A famous adage says that all good things come to an end. Yesterday, the MFS boys baseball team discovered this the hard way.
The Foxes lost the NJSIAA Non-Public Parochial B championships on Tuesday, dropping their final game of the year to Rutgers Prep by a score of 7-3. Despite being out-hit by Rutgers Prep, 14-3, the Foxes stayed neck-and-neck with their opponents throughout most of the game; the score was 4-3 Rutgers through five innings. “Their pitcher was wild,” said Foxes coach Ron Obermeier. “They got fourteen hits and we got two [through five innings], but we had five or six walks and they had none. When you take the overall on-base percentage, we were actually pretty close to them.”
However, the top of the sixth was when the game fell out of reach for MFS. A three-base error in left field plated two runs, and an RBI double in the next at-bat brought home the seventh and final run.
Two key miscues in left field helped Rutgers Prep score four of its seven runs. The plays, ruled as errors, happened deep in the outfield. “Their field was bigger than ours. Those balls would have been home runs in our park, so we don’t get a chance to practice those plays,” said Obermeier. Center fielder Matt Mullock also mentioned the effects of the “high sky,” a lack of clouds that skews depth perception. “We just got unlucky and couldn’t come up with the catches,” said Mullock.
But the Foxes don’t place the blame on any one player; as Coach Obermeier preaches, “we don’t blame any particular player for a loss. We win and lose as a team,” recounted Mullock. Additionally, “everyone has experienced [making an error],” said Coach O. “It’s high school baseball. We have two or three errors a game. Nobody points fingers at someone if they make an error because everyone has done the same.”
The Foxes went down early, allowing one in the second and two in the third. In the fourth inning, three errors by Rutgers Prep allowed the Foxes to tie the game. Then the Argonauts took the lead on an RBI single in the fifth. They never looked back.
Despite shouldering a tough loss and being outplayed offensively, the Foxes showed some impressive defense. Starting pitcher Colin Gregory pitched a strong 5 2/3 innings, and reliever Adam Quaranta struck out two in the seventh before Alex Howard made a great diving catch to retire the side. Catcher Steven Mannion gunned down a runner stealing second and picked a runner off first in the same inning. Mitchell Mullock had a strong showing defensively, making a fantastic catch-and-tag at first base in the fifth and diving to block an errant throw that otherwise would have rolled into right field.
“It’s one loss,” said Coach Obermeier. “It’s a 22-game season. We went 17-5. Before the championship, our four losses had come by a total of five runs. This was a four-run loss, but it was just one loss. … There can only be one champion. Out of all the private schools in South Jersey, we’re second-best. I think that’s pretty good.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Foxes have some large holes to fill. Pitcher Colin Gregory, left fielder Nate Riggins, right fielder Alex Howard, and shortstop Spencer Bard, all leaders on this year’s team, are graduating seniors. “My hope is that this year’s title was a valuable experience for the younger boys on this team,” said the coach. “Next year, we need this year’s freshmen to be more than sophomores, and we need this year’s sophomores to be more than juniors. … It’ll take us one or two months to get accustomed to everything, but I think we’ll do well.”
Concerning next season, third baseman AJ Dunham knows how to shake off this tough loss and focus on the future: “I’m a big believer that mistakes are your biggest teachers. Dwelling on the past without a solution is unproductive, so moving on is necessary.”