While Nutley's offense continued its early season struggles on Wednesday afternoon against the West Essex baseball team, they still managed to scratch enough for a win, as Raider pitcher Kevin Garcia was up to the task. Garcia outdueled Anthony Tornatore at NHS, 1-0, leading the Raiders to their second victory of the young spring.
Nick Gariano led off the bottom half of the first inning with a sliding-double, stung to centerfield and was later brought home on an RBI groundout by Luke Kelly. That was it for offense in this one, as both pitchers and defenses took over afterwards.
"Our defense did a great job today. I just threw strikes and they did what they had to do, they had my back," Garcia said. "Our bats can get a little better and I know they're going to get hot soon."
Garcia kept West Essex off-balance all game long, allowing three hits, two walks and a hit batter, while striking out four. Garcia worked his way out a few jams in the game to help preserve the one-run win. In the top of the second, the Knights put the first two batters on base after a base-hit and walk. Two pitches later, a 4-6-3 double play had been turned and was followed up by a four pitch strikeout in the next at bat to end the inning. In the top of the seventh, Garcia had two on with one out and runners at the corners with two outs, before escaping with the win.
"I think he did well, he got himself into trouble at the end there. He went after them and threw strikes," said Nutley head coach Bob Harbison of Garcia. "That's generally how he is. He had a good outing his first game also and I think with this field, make them hit the ball and we'll make plays."
Tornatore was impressive for West Essex (which fell to 0-5), and even retired 10 consecutive batters at one point in the game. He allowed just two hits and a walk, while striking out six.
Perhaps neither pitcher should be too thrilled with their performance, with both teams coming in struggling on the offensive side of the ball early on. West Essex has scored 13 runs in five games, but eight of those runs were scored in a 9-8 loss to Livingston, meaning that they've scored just five runs in the other four games this spring. Nutley's offense has managed just three runs in four games.
"We've been playing well defensively, we just have to do something different offensively, whatever that is," Harbison said. "I can't tell you what's going on. We've scored two runs in the last three games for whatever reason."
Of course, both teams have the excuse of playing in the always difficult Super Essex Conference American Division, where every game is a big test. Both teams are seeing quality pitchers on a game-to-game basis.
"Every game in the conference is tough, there's no breaks. So unless we score more runs, we are going to be in trouble," Harbison said.
Nutley's record improved to 2-2 overall with the win. The Raiders are in action again on Friday at home against Bloomfield.