Milltown juniors show perseverance in win


Staff Writer

MILLTOWN — Down seven runs after two innings, things were looking bleak for the Milltown Post 25 Junior American Legion team in its first-round game with Galloway this weekend at the District 4 Tournament.

Starting pitcher Nick Brown, of Spotswood, learned how tough the competition is at the District level, getting touched up for six earned runs in two innings of work. Fortunately for Milltown, relievers Mark Fahy and Mike Hohman came on to stop the bleeding and allow the offense to chip away at the deficit.

“Each [Fahy and Hohman] knew they had a responsibility to keep us in the game,” Milltown head coach Doug Rader said. “We eventually got back into it, and we owe a lot of credit to our pitching. They got the job done.”

Fahy threw three innings to record the win and Hohman tossed two innings, allowing one run, to get the save.

Things took a dramatic turn in the fourth inning when Milltown shortstop John Berner led off the inning with a solo home run.

“Berner’s homer ignited a spark in the dugout,” Rader said. “He’s one of the better hitters on this team and by the end of this tournament he’ll prove to be one of the better players at the Districts. He started the rally that turned the game around.”

Following the Berner blast, left fielder Garret Andren and center fielder Phil Spina earned back-to-back walks before Fahy took his turn at the plate. Fahy roped an RBI single to drive in Andren and make it an 8-3 game. Both Fahy and Andren would finish the game with two hits.

First baseman C.J. Mooney and right fielder Steve Cherry reached base on consecutive walks to load the bases with no outs for Hohman. Hohman kept the line moving with a two-RBI single to cut the Galloway lead to three runs.

Anthony Addone followed with an infield single to make it an 8-6 ballgame before Berner drove in the tying run on a two-RBI single.

With the score tied at eight after five and a half in the books, Andren led the bottom half of the sixth with another single.

“Garret was right in the thick of things all day,” Rader said. “He’s such a patient hitter and he did what he always does and waited for a pitch to hit. He’s a selective hitter and he had a great day on the base paths to score four runs.”

Spina bunted Andren over to second followed by a Fahy single, which put runners on the corners. Mooney drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly, and Milltown went up 9-8.

“We never put our heads down, even when we were down seven,” Rader said. “These guys showed a lot of heart.”

Milltown scored two more unearned runs in the inning to increase its lead to 11-8.

“They [Galloway] tacked on one run in the sixth, but by then it was too late,” Rader said. “Mike Hohman shut the door on them.”

With the victory, Milltown moved on to face Washington Township in the semifinals Sunday evening, where they fell, 11-1.

“We had our No. 1 pitcher going for us, [Hohman], and really for the first time all year the defense let him down,” Rader said. “It was the first time that we didn’t make the plays behind him.”

That set up a must-win game with Vineland on Tuesday, and once again the Milltown squad came out on the wrong side, losing 7-4, and was eliminated from the tournament.

“They got out to a 7-0 lead, and we got four back in our last at-bat,” Rader said. “We tried to get back in it, but it was just too late.

“That game was much like the game before,” the coach added. “Everyone was a little disappointed from the day before, and we didn’t make the plays and didn’t hit until the last inning.”

And while Rader added that he thought he certainly had the players to advance to the state tournament, he can’t help but be pleased with the team’s performance throughout the summer.

“I thought we had the players to go a little further, but all of the teams down there were very good,” he said. “I think we got a tough draw playing in that district, and with the quality of teams we played, I can’t be disappointed with the players. This is the best the junior team has ever done.”