NEWTON, Mass. -- As Anthony Delmonaco approached a pod of reporters, he looked down at the tape recorders and said, “Sorry guys, I'm not really that good under pressure.”
He couldn't keep a straight face.
With two strikes and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, the Norwood High School senior hit a two-RBI shot to left field to give the Mustangs (15-4) a 3-2 lead over No. 6 Newton North (16-3). Norwood ace Joey Rydzewski finished the job and retired the Tigers in order for a complete-game victory.
Delmonaco, who sat on the bench for most of the game, also had an RBI in his first pinch-hit at bat during the top of the seventh inning.
“It's tough to sit on the bench for six innings, and then, when I call on you, go have three RBI. He's got that right mentality,” said Norwood head coach Kevin Igoe. “He should be starting, but there's only nine spots. When we called on him, he delivered. That's something he can take with him the rest of his life.”
After watching Newton North's Brendan Ryan pitch, Delmonaco knew he would have to wade through a series of looping off-speed pitches. He decided to sit and wait for a hittable fastball. With the game on the line, he got one.
“He had a good deuce, so when it was 2-2 I was looking fastball, and he gave me one. I was able to get a good piece of it, and it went over the shortstop's head,” he said. “It felt great. It's a great feeling.”
Rydzewski, Norwood's reliable righty, took a little while to get into a groove. During the first inning, the junior gave up two runs on a walk and four hits. He saw eight batters in the inning, but was able to strand two runners when he forced Newton North's Philip Biancuzo to pop out to deep center.
After the first inning, Rydzewski struck out eight batters and used increasing velocity on his fastball to keep the Tigers on their heels.
“It's tough playing on the road. You've got a long bus ride through traffic, and everyone's is sitting there,” Igoe said. “Then you have 20 minutes to get loose. We tried to get him as ready as we could, and he's a horse. He could have gone two more innings.”
Newton North head coach Joe Siciliano, who is gearing his team up for a run in the tournament, said the game was a great learning tool.
“That was a great high school game –- no errors. They just battled and made pitches, both pitchers did. We were one strike away, and that thing drops in. We're just hoping for breaks like this when the tournament comes around,” he said. “I'm not taking anything away from them. That's a good team. It will be fun if we face each other in the tournament, but that's far away still.”
Moving on Up: Norwood is in the midst of one of its best seasons in recent memory. The Mustangs have relied on their senior-laden roster to rise to the top of the Bay State Conference's Herget Division.
While Igoe said the team has made adjustments throughout the season, it's the guys on the field who have made the difference.
“We've got a great coaching staff. These guys battled back. We just kind of point them in the right direction. We got off course, and now we're heading in the right direction,” he said.
The Mustangs have spent most of the season chasing No. 4 Walpole High for division's top spot. However, Igoe isn't doing much scoreboard watching –- he just wants his team to concentrate on winning.
“Every game we go out there we expect to win, and we recognize that that probably won't happen, but we go out there and expect to win every game,” he said. “We don't worry about Walpole. We worry about getting the job done between the lines, and whatever happens, happens.”
Siciliano, whose Tigers are looking to claim the Bay State Conference's Carey Division title, said it's about time the Mustangs get their due.
“When is someone going to rank those guys?” he said. “That's one of the top 25 teams in the state. When is someone going to rank them?"
Almost Perfect: After Norwood boarded its bus to go home, and most Newton North players left the field, Ryan sat on the bleachers behind the Tigers' bench – head down – and iced his tired pitching arm.
The senior, who came into the day with a perfect 7-0 record, had just recorded his first loss.
Ryan was lights-out for the first six innings and used a combination of pitches to keep Norwood off-balanced. Until Delmonaco's seventh-inning RBI, Ryan had not faced more than four batters in an inning.
“He's done that all year. He was 7-0 coming into the game, and he was one strike away from going 8-0. He made some great pitches. You can tell what kind of player he is,” Siciliano said. “If I even went over to that line to take him out ... no, that wasn't going to happen.”