When the Last Dance World Series began last week for 222 teams across New Jersey, Nutley High School head baseball coach Bob Harbison didn’t know where his team stood.
After all, the Maroon Raiders didn’t have even a practice session since March 12. So it was basically rounding up the troops and heading to Lodi to see what might transpire in the three games at that sectional location.
Lo and behold, the Maroon Raiders put it all together in their three games in Lodi. Incredibly, they got stellar pitching in all three games. They got timely hitting throughout and even enjoyed an offensive explosion one game.
The Maroon Raiders won all three games in the sectional, defeating host Lodi, then Elmwood Park and finally 2-0 over Rutherford in the sectional title game last Thursday.
With the win, the Raiders moved on to the Last Dance regional semifinals against Ridgewood in a game that was scheduled to played Tuesday at Skylands Park in Augusta in Sussex County at 1 p.m.
It’s unfortunate that Nutley was moved all the way up to Sussex County to play Ridgewood.
At first, it was thought that the Maroon Raiders would play at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, which would have been less of a travel hassle than going to Skylands.
But for some reason, the game was moved up north – so the Maroon Raiders will travel the hour or so to play a very good Ridgewood team on a professional ball field.
Regardless of where the game is played, the Maroon Raiders are one of 32 teams still playing in the tournament, which has been well received and well attended all over the state. Organizers are making sure that everyone involved is participating in social distancing and wearing masks, especially the spectators.
As for the games themselves, Nutley coach Harbison had to be pleased with the way his team performed, especially with very little practice time.
In the title game against Rutherford, ace left-hander Trevor Santos, who is headed to Manhattan College on a baseball scholarship, pitched a two-hit shutout.
“Santos did well against a good Rutherford team,” Harbison said. “We limited him to 70 pitches and he got through six innings.”
Kevin Hogan pitched the last inning to earn the save and helped the Raiders move on.
The Raiders got things going in the first game against Lodi, winning 8-3. Andrew Budine started the game on the mound for the Maroon Raiders, then Jake Walsh and Ryan Breinhof finished up.
The second game was a 20-0 victory for Nutley. They banged out 14 runs in the first inning and coasted from there.
Harbison was impressed with the way his team was prepared for the tournament.
“I guess they were getting ready on their own,” Harbison said. “They were definitely ready.”
As for hitting, Santos and Hogan, the senior leaders, led the way. Hogan will also play college baseball, as he has signed a letter with nearby Felician College.
“I thought we had a couple of guys who hit really well,” Harbison said. “Santos and Hogan did well and so did sophomore shortstop Joe Delanzo.”
Delanzo also got a chance to pitch an inning in one of the first two games.
“I was just happy they got a chance to go out there and compete,” Harbison said.
Dylan Santos, Trevor’s younger brother, also had a nice tournament. Matt Conner, the team’s leadoff hitter, was solid throughout the three games.
“It was great,” Harbison said. “They wanted to get into pressure situations and they didn’t miss a beat. They were ready and excited. They had a little hop in their step. They carried themselves the right way. I was very pleased.”
So whatever happens from now on in the tournament, Harbison is happy.
“I think it’s all gravy now,” Harbison said. “Of course we want to win. It’s great that we advanced. It would be even better to keep going.”
Harbison likes the makeup of his team.
“We have good seniors who are good leaders,” Harbison said. “My best players are really good kids and that makes everything else just fall in line.”
The Observer will be on hand in Augusta for the Maroon Raiders’ game against Ridgewood and will provide extensive coverage in next week’s editions.
As for the other three teams in the tournament, North Arlington lost two games and tied one, but the Vikings were competitive in all three games.
The Vikings lost to Wood-Ridge, 6-0, then tied Bogota/Ridgefield Park 7-7 and lost to host Becton 9-7.
North Arlington coach Paul Marcantuono was pleased with the way his underdog squad hung tough in all three games.
“We had the lead in the last two games,” Marcantuono said. “We were down 2-0 to Wood-Ridge late, then they broke it open. It was a lot of fun and we were very competitive, even after not practicing. We had 18 kids there and I made sure that they all got into every game in some capacity. It really makes me excited for next year.”
Lyndhurst won one game in the tourney and also received good pitching.
Belleville wasn’t as fortunate, as the Buccaneers dropped all three games in the tourney.
So the local hopes ride with the Maroon Raiders. They appear up for the challenge. We’ll see in Skylands.
Nutley left-handed ace Trevor Santos will more than likely get the ball in the Maroon Raiders’ sectional quarterfinal game against Ridgewood at Skylands Park in Augusta in Sussex County Tuesday. Photo by Jim Hague
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”