By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before Lyndhurst Post 139 began play in the American Legion District 1 tournament in Parsippany, manager Mike Voza knew that his team was more than well prepared.
“Without a doubt, having pitching in line is important in the postseason,” Voza said. “This team was built for the postseason. I told the kids in April that I needed them to be pitchers in the postseason. Maybe they might get an inning here or there in relief, but it’s important, because we play practically every day.”
The postseason began Sunday with Lyndhurst Post 139 securing a 2-1 victory over Sussex in the first round of the District 1 tourney.
Bobby Miskura pitched a three-hit complete game for the locals and drove in a key run as well.
It’s important to get quality pitching now, because the games are nine innings, not seven innings like the regular season. There lies the reason to have as much quality pitching as possible.
“Believe me, there’s a big difference between seven and nine innings for a pitching staff,” Voza said. “You can have your three best pitchers lined up for the first three games, but that’s not enough. You need pitchers to throw nine innings for five games in a week. That’s why we have the kids we have on the team. We knew we were going to need kids to pitch.”
Part of Voza’s coaching background comes from his days as an assistant to Jeff Albies at William Paterson University.
“Albies had a rule that the pitchers pitch and the hitters hit,” Voza said. “I’ve adopted that philosophy with this team.”
Voza said that before the American Legion season, he had a meeting with Willie Krajnik, the Lyndhurst native who will be a senior at St. Mary’s of Rutherford this fall.
“I told Krajnik, who is one of our better pitchers, that he might not see a lot of action in the regular season,” Voza said. “But once we got through the regular season and got to the tournament, he would see a lot of action.”
Krajnik is expected to be the starting quarterback for the St. Mary’s football team this fall.
“He’s throwing 150 passes a day to get ready for the football season, but he’s being counted on to pitch for us right now in the playoffs.”
Miskura made things easier for the Post 139 pitching staff with his impressive nine-inning stint on Sunday.
“He’s a machine,” Voza said of Miskura. “He’s such a competitor. He changes speeds and works the batters. He’s everything a coach wants.”
The Post 139 squad was next slated to play in the District 1 tourney in Parsippany Tuesday night, with Anthony Pacillo getting the nod. In the third game, Kevin Rehbein was slated to be the starting pitcher.
“We’re all set up and rested,” Voza said. “That’s the luxury of having good pitchers. We’re lucky to have recruited that talent and then have the kids buy into it.”
Needless to say, Voza knows his team is ready for the challenge of making the state tournament once again.
“We feel terrific where we are,” said Voza, whose team posted a 17-2 record in the regular season playing in a new league, the Union County American Legion league. “Our pitchers are rested and ready to go. We didn’t have to play a tournament to get into the district, which helped us.”
Lyndhurst Post 139 was slated to face Livingston Post 201 in the second round of the District 1 tourney. The top two teams in the district advance to the state championships in Ewing that begin Sunday.
Voza said that he has another key contributor, namely future NJIT shortstop Rex McMillan.
“He’s a difference maker,” Voza said of McMillan. “He turns potential singles into outs and makes tough plays look like routine ground balls. He’s a magician out there.”
Voza said that McMillan made a game-deciding play in the first round of the District 1 tourney.
“We were all ready to give up a run at home,” Voza said. “With a runner at third and one out, he went against baseball convention and threw the ball home on his own and got the runner. It was a huge momentum swing in our favor. It was an incredible play.”
Needless to say, Voza believes his team is ready for the challenge that comes with a state tournament appearance Sunday.
“We are right where we need to be,” Voza said. “We have all the parts, the pitching, the hitting, the defense, the base running. We have everything an American Legion coach wants in a team.”