Scroll down to hear postgame reaction from pitcher Aidan Kozak and head coach Justin Nastasi.
On what looked like it would be a great day for baseball, the skies opened up like a waterfall at Mountainview Park in Middlesex.
Just in time, Raiden Yost’s blast to deep centerfield went over the head of Nick Corsi, driving in Mark Geist and Stephen Young, and the Blue Jays walked off with an 11-0 mercy rule win as a wall of rain swept in from the Watchung Mountains beyond left field to douse the celebratory proceedings.
It was quite the day at the plate for Middlesex, which scored three runs in the second, five more in the fourth, and capped it off with three in the bottom of the fifth.
Not to be outdone by a gem from sophomore starting pitcher Aiden Kozak. Raiden Yost was supposed to start this game when it was scheduled for yesterday. But on a “gut feeling” head coach Justin Nastasi told Central Jersey Sports Radio before the game, he gave the ball to Kozak.
And all he did was throw five innings of two-hit shutout ball, striking out ten Florence hitters, while walking one, and hitting another batter. It was as good an effort as you could dream of, and it keeps Yost and Stephen Young free of any pitch limitations Friday when Middlesex hosts 6th-seed Point Pleasant Beach Friday at 1 pm for the Central Jersey Group One title.
You can hear the game on Central Jersey Sports Radio with Justin Sontupe and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action. Pregame is tentatively set for 12:40 pm. Click here to listen.
In the second, A.J. West got on with a two-out single, and Matt Venutolo moved him to second on a ball in the hole to short that Artie Piotrowski couldn’t decide where he wanted to throw. His toss to second for the force was too late. Geist Walked, then so did Ty Nicolay to drive in the first run, while Young knocked in two more with a double to give Middlesex a 3-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Jays would get five more runs, but not before about a 15-minute delay, as the home plate umpire complained he wasn’t feeling well in the heat. He left the game, and one of the other umps moved behind the plate.
When they came back, Venutolo led off with a triple, then Geist cranked a homer off a fan’s tent just beyond the left field wall to make it 5-0. Following a bunt by Ty Nicolay that resulted in the first out, Young hit a double, Anthony Long walked, and Ryan Vollmer blasted a three-run homer to right field to make it 8-0.
That was all for losing pitcher Nick Corsi, who swapped places with centerfielder Dillon Sanfillipo. After a single to Raiden Yost, he got out of the inning.
But then in the fifth, Venutolo led off with a double, and Geist’s signle drive him in, making it 9-0. Nicolay flew out to left, and Young walked. After long flew out to center, Vollmer launched one over Corsi’s head. He looked like he might make a play, but didn’t, and the final two runs came in.
Now, Middlesex will play in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game for the fourth straight season.
After a sectional semifinal loss to South River in 2016, Middlesex beat Metuchen for the title in 2017, then Point Beach in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. So, this will be the third straight meeting with the Garnet Gulls with the championship on the line.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s postgame reaction with Middlesex sophomore pitcher Aidan Kozak and head coach Justin Nastasi: