawrence
Tom Sweeney, RHP/SS/RF, McCorristin
Dan Czepiga, CF/LHP, Notre Dame
Scott Kuhen, SS/RHP, Nottingham
Jon Trapasso, RHP/SS, Princeton
Dan Sczweck, 3B, Steinert
Will Johnson, CF, Trenton
Brian Dimitruk, RHP/3B, WW-P North
Justin Muir, LHP/OF, WW-P South

 

Notre Dame the early favorite in the Colonial
JOE LOGUE, Staff Writer March 27, 2002
The Irish are coming. The Irish are coming. Don't say you haven't been warned.
Talk with the Colonial Valley Conference coaches and many agree that the Colonial Division race could involve six teams, but more than a few finger Notre Dame as the team to beat.

Just shows what a knowledgeable group is calling the shots in the senior division.

"We have a nucleus of players, but the division is strong," points out Irish coach Joe Drulis. "On any day, a team can beat the other team.

"Steinert is the defending Group IV Central Jersey champion, Hamilton was a Central Jersey finalist, West Windsor South made the playoff last season and in Jason Muir have a pitcher who is going to St. Joseph's.

"Lawrence has Kevin Schneider, who is an excellent pitcher. We could have some state champions in our division this season simply because there are so many strong teams."

When you glance at the Notre Dame roster it's easy to see why the Irish are one of them.

Let's start with the pitching, where ND is seven deep and has three starters lined up and ready to go.

Senior Harold Grant was 6-1 last season, losing only to Steinert on opening day.

Senior Andres Guadarrama also was 6-1 for an Irish team that finished 16-9 and won the Valley Division. They switched to the Colonial Division this season.

Junior Jay Graber was All-CVC in football and basketball and defeated Msgr. Donovan in last season's state baseball tournament.

Seniors Bill Petitto and Christian Cannizzaro will join with sophomore Justin Binder, who was named to the Babe Ruth World Series All-Tournament team last summer, to complete an impressive staff.

Brian Stuetz, a senior, who is a Baseball Factory All-American, threw out 15 runners last season. He's likely to be one of the top catchers in the CVC.

Senior Zack Melker and junior Kevin Drulis, who batted over .400 for the jayvee last season, are battling for the first base job.

Junior Mike Graziano has a lock on second base. He batted .390 as a sophomore and is being recruited by Big East schools.

Derek Shunk, a Baseball Factory All-American (Rookie Division) gets the nod at shortstop, while senior Dan Federico, who batted .370 last season and was an All-CVC honorable mention, will hold down third base.

Undoubtedly one of the most gifted outfielders on the local scene, senior Dan Czepiga will patrol center field. Czepiga batted .469 last season en route to a first team berth on The Trentonian's All-CVC squad. He followed that up with a Mercer County American Legion batting title. No wonder he is being recruited by St. John's, Pace, Siena and Rider University.

He will be flanked by Guadarrama in left field, when he isn't pitching, and senior Paul Talbot, who had key pinch hits for the varsity last season and batted .450 for the jayvees, in right.


   
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