Prep rival hands Peddie first loss

BASEBALL: The Falcons lost to another prep school team for the first time since 2000 when Lawrenceville topped them Wednesday.

By: Neil Hay
   To find the last time the Peddie baseball team lost to a prep rival, you have to go all the way back to the finals of the state prep "A" tournament. Of 2000.
   On that day Lawrenceville defeated the Falcons to win the title.
   Wednesday afternoon Lawrenceville did it again.
   It was not a tournament game, just a regular season Mid-Atlantic Prep League matchup between these two old time prep rivals. Peddie took a perfect 4-0 record into the game, while the home team Big Red were 1-2. When these teams meet, though, you know what you can do with team records.
   Junior Ed Woodrow started for Peddie and was victimized by poor defense and ineffective hitting. Woodrow was his own worst enemy when he threw a bunt away in the fourth inning. That helped the Big Red to three unearned runs. It was Peddie’s third error of the day.
   The situation looked promising early for Peddie. Anthony Belasco led off the game with a single off Lawrenceville’s Kevin Barrett, then rode home on Mike Brown’s home run. Two runs in, none out. But the inning went no further.
   The Big Red tallied a run in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 2-1. In the top of the third Matt Pustay’s double plated two runs for a 4-1 Falcon lead. Lawrenceville got those back in the bottom of the frame, but Peddie manufactured a run in the fourth for a 5-3 lead. In the home half of the fourth the Big Red scored three unearned runs and took the lead for good.
   After the third inning Peddie’s offense took the rest of the day off. The Falcons finished with just six hits, including Brown’s homer, two singles by Belasco, and Pustay’s double and single. Peddie batters struck out ten times against Barrett, who allowed only two walks. The Falcons’ futility at the plate did not leave a favorable impression on coach Frank Schermerhorn.
   "Barrett’s their ace, an above average pitcher. We beat him a couple of times last year. He had decent velocity and a pretty good breaking ball," Schermerhorn said.
   "We have some people with long swings. He exposed some weaknesses. All of our Achilles’ heel showed up. Our infield defense is a concern. We have work to do. We have to field better and throw better, especially in the infield."
   Woodrow went five innings and took the loss. He allowed eight hits, six runs, no walks, and struck out two. Pustay pitched a one-two-three sixth inning.
   "Eight hits and no walks, that is going to be average when Pustay does not pitch. The other team will put the ball in play," Schermerhorn said.
   As for his team’s offense, which lives and dies with the long ball, this from Schermerhorn: "We’ve been dependent too much on big hits. We are not moving runners around, not putting the ball in play enough with runners on base." Against Lawrenceville Peddie stranded nine runners, including the bases loaded in the seventh.
   "We are young, inexperienced, with a lot of new kids," added Schermerhorn. "We have kids who have never played at this level. We are learning right now. At some point we have to rise above the physical mistakes. It is still early in the season.
   "In fairness to Lawrenceville, they are not a bad team. The kids did not take them lightly. We’ll move on. Maybe this will get our attention."
   Pustay was his old self — which means trouble for the guys in the other uniforms — against Hill Saturday afternoon. Pustay fashioned an impressive four-hitter, with one walk and 14 strikeouts, as the Peddie baseball team won at Hill by a 9-2 score.
   With the score tied at 2-2 Erik Lohrmann hit a two-run homer to highlight the Falcons’ three-run fifth inning. Two innings later Steve Chiavarone slugged a three-run blast to finalize the outcome. Those two drives were the big blows in Peddie’s 10-hit offense. Pustay helped his own cause with three doubles and two runs batted in, Chiavarone finished with four runs batted in, and Gavin Vetrano had a single, double, and four RBI.
   "Chiavarone’s home run was a key for us. Lohrmann’s home run was one of the longest home runs I ever saw," said Schermerhorn. "It was a bomb."
   But Schermerhorn saved most of his praise for Pustay. In the season opener against Malvern Prep Pustay was not at his best. This time, though, he looked as he did in Florida, where he was a dominant pitcher.
   "Pustay’s velocity was better, his command was better, his movement was outstanding, he threw the fastball past them," said Schermerhorn. "Hill is a pretty good team and he was too much for them."
   The game was played on a cold day, with occasional snow flurries. In such conditions Pustay has difficulty throwing his breaking ball. So he went almost exclusively with his fastball. Much to the dismay of Hill.
   "I can’t think of a big game he has not pitched well in. He was ready to go."
   The win followed up Peddie’s 14-4 victory at Hightstown April 4, a game that was halted after six innings by the 10-run rule.
   Making his first varsity start for the Falcons was Woodrow, who "threw the ball well except for the first inning" when he struggled with his breaking ball. But his fastball was working so that became Woodrow’s mainstay. Woodrow also had a bit of difficulty with the pitcher’s mound.
   "Woodrow did the best he could under the circumstances," said Schermerhorn.
   Which was not bad in the entire scheme of things. Woodrow went all six innings and allowed only five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. All four Hightstown runs were earned as Peddie played perfect defense.
   "We hit the ball hard and made the plays behind him," Schermerhorn said. Many of the Hightstown outs were on infield grounders.
   "Woodrow’s got some learning to do. He has a chance to be pretty good. He competes and works hard," Schermerhorn said.
   The Falcon batters collected 11 hits. Belasco had a double and single, Brown had a triple and single with two RBI, John Johnston drove in two runs, Pustay had a home run and two RBI, Chiavarone had two runs batted in, and freshman Dave Wysocki ("It was his breakout game") had two doubles and four ribbies out of the ninth spot.
   The Hightstown-Peddie rivalry has lost some of its past luster, at least in baseball. Partly that is because in recent seasons the Falcons have come to dominate their crosstown rivals. Also, unlike other sports, the Peddie baseball team has no players from Hightstown or East Windsor.
   "The rivalry is not the same," agreed Schermerhorn. "We’ve done pretty well against them."
   Last year, the Rams were no-hit by Peddie. But when the schedule comes out each year, Hightstown and Peddie appears on the other’s slate.
   "I give credit to Hightstown," Schermerhorn said. "They continue to play us and I am happy they do. A lot of CVC teams don’t want to play us."