CHARGERS ADVANCE TO COUNTY FINAL
Posted by Glenn Fredricks on May 20 2007 at 05:00PM PDT
By GREG TUFARO STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org EDISON — A freshman and the Spotswood High School baseball team's eighth-place hitter, Cody Pace stepped to the plate twice Saturday in what could have been bunting situations. But instead of asking his rookie shortstop to lay one down with two aboard and none out in both the fourth and sixth innings, Spotswood coach Glenn Fredricks let Pace swing away. The result was a clutch RBI single that tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth and a clutch two-run single that ignited a five-run rally in the sixth as the Chargers rolled to a 7-1 victory over J.F. Kennedy in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals at Middlesex County College. Spotswood (19-4), which has won 12 of its last 13, will face J.P. Stevens, a 7-2 winner over Carteret in the other semifinal, for the GMCT title on June 2 at East Brunswick Tech. The Chargers, who have reached the semifinals four times in the past seven years, are making their first championship appearance since 2001. Winning pitcher Mike Hohman (6-1), who scattered eight hits but kept the ball down in the strike zone, resulting in 12 groundball outs, and Pace, a .373 hitter and the team leader in sacrifice bunts, are the main reasons Spotswood advanced. Pace's RBI single down the first-base line with runners on first and second in the fourth forged a 1-1 tie. His two-run single through the ride side of the infield with runners on second and third in the sixth gave the Chargers a 4-1 lead. "Those were both bunt situations," said Fredricks, who has a penchant for manufacturing runs. "I looked in Cody's eyes and I said, "What do you want to do?' He said, "I want to drive the ball to the right side.' And I said, "All right. There ain't gonna be no bunt for you today.' He's earned the right to swing the bat in that situation, and he got it done. That's what makes him such a special player. He's a 15-year-old kid and he's in ninth grade, but he's not a freshman." Spotswood had difficulty figuring out Grimes, a crafty right-hander who slots his pitches from three different arm angles with a somewhat herky-jerky motion. Grimes (5-1) was effective throwing straight over the top, three quarters and almost sidearm. Over the first five innings, he scattered four hits and yielded one earned run. "We pitched Grimes against Spotswood last season and he always dealt over the top," J.F. Kennedy coach Jerry Smith Jr. explained. "It wasn't until this year that we thought maybe we could surprise Spotswood with it and keep them off balance because he does throw three pitches over the top and three pitches from the side, so that gives them six different looks throughout the game." Grimes fanned five different Chargers, an accomplishment of sorts considering a disciplined Spotswood team averages just four strikeouts per game. "He made us work for everything we got," Fredricks said. "You can't replicate the elbows and the feet and knees coming at you and then the ball coming out in practice. I told these guys to just be patient and that's all you can do when a guy's got command." As effective as Grimes may have been, Hohman (6-1) was simply better. For that reason, Fredricks was willing to take himself out of a potentially big inning by playing for a sure score out of a first-and-third situation in the fourth. After Pace's single tied the game and put runners on the corners with none away, Fredricks signaled for Pace to steal second. The Mustangs executed a scissors cut to perfection but gave up the run to throw out Pace who had intentionally stopped halfway between first and second base. Grimes retired the next two batters to escape with a 2-1 deficit. The way Hohman was pitching, however, Fredricks felt the one-run lead was more than enough. "I just knew in my heart it was going to be tough to scratch one out against Mike," Fredricks said. "I was playing for one run right there. They had nine outs to go but I didn't care. I wanted the lead, so we'll trade the run for the out all day. We executed the play perfectly." Pace came around to score in the sixth on Hohman's RBI single. John Michael Berner followed with a two-run triple to center off reliever Brian Schroeder. The fourth-seeded Mustangs (16-10), who have the distinction of being the only GMC team to beat Spotswood this season, stranded six runners — four in scoring position — and had two picked off base. Schroeder plated J.F. Kennedy's lone run on a two-out single in the third. Mike Cabonilas went 3-or-4 with a double off Hohman, while teammate Mike Giordano singled and doubled.
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