Pompton Lakes baseball blasts Point Pleasant Beach to win Group 1 state titleImage

Greg Mattura


HAMILTON − The hits kept coming and coming for Pompton Lakes on the way to its first state baseball title.

And for Cardinals senior left-hander Tyler Benway, the strikeouts were almost as plentiful.

Pompton Lakes needed just five innings to register a 10-run win, 14-4, over Point Pleasant Beach in Saturday’s Group 1 state-championship game at Veterans Park.

Senior Nick Laccitiello’s three-run double to dead-center with two outs in the fifth triggered the game-ending mercy rule and the Cardinals’ on-field celebration at DeMeo Field.

“This is the stuff you tell your kids and grandchildren about,” Laccitiello said. “First in program history, and we’ll always be the first, we’ll always be champions.

Pompton Lakes produced 14 hits, the first 13 of them singles, and scored at least two runs in each inning against four pitchers from a young Point Pleasant Beach team.

“We’re a team that gets contagious,” Pompton Lakes coach Mike Riordan said of the hitting. “Once it starts, it doesn’t stop with us.”

Laccitiello went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and four runs batted in. Junior Vinnie Stigliano went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and two RBI.

Benway scattered seven hits, one walk and struck out 11. He allowed four earned runs, though the sun and wind contributed to all of them.

“As a pitcher, you always want to pitch with a lead,” Benway said. “So just getting that backup from the guys, it just really puts you in a confident position.”

What it means

Pompton Lakes (26-4) closed the season on a seven-game winning streak to earn its first NJSIAA title. In 2012 and 2013, the Cardinals reached a state final, but lost to Audubon and Middlesex, respectively.

“First time in school history for us, and that’s huge,” Stigliano said. “That will live forever. Moments like these, you never forget.”

“It’s surreal right now. We were so happy with the sectional championship, and then the [state semifinal] game after that is almost like a comedown,” Riordan said. “But then you come down here, and see this beautiful field, and know what the history is. And Pompton Lakes has never won it. I’m a history teacher, so I love the history.”

Benway prevails

Benway kept getting behind in counts, then battling back. He struck out the side in the second and third innings, and he had at least one strikeout in each inning.

“He’s a guy who doesn’t get nervous,” Riordan said. “If I told him that this was a regular-season game as the bus pulled up, he’d probably believe me. He just goes out there and throws strikes, and he has a little bit of an unusual delivery that people have trouble with. But he’s also a bulldog at the same time, a mellow bulldog.”

“I thought I threw too many balls, had to get ahead more,” said Benway, who also contributed two hits and two RBIs from the cleanup spot. “But I loved how I battled back. Only one walk, 11 strikeouts, great job there. I loved how despite getting down in a lot of counts, I kept working.”

By the numbers

Pompton Lakes had 14 hits, at least one in each inning, seven walks and a hit batter. Senior James Rodas and sophomore Jon Popovich joined Laccitiello, Stigliano and Benway with multiple hits. Rodas was 2-for-3, with a walk and two RBI. Popovich was 2-for-3, hit by a pitch, one run and one RBI.

Point Pleasant Beach (25-5) had seven hits, featuring three consecutive doubles during a two-run fifth to cut the deficit to 11-4. Freshman Brody Powers drove in the first two runs in the second with a two-run double that kept blowing toward the foul pole in left. Sophomore Danny Lubach had multiple hits, going 2-for-3, including a wind-aided double to shallow center in the third that dropped between two Cardinals.

“I was surprised by how much of a role the wind played,” Riordan said. “When the ball got up there – we don’t drop balls like that – but they were getting lost up there in space. But other than that, we played great defense and really came to hit today.”

They said it

“This is the stuff you dream about since you’re a little kid, winning the state final, first in the program’s history,” Laccitiello said. “It just means more than what anyone could imagine.”