Coming into its state Prep B quarterfinal contest last Monday against visiting Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA), the Princeton Day School baseball team seemed destined for a quick exit.
PDS brought a six-game losing streak into the contest while sizzling MKA had pulled two straight upsets to advance to the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament.
In assessing the match-up, PDS head coach Ray O’Brien acknowledged that his team was struggling.
“Collectively we have been slumping for the last four or five games,” said O’Brien.
“We have run into some good pitchers and when we have hit, we have had a lot of ‘at-them’ shots. We lost some close games and there was one game where we didn’t field. Our depth hurt us, we only dressed 11 for some of those games and you can’t make many moves when you have that few bodies.”
Giving the ball to sophomore pitching ace Cole McManimon on Monday proved to be the right move as PDS pulled out a 1-0 nailbiter over MKA.
“He is only a sophomore; it is just amazing to go out and pitch like that,” asserted O’Brien of McManimon, who pitched a complete-game two hitter in earning his sixth victory of the spring.
“Every time he goes out, we know what we are going to get. He struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone. He has three good pitches, a two-seam and a four-seam fastball and a really good change-up. He is also starting to throw a slider. For someone that tall, he has very good control. He is going to do some very special things.”
While the Panthers got only one hit in the victory, they made it count as Jake Alu drove in McManimon with a fifth inning single.
“We hit a lot of line drives right at people in the MKA game,” said O’Brien, whose team improved to 9-9 with the victory and was slated to play at Pennington on May 14 in the Prep B semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16 at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Jake hit two shots and then we get two on and he hits a bleeder through the hole. The pitcher put us on his back and carried us and we finally got a hit and scored a run.”
While PDS had hit a dry spell, O’Brien has seen plenty of positives this spring.
“Ross Colton has had a really good season, he has hit well in the leadoff spot and has played a good third base,” said O’Brien.
“Jake has done a great job at shortstop and is starting to hit again. B.J. Dudeck is playing well. The pitching has been pretty good. Cole and Jake have been our top two pitchers and J.P. Radvany and Ben Weiner have also pitched well.”
And the Panthers proved they have good character, coming through under tournament pressure.
“We bounced back and battled,” asserted O’Brien. “MKA just finished off two top 20 teams in northern Jersey and made the final four in the Greater Newark tournament. We played great defense.”