GLEN RIDGE – One of the special moments in baseball history took place July 9, 1946 when the great Ted Williams socked a home run off Rip Sewell in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park, to power the American League to a 12-0 triumph. The blast came on an ephus pitch, something that is rarely seen on the diamond.
This summer, that pitch has been displayed around Essex County by Glen Ridge High’s Grant Naylor. Coach Rob Rollo’s legion squad had a decent summer campaign, sparked by a top pitching staff led by Naylor, who will enter his senior year in September. Naylor went 4-3 on the hill.
“The pitch really fooled a lot of batters,” said Rollo, who was graduated from Glen Ridge High in 2010 after starring in baseball and football. “It looks easy to hit, but it can really throw off someone’s timing. I guess you could describe it as a slow-motion loping kind of pitch.”
Naylor, who helped the team out at second base, can also get opposing hitters out with the fastball, change-up and curve. But when he threw the ephus ball, the righty got quite a reaction from players, coaches and fans.
“I think that next spring the (Glen Ridge) high school team could have a big season,” said Rollo. “Owen Hannigan, Max Thompson, Simon Ogilvie and James Malik are also very good pitchers. This summer they’ve all worked hard to improve their performances on the ball field.”
Glen Ridge baseball fans know what good pitching can do. In the 1980s, the high school team made it to six Greater Newark Tournament finals, winning two. The championship wins in 1987 over Irvington and 1989 over Livingston were both shutouts.
“Other than a couple of games against Bloomfield, I think we’ve played quite well this summer,” remarked Rollo, who was an outfielder in baseball and lineman in football. “A bunch of kids have contributed to our success and it’s nice that we qualified for postseason play.”
Hannigan, who will be a junior next season, has been a solid .300 hitter throughout the summer. He’s also played well at second base and shortstop.
Thompson, who was a junior this spring like Naylor and Malik, has been a top leadoff hitter for the squad. And in the outfield in center, he’s shown “great range.”
Ogilvie, who just completed his sophomore year, shows amazing versatility on the diamond. Along with starring on the hill, he can also play any position in the infield other than catcher.
“Simon has a great future in this game,” said Rollo, whose favorite coaches are Rex Ryan of the Bills and Alabama’s Nick Saban. “He’ll do whatever he can to help the team win ballgames.”
Malik, who also excels in right field, had one of the biggest bats in the lineup. In a game against Caldwell this summer, he belted four hits in four appearances at the plate.
Rollo, an assistant coach for the high school team, says the summer squad gained some confidence off the high school season. This past spring, the Ridgers made it to the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 tournament final before bowing to Bloomfield Tech.
“I think the guys know the tradition we have in the game,” said Rollo, whose team lost the last two regular-season games and fell to Gloucester Township and Vailsburg in the double-elimination state District 2 tournament at Teener League field in Union. “Everyone on the roster has to do his part if you hope to have good results.”
DIAMOND NOTES – Glen Ridge went 8-9 in the regular legion season in Rollo’s third year at the helm this summer… In baseball, Rollo’s favorite player was Andruw Jones, and he liked former Jets and Miami quarterback Chad Pennington in football… In the 1980s, the star player for Glen Ridge HS was Dave Kennedy… Williams was a .344 lifetime hitter for the Red Sox. Sewell went 143-97 on the hill… The apex of the ephus pitch toward the plate can be very high.