Lyndhurst baseball wins sixth in a row, advances in N2G2 tournament

Lyndhurst baseball coach Pat Auteri maintained the strong belief that this year’s team would go on a big run even when the Golden Bears struggled with inconsistency during the season’s first three weeks.

Those early struggles feel like a distant memory as there’s not a team in the area, in any sport, playing as well as Lyndhurst going into the Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Parsippany in the first round of the NJSIAA North 2, Group 2 tournament was Lyndhurst’s sixth consecutive win and 12th in its last 14 games.

“As coaches we’re preaching to them that we were right there early on,” Auteri said. “If you look at our stats, we were in every game.

“We said that if these bats could get going a little bit, we could go on a run here. They have just enough to get us on this win streak.”

That’s because Lyndhurst’s pitching has been nothing short of brilliant, allowing just four runs during the current six-game streak, which included an eye-opening 2-1 win over a previously state ranked DePaul team on May 18.

The pitching staff, considered the team’s strength heading into the season, has been even better than imagined. Senior Anthony Pizzuti has led the way with a 1.83 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. Michael Rizzo has enjoyed a stellar senior season as well with a 2.15 ERA. Jack Nowinski, after an injury-plagued junior year, has a 0.78 ERA in 27 innings and has not allowed an earned run since April 5.

Shawn Bellenger (2.38 ERA) has been solid in spot duty, while Tyler Herman (1.02 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 20.2 innings) has emerged as a relief ace for Lyndhurst.

“We knew coming in that we had guys that had the ability and now they’re really showing it,” said Auteri. “Obviously Anthony and Michael are our one and two and they’re always going to keep you in the game. Jack’s stats are tremendous and he’s a nice No. 3 to have. Shawn’s another kid that’s going to give you innings and we’ve been using Tyler as our closer.

“It’s a nice luxury to have, especially in Group 2 baseball that you have four, five guys that you can depend on.”

In Wednesday’s state tournament opener, Pizzuti went the distance, striking out seven, while allowing one run, three hits, two walks and a hit batter.

Pizzuti was staked to an early 4-0 lead with Max Gonzalez starting the scoring with a two-run single, followed by a Matteo Morelli two-run single later in the bottom of the first inning.

With the win, Lyndhurst, the fifth seed in North 2, Group 2, advances to the quarterfinals on Wednesday, May 29 where it will take a short trip to face a familiar foe in fourth-seeded Becton. The winner will move on to the semifinals set for Friday, May 31.

Becton edged Lyndhurst, 5-4, back on April 5 in a game that feels like a distant memory with the way the Golden Bears are currently playing as they hope to win their first sectional title since 2013.

“We got through today, so now it’s a new season again,” Auteri said. “Next week’s a new season, so we’re going to have a little bit of a layoff so let’s stay engaged, let’s work on our hitting because we’re going to see a tough Becton team that beat us when we saw them earlier in the year.

“We know it’s not going to be easy, but we got to hope that one of these days, if we do play our A game, we’re going to be tough to beat.”


Lyndhurst is the only Observer-area baseball team still alive in the state tournament. In North 2, Group 1, North Arlington saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion when Roselle Park scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat the Vikings, 2-1. In North 2, Group 3, Belleville was shutout, 4-0, by perennial state power Cranford, while Nutley was defeated 3-0 against a North Hunterdon team ranked No. 12 in the state. In North 1, Group 4, Kearny was defeated by Passaic Tech, 8-1, and Bloomfield was shutout by Hackensack, 4-0.

The area’s softball teams faced similar struggles in the first round with Bloomfield, an 11-0 winner over Memorial in North 1, Group 4, the only local winner. The Bengals will travel to Passaic Tech in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Also in North 1, Group 4, Kearny was shutout by defending sectional champion Columbia, 10-0. In North 2, Group 1, North Arlington suffered a heart-breaking 7-6 defeat at Hoboken as the potential tying run was thrown out at home for the game’s final out. In North 2, Group 3, Nutley rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, only to see Summit regain the lead in the seventh and win 4-3. Belleville was shut out 10-0 by Warren Hills, while in North 2, Group 2, Harrison was defeated 14-0 by top-seeded and reigning Union County champion Dayton.

In boys volleyball, Harrison, the top seed in North Jersey, Group 1, cruised to a 25-12, 25-17 win over Science Park and will now host Technology on Wednesday. In North Jersey, Group 3, Kearny defeated Watchung Hills, 25-20, 25-22, setting up a quarterfinal match at top-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood, ranked No. 2 in the state. Bloomfield swept North Bergen, 25-18, 25-22 in the North Jersey, Group 4 tournament, setting up a quarterfinal match at top-seeded and No. 5 ranked Bridgewater-Raritan.

Also, in North Jersey, Group 1, Lyndhurst dropped a three-set match at Hoboken and North Arlington was swept by defending sectional champion Passaic Charter. Nutley was defeated by West Milford in two sets in North Jersey, Group 2 and Belleville fell to Millburn, in two sets, in North Jersey, Group 3.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)