LYNDHURST – After dominating the North 2, Group 2 baseball final for six innings, Lyndhurst relinquished a four-run lead by allowing Garfield to score six times in the top of the seventh, taking a two-run lead in the process.
You could hear the air ooze out of the Golden Bears’ balloon, as the upstart Boilermakers, left for dead an inning before, began to celebrate, sensing the most improbable of state sectional titles.
At that point, veteran Lyndhurst coach Butch Servideo called his team together.
“We’re not a good team,” Servideo said. “We’re a great team. Great teams come back and never give up.”
Sure enough, the Golden Bears listened to their coach’s rallying cry and scored three times in the seventh, giving Lyndhurst an incredible 8-7 victory and the school’s first state sectional title since winning the overall Group I state crown in 2008.
After Chris Castillo’s three-run triple in the top of the sixth drew the Boilermakers even at 5 and then two Lyndhurst fielding miscues gave Garfield the lead, the Bears (23-6) began their winning rally in the home seventh.
Bobby DeMarco led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and Franky DeLeva kept the rally going with a double down the right field line, putting the tying runs in scoring position with no one out.
Up stepped Lyndhurst catcher Austin Meeney, who had two doubles and two RBI in his prior at-bats.
Garfield coach Charlie Rigoliosi then went against pure baseball wisdom and intentionally walked Meeney, putting the potential winning run on.
“The kid had killed us all day,” Rigoliosi said. “I can’t explain why I did it. It was a tough spot. With no out, I decided to take a chance.”
DeMarco scampered home on a wild pitch, cutting the Garfield lead to 7-6. Brandon Karlok drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to right, moving Meeney to third.
After Peter Zeoli was hit by a pitch, Michael Perry strode to the plate with the chance to be a hero and knowing full well what Servideo was going to call.
“I knew that the squeeze was coming and I feel like I’m a good bunter,” said the second baseman.
Perry got down the bunt and Meeney scored, capping the comeback.