By: Greg Tartalia – Record Sports Department
Thanks to a 10-run comeback at home, Emerson came home in the top 11.
The Cavos had much to overcome in order to garner North Jersey’s Baseball Team of the Year honor.
There was a 1-3 stretch in mid-May that knocked them out of The Record Top 25. It included a Bergen County tournament loss, a setback that cost them a share of the NJIC Patriot title and a loss via the 10-run mercy rule.
Then, of course, there was the 11-1 deficit versus rival Park Ridge in the sixth inning of the North 1, Group 1 sectional final.
Despite those obstacles, Emerson (20-9) emerged as the lone North Jersey team to earn a trip to the state finals and climbed all the way back up to No. 11 in the final Top 25 poll.
“They grinded out the entire season,” Cavos coach Chris Sommerhalter said. “We didn’t start off on fire, but we started coming together as a team and having a team-first mentality.”
The end result was a six-game winning streak that landed Sommerhalter’s squad in the Group 1 championship game in Toms River – a feat that members of the borough’s baseball community feted with a pregame tailgate.
Emerson met Middlesex for the second time in three years, and the Blue Jays walked off with the state title, 5-4. Yet a different walk-off win remained the talk of the town.
The Cavos’ nine-run bottom of the seventh (which tied the game, 11-11) and ensuing three-run bottom of the ninth (erasing a 13-11 deficit) lifted them past Park Ridge for the sectional crown, 14-13, on June 2. The contest was chosen as the Game of the Year at the NorthJersey.com Sports Awards two weeks later.
“I’m just so proud of these guys that they came through in that situation, down by nine runs [in the seventh],” Sommerhalter said.
Sophomore Joe Carmosino had the winning RBI single in the ninth to score senior Robbie Leuck. The duo anchored the pitching rotation as well as the heart of the order and were named to the All-Bergen third team along with senior shortstop Anthony Laureano.
Leuck led the Cavos in batting average (.412) and had 33 RBI, and he went 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA on the mound. Carmosino was 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 56 innings, while Laureano hit .357 and led Emerson in RBI (38) and runs scored (41).
Catcher Brendan Kelly and RF/P Brandon Steidl, both seniors, hit over .300 and combined to drive in 39 runs.
Among the underclassmen to come through in the clutch were leadoff 2B Pete Durocher (6-for-12 in sectional semis/finals) and junior CF Andrew Brahm (five runs scored in same span), who stepped up in the wake of injuries to seniors Sam Purzak and Anthony Scozzafava.
Declan Patterman (3B) and the Delpome twins, Jared (LF) and Nick (LHP), are juniors who will look to carry over the momentum into 2018.
“This team really has come together,” Sommerhalter said, “not just as individual players and seniors, but as an entire group of nice, hardworking young men.”