Forget the seedings, Sean Dolaghan knew his team could play with Dunellen.
The Harrison baseball coach watched his players take the Middlesex County school to extra innings in last year’s sectional quarterfinals, before losing by just one run.
This time, the Blue Tide didn’t need extras, upending top-seeded Dunellen, 11-10, in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 1 quarterfinals.
“It was a great feeling today, exciting. We had them last year as a top seed and we had them in extra innings. We knew we could beat them,” Dolaghan said. “This is definitely a program changer, beating a top seed and moving on.”
Eighth-seeded Harrison (13-12) received a heavy dose of offense from the No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in its lineup, Emil Zorrilla, Sebastian Sanchez and Adam Husenovic, respectively. The trio of sluggers combined for eight RBI and six hits, leading Harrison into the semifinal round, where it will meet either Dayton or New Providence.
Sanchez went 2-for-3 with a triple, three RBI and three runs, while Husenovic finished 2-for-2 with a triple and three RBI for Harrison, which saw the game moved to its home turf because of poor playing conditions at Dunellen’s field, Dolaghan said.
Harrison erased a 4-2 deficit with a five-run fifth inning and adding four more runs in the sixth.
Starting pitcher Tom Dolaghan (8 hits, 7 strikeouts, 4 earned runs) pitched into the seventh inning and was relieved by Sanchez, who induced a ground ball to second base for the final out of the game. But before Harrison could celebrate, it saw the No. 1 seed plate five runs in the seventh inning and put the tying run on second base.
But Sanchez and Co. stood tall, finishing off the head-turning victory. Dunellen finished the year 19-7.
“Being at home was a huge advantage,” said Dolaghan. “We’re a turf team. We might only have four or five games a year on grass or dirt. I knew once we got the game was moved to our place, we’d have a little bit of an advantage.”
In last year’s quarterfinals, Harrison dropped a 7-6 verdict after pushing a run across in the top of the eighth. But Dunellen answered back, striking for two runs in the bottom of the frame and advancing at the Blue Tide’s expense.
This year, however, things were different.
“This is giving us tremendous confidence,” Dolaghan added. “Our confidence is definitely running high.”