Sectional title worth the 51 year wait

Behind Weis, Issackedes, others, Indians capture first sectional title since 1966

Pascack Valley baseball has had no problem winning during its history. But there is one win that has evaded the Indians since 1966—a sectional title.

Now, they’ve captured it and the drought is over.

Taking on No. 7 seed Morris Hills on Friday at home in the North 1 Group 3 section final, No. 1 seed Pascack Valley jumped out to an early 4-0 lead courtesy of a Carson Weis grand slam, never relinquished the lead and downed the Scarlet Knights 14-4 in six innings.

“We knew we had to come to play,” said the first baseman Weis who finished with 7 RBIs on the back of three extra base hits, including a grand slam. “They’re clearly a good team otherwise they wouldn’t be in the section final and we had to come to play.”

While the Indians understood the implications of winning and ending the drought, they didn’t let those aspects define the game.

“They said this morning ‘It’s just another game and let’s go play,’ ” PV coach Will Lynch said of the message going in. “It shows a certain maturity level, but also a lack of worrying about every little thing and instead focusing on the big picture, which is what we were trying to get at.”

For context, the big picture for this year’s Indians team is a Group 3 title, which will mean having to knock off Cranford, 5-3 winners of the North 2 Group 3 title game, on June 6 at William Paterson University at 4 p.m.

However, the big picture for that 1966 team was a sectional title, as the group tournament wasn’t introduced until 1971.

So while the pictures are slightly different, this year’s Pascack Valley (22-4) team has relied on similar techniques to get there—timely hitting and timely pitching.

The timely hitting was on display early, as Weis’s grand slam came in the bottom of the first. Eventually, the Indians would spot starting pitcher Jordan Issackedes four more runs and he entered the third up 8-0.

But the sense was the lead wasn’t safe. After all, Morris Hills (17-15) came back from down 7-0 and beat River Dell 11-7 two rounds prior.

Issackedes would go on and surrendered four runs total in the third and fourth innings after surrendering a bases loaded double with two outs to make it 8-4.

Now, Morris Hills had momentum and PV was reminded of how the Scarlet Knights beat River Dell.

“I reminded my guys how they [Morris Hills] were down 7-0 against River Dell, and never ever gave up,” Lynch said. “And you saw that today. They still never gave up. They came back and they chipped away.”

Issackedes went out in the fifth inning and rebounded, retiring the side in order, and did the same in the sixth, while recording two strikeouts in the sixth. He wound up throwing a complete game, while allowing two hits, two walks, four runs and striking out four.

Yet despite the fact that he gave up those four runs, Issackedes had faith in his team’s prowess at the plate.

“I knew even after I gave up four, that these guys would keep attacking and put up more runs,” he said. “So it didn’t matter much anyway.”

After Issackedes gave up four runs, catcher Jack Devanna ended the fifth inning with a solo home run to put PV up 9-4—and out of grand slam range. Devanna finished 2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI.

From there, the floodgates opened again, as PV put up five runs in the bottom of the sixth, and second baseman Alex Criscuolo (2-for-4, RBI) drove in the the Indians’ 14th and deciding run with the bases loaded as it put the Indians up 10 runs, invoking the mercy rule and ending the game.

While few currently associated with Pascack Valley baseball were alive when PV last won the section title 51 years ago, and even fewer were can remember it, in the end the significance wasn’t lost and the experience was best summed up in a word.

“It’s unreal,” Jordan Issackedes said. “We’ve had a sick season, so why not keep on going?”

Josh DeLuca
Josh DeLuca
Josh DeLuca