|VIDEO: Bardzell ties Trout as Ramsey advances past Pequannock|
Fans dig the long ball, and the big crowd at Ramsey got what they came for when Ashton Bardzell blasted a record-tying home run.
But for the Rams to advance to the baseball sectional final, it required some small ball. Ramsey scored three runs in the fifth inning on grounders as it came from behind to defeat Pequannock, 5-3, in the North 1, Group II semifinal.
Bardzell made history in the third inning when he crushed a fastball over the left-center field fence for his 18th homer of the season. That ties Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels star who won the American League MVP last year, for the New Jersey single-season state record. Trout hit 18 home runs his senior year at Millville High School.
The big blast by Bardzell cut Ramsey's deficit to 3-2. In the fifth, after Jake Gursaly's liner to left fell off the outfielder's glove, Pequannock chose to issue an intentional walk to Bardzell. The ball never left the infield for the rest of the inning, but the Rams scored three runs as the Panthers could not make a series of tough plays on the infield.
Ryan Vatcher gave up three runs in the first three innings, but the sophomore pitcher settled down after that, allowing just one baserunner over the final four frames. Vatcher struck out three while permitting five hits and two walks.
Matt Butler's solo homer gave Ramsey a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Third-seeded Pequannock answered back as Tyler Aug drove in a run in the top of the second with a single.
In the third, Tom Crooks delivered a big blast for the Panthers, a two-run home run to right-center field that threatened to spoil the party for Ramsey. But Bardzell's homer helped turn things around, and the Rams will move on.
Second-seeded Ramsey will travel to face the top seed, Lakeland, in Friday's sectional final. The Rams are 23-5 this season.
Pequannock finishes at 20-7.
For sports video highlights of this New Jersey high school state tournament baseball game, click play in the box at left.