For the second straight spring, the Nutley Raiders baseball team has advanced to the semifinal round of the annual Greater Newark Tournament. This time it was behind the arm of Joe Feraco, who was nearly unhittable on Thursday afternoon at the Oval, leading Nutley to an 8-0 shutout over Cedar Grove.
Feraco gave up just two hits through seven innings, while registering a strike out. Beyond that, Cedar Grove's hitters could not make solid contact off of Feraco all game long, despite the Nutley hurler living inside the strikezone throughout the game. Feraco was simply a groundball machine on Thursday.
"Overall I just think it was a great game. I just pitch and let the hitters hit," Feraco said. "It was great defense [played today]. I just let my fielders field. I try and throw strikes, let the fielders field and they did a geat job today."
The squads were scoreless heading into the bottom half of the second, when Nutley exploded for four runs. Nico Mercandante drove in one on an triple, and he was later knocked in by Jack Kraft, to put the locals up 2-0. Leadoff hitter, Nick Gariano tacked on two runs with a line drive homer to left field.
Cedar Grove was still in striking distance until a pair of defensive miscues led to four runs for Nutley, including a two-run triple by Luke Kelly. With Nutley up 8-0, and Feraco pitching lights out, the game was essentially over after four innings.
"Feraco on this turf, is as good as anyone because you can really field well on this turf and he gets so many groundballs," said Nutley head coach Bob Harbison.
Overall, the Raiders pounded out 11 hits, getting three from Kelly and two from both Gariano and Kraft.
"Gariano has probably been our most consistent player this year," Harbison said. "He's playing like a senior should be."
Nutley moves on to play Seton Hall Prep on Saturday, at Verona High School in the GNT semifinals, where they'll hope for a different fate than last year's loss to the Pirates.
"It feels good, we've been here for the past couple of years and with our determination, I think we can win it all," Feraco said.