GLEN RIDGE, NJ – The Glen Ridge 18U baseball team certainly finished the season on a high note.
The team, consisting of Glen Ridge High School players, was on the verge of going winless in the regular season of the High School Development League Essex County Division.
But in their final game of the season, they defeated Montclair Kimberley Academy for their first win.
Not only did they finally win a game, but they managed to win the league’s silver tournament, which consisted of the teams that finished outside of the top four in the league.
Glen Ridge defeated Belleville, 2-1, in the semifinals on July 16. Rising senior starting pitcher Owen Gagen no-hit Belleville through the first five innings.
The following day, Glen Ridge beat Columbia, 8-4, to win the silver tournament. Glen Ridge scored a run in the top of the first inning before Columbia answered with a leadoff homer in the bottom half to tie it. Glen Ridge scored single runs in the second and third innings for a 3-1 lead. Columbia responded with two runs to tie it in the fourth inning.
In the top of the fifth inning, rising senior John Mitzak hit a three-run triple to give Glen Ridge a 6-3 lead. Glen Ridge added two more runs in the sixth to make it 8-3. Columbia scored a run in the bottom of the sixth to produce the final score.
At the beginning of summer, Glen Ridge head coach John McAndrew acknowledged that his team was “lackadaisical” and didn’t seem to want to play. But as the summer progressed, they started to show more passion, and their efforts were rewarded.
“The team showed a lot of heart and a lot of perseverance,” said McAndrew, a 2014 Bloomfield High School graduate who was coaching Glen Ridge for the first time this summer. “They hit the ball well. We pitched amazingly; our pitching staff was tremendous throughout the whole playoffs.”
Gagen emerged as the team’s pitching ace this summer.
Gavin DiCicco, a rising sophomore left-hander, also had two strong relief appearances in the playoffs, noted McAndrew.
The team featured several promising players, including incoming freshmen Zach Gold and Tyler Johnson.
“They were both very big parts of everything that went on in the summer and we have very high aspirations for them going into the spring,” said McAndrew of the two freshmen.
Entering the high school season next spring, Glen Ridge hopes to build off this strong finish this summer. GRHS – under head coach Liam Penberthy, another BHS graduate, Class of 2008 – endured a tough season this spring, finishing 5-14-1 after appearing in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 tournament championship game in both 2016 and 2017 – Penberthy’s first two seasons at the helm – winning it in 2017.
McAndrew, who is hoping to join Penberthy’s coaching staff next spring, has reason to feel optimistic for the Ridgers in 2019. GRHS is in the Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division, which is the third highest division in the conference.
“Based on what we know what we can do, depending on whether the kids show up and play like we know they can, we might be able to make some noise in our conference this year,” he said.