The Roadrunners brought home the Region XIX championship following a three-year absence -- and boy did it feel good to head Coach Rob Valli, his staff, and especially a group of sophomores determined to return the coveted crown back to RCGC!
The No. 3 seed Runners finished off a stunning performance this past weekend by rolling to the 2019 crown with a 7-1 triumph over No. 4 Brookdale in the championship game at Cumberland County College. The Jersey Blues advanced to the title game by rallying past top-seed Cumberland 7-4 earlier in the day. They would have needed to beat the Roadrunners twice to lay claim to the title -- but Valli's team would have none of it.
Behind tournament MVP Alex Gattinelli, who broke open a close contest with a key two-run double in the eighth inning, and solid outings from starting pitcher Jack Billings and reliever Nick Evangelista, the Roadrunners will be making a return trip to the NJCAA Division World Series in Greeneville, Tennessee next weekend.
And that suits the Runners, now 39-9, just fine as they look to bring home the program's 8th national championship in school history. The Regional crown was the 23rd in the proud history of RCGC baseball.
Valli's team roared through the regional tournament, which featured four NJCAA Nationally Ranked Top 10 teams, with little trouble. RCGC disposed of No. 2 seed Northampton, 11-1, Friday followed by a convincing 21-1 drubbing of top seed Cumberland later that day. Against the Jersey Blues, Billings and Evagelista held Brookdale at bay as the Runners held on to a 3-0 lead heading into the eighth. Gattinelli and company then took over as the team erupted for a four-spot and a 7-0 lead before closing out the final at 7-1.
"We knew it was a matter of time before our hitting got into high gear," said Gattinelli. "No way we were going to let this one get away."
Ditto, said Billings, who proved to be torrid against Region XIX opponents both at the plate and on the mound during the three-game sweep to the title.
"We wanted this title bad -- we felt we were the best team, and we proved it," said Billings, a freshman who is one of the region's top prospects.
Head coach Rob Valli was not surprised his offense erupted during the regional tournament -- and he expected the pitching to remain steady as usual. The Roadrunners outscored three major opponents by an impressive 39-3 count to cruise to the regional crown.
"The talent has always been there at the plate -- we picked the right time to showcase it," said Valli. "The pitching was solid again. We are very deep and we have so many people to go to on the mound.
"This is a well-deserved championship for this group of sophomores and the freshmen alike. Now they need to get ready to extend their season during the World Series in Greeneville."
Watch for additional coverage in the coming week @RCGCAthletics prior to the D-III World Series, including an interview with long-time assistant coach Greg Chew.