Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ironmen's Destiny

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ironmen's Destiny

Article excerpt

DARREN COOPER

High School Sports Columnist

DEMAREST - Maybe it was just destiny for Don Bosco.

The planned starting pitcher scratched about 40 minutes before the first pitch? No problem. Pinch-hitting for a batter in the middle of an at-bat? It leads to an RBI. A bunt by Ironmen outfielder Brian Meerholz rolls down the third base line, and rolls, somehow stays fair and ignites a rally.

You can make the case that St. Joseph gave Bosco plenty of help with an uncharacteristic error-plagued performance, but the Ironmen were determined and they were simply better in beating the Green Knights, 7-1, to win the Bergen County baseball championship.

"Everything we did worked," said Meerholz, a junior from Fair Lawn.

"You know what? It's not that easy," Bosco coach Mike Rooney said with a laugh. "Everything we asked our kids to do, we prepared our kids to do. That's what it boils down to. We weren't shooting in the dark."

The Ironmen became the lowest seeded team (eighth) to win the tournament since the committee began seeding teams from 1 to 16 in 1996.

They did so relying on a pitcher, Steven Spatucci, who was a last- minute decision. Cullen Dana was scheduled to start for Don Bosco but had shoulder discomfort while warming up. Rooney called over to Spatucci and said, get the ball.

The news caught him, and his parents, off guard.

"I literally found out five minutes before the game," said Spatucci's father, Joe. "I see him jogging to the bullpen and I was like, 'You have to be kidding me? What is going on here? It's crazy."

Spatucci, a Pequannock resident, retired the first eight Green Knights. He allowed only two hits before being lifted in the fifth as St. Joseph loaded the bases with one out.

"He just went and pounded the strike zone," Rooney said. "He controlled his nerves."

By then, you could almost sense that it might be the Ironmen's day. Tournament MVP Josh Shaw hooked a double down the left-field line that missed being foul by about 5 feet in the third inning. He would later score to make it 2-0.

The Bosco sixth inning added further proof. Tyler Panno led off by reaching on an error. Then Meerholz came up with orders to bunt. …

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