WAYNE – When Jose Arroyo went to the plate in the top of the fifth inning he was looking for one pitch.
“The first two at bats he threw me first pitch fast balls and I just didn’t swing at them … right down the middle. I just had it in my head sitting on the bench that if I saw it again I was going to hit it,” said Arroyo.
The Cardinals senior left fielder saw what he was looking for in his third at bat and he launched a two run home run to left centerfield to put Pompton Lakes ahead of Wayne Valley 7-3 in the semifinals of the Passaic County Tournament on Monday.
“We talked about it today, who was capable of hitting a home run,” recalled Pompton Lakes head coach Paul Tanis. “Jose is probably the last person I would mention. He is more of a top half of the ball hitter. He hits line drives, hard ground balls up the middle. That was the best swing of his career.”
Arroyo’s “best swing” and another outstanding performance from junior southpaw Kevin Magee was more then enough to lift the Cardinals past the Indians and into the Passaic County championship game against top seeded Lakeland.
“We have been waiting for this game for a while, now that this one is over we cannot wait for the finals,” said Arroyo.
Pompton Lakes came out swinging in the top of the first as Dan Foote led off with a single and Jon Steele worked a walk. One out later Mike Coss and Connor Lavin each plated a run with singles of their own to make the score 2-0 after one inning of play.
Wayne Valley closed to within 2-1 after two innings but the Cardinals took advantage of two Indian errors in the top of the third to expand their lead to 4-1.
In the bottom of the fourth the Indians had Magee in trouble after a lead off walk to Vin Gleason turned into two runs when the next hitter, Eric Van Assen, homered to make the score 4-3.
At that point Steele paid Magee a quick visit to reassure his pitcher that all was okay and from there Magee did not allow a baserunner as he retired the next 12 Wayne Valley batters to seal the win.
“That is what you want to see as a head coach. You want to see him put that in his back pocket and go after the next kid and realize that this field is very forgiving for an offense,” said Tanis who watched as Magee got out of the fourth inning with a comebacker and two strikeouts.
For Magee the quick pep talk from his catcher helped him to refocus.
“Johnny came out and talked to me and told me to just get the next guy,” said Magee. “I always try my best to not get hot in my head or anything so I just cleared my mind and did my job and put my team in the best position to win.”
In all Magee allowed only three hits and the one walk while striking out 12 in the complete game win.
“Kevin was dominating, he showed today that he is the best pitcher in the county,” declared Tanis. “He is nothing but business.”
With the semifinals out of the way the Cardinals will now turn their attention to the championship game which will be played either Thursday or Saturday afternoon.
“This was a big confidence boost and it proves we could play with anyone,” said Magee who’s team will take on Lakeland in the finals. “We have not won since 1996 so it would mean the world to everyone.”
“The way we are hitting right now and fielding and pitching as a staff we are really excited,” said Tanis. “Being a small school and trying to piece together the state (and county) tournament is very difficult.”
In addition to playing in the county finals the Cardinals are still alive in the North I, Group 1 state tournament. Pompton Lakes was scheduled to take on Emerson in the semifinals yesterday afternoon.
“We are looking to take it all. We want these finals but we are not stopping for the states either,” said Arroyo.