Veterans of the most random and unpredictable of sports have a way to describe the haywire-happy nature of their game.
“That’s baseball,” they’ll say, and everybody will nod because you just never know when it comes to the timeless happenings on the diamond.
But even the most grizzled baseball observer would have shaken his head in amazement at the circumstances of Glassboro’s 8-5 loss to Emerson Boro on Saturday in the Group 1 state final at Bob DeMeo Field in Veterans Park in Hamilton Township.
Ahead 5-0 entering the seventh inning, and just three outs away from the first state championship in the history of the program, Glassboro allowed eight runs in a slow-motion nightmare that turned a landmark victory into the most devastating of defeats.
“It’s tough,” Glassboro senior Santino Mancini said. “To be up five going into the seventh inning, that’s a rough one.”
The surreal setback ended the winningest season in Glassboro history. The Bulldogs finished 23-6, capturing the team’s first sectional title since 1970 and reaching their first state final.
“To be up 5-0 in the seventh, to be counting down the outs, it’s a tough way to lose,” Glassboro coach Dan Brown said.
For six innings, Glassboro looked like a comfortable winner of the program’s first state title. The Bulldogs took a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third, thanks to Mancini’s RBI double, Noah Putney’s RBI single and Drew Tongue’s two-run single.
They had junior ace Justin Tongue on the hill. He appeared in complete command, allowing just four hits – two of which never left the infield – through six innings.
As he walked to the mound for the top of the seventh, Tongue had thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings in the state tournament.
But it all unraveled for Glassboro (23-6) in the top of the seventh as Emerson Boro sent 13 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs on six hits with three walks, a hit batter and two errors.
“They just kept hitting,” Mancini said. “Kudos to those guys.”
Emerson Boro (23-7) sophomore second baseman Frankie Savino, the No. 9 hitter, was 2-for-2 in the inning with a two-run double. Junior catcher Mike Carmosino also ripped a two-run double.
The inning was endless for Glassboro. It started with seemingly harmless infield error and just kept getting worse for the Bulldogs as three pitchers proved unable to slow down the Cavaliers’ parade to the plate.
“Hats off to them,” Brown said. “I knew they would hit. I thought they would hit sooner, to be honest.”
After the stunning finish, players hid their faces under their hats and fought back tears as Glassboro cleared out its dugout to make way for the Group 2 state final.
Brown said the Bulldogs showed their spirit in the bottom of the seventh, when Mancini and Justin Tongue rapped singles to bring the tying run to the plate before a fly-out to deep center field ended the game.
“Last night I was talking to an old-school, Glassboro Little League guy,” Brown said. “He said, ‘There’s no way Glassboro loses tomorrow. They might not score as many runs as the other team but there’s no way they lose.’
“Right to the end we battled. That’s been us all season.”
Emerson Boro 000 000 8 – 8 10 2
Glassboro 005 000 0 – 5 9 2
LP: Drew Tongue. WP: Joe Carmosino.