Passaic Tech captures first county title since 2004
WAYNE — Jonny drew a walk, Jace scored a run.
Jonny threw the baseball, Jace caught it.
From beginning to end, twins Jace and Jonny Gilligan made an impact on Tuesday’s Passaic County baseball tournament final. When it was over, they celebrated bringing Passaic Tech its first championship in the event since 2004.
The No. 2 seed Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Clifton, 7-1, with a combination of two hits, 12 walks and two hit batters.
“It was great to come back this year and get the W for the team and the coaches,” said Jonny Gilligan, who pitched one relief inning in Passaic Tech’s 3-0 loss at Wayne Hills in the 2021 final.
Ending an 18-year drought? “That just makes it that much better,” he added.
This time, the junior right-hander started and threw six innings of five-hit ball, striking out 11 with Jace as the catcher.
“He threw a lot of strikes, made the hitters chase a lot,” Jace Gilligan said of his brother. “It was a good day.”
What it means
Passaic Tech (20-3) got to collect the trophy on its home field, which is the annual neutral site of the Passaic County semifinals and final. Jonny Gilligan took home the Bill Vacca Most Valuable Player Award in the town where he and Jace grew up playing Little League.
And, for Bulldogs coach Robert Nutile, the victory was his first in three trips to the final.
“I’ve been snakebit twice, but I told this team, ‘This is the best team I’ve ever had’,” Nutile said. “They’re resilient. We played a great Clifton team, and those guys don’t quit… they keep fighting, too, I have so much respect for them.”
Passaic Tech now leads the season series, 2-1, after the teams split their Big North Liberty Division games. A state-playoff meeting also remains possible between the Group 4 schools.
Clifton (16-5) – which played in its first county final since 1995 and last won it all in 1994 – is now 10-5 all-time in Passaic title games.
The Bulldogs drew four consecutive bases on balls against Jeuriz Polanco to open the game, with Steven Peralta’s walk forcing home the first run.
Not wanting to let the game get away, Clifton went to right-hander Kyle Vellis, whom coach Joe Rivera hoped to have available to close the game.
Vellis wound up giving the Mustangs 6⅓ innings of two-hit ball – but not before the first two batters he faced, Jonny Gilligan (walk to score Jace) and Devin Genao (HBP to score Nazier Mule) pushed home the runs that made it 3-0.
“That’s the most important thing,” Jace Gilligan said, “make the pitchers work and get deep in the count.”
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While the Gilligan twins played on the same team, Peralta and his cousin Juan were on opposite sides.
Steven Peralta added a two-run homer in the second inning and reached on an error in the seventh, eventually scoring on a Quentin O’Campo bases-loaded walk.
Leading off for Clifton, Juan Peralta got his team’s first hit in the third inning and came to bat as the tying run in the sixth. With the bases loaded, Jonny Gilligan got him to swing and miss on a curveball.
“His curveball was nasty today, his fastball has some pop, and his changeup was nice,” Nutile said of Gilligan. “He had all three [working].”
Afterward, the Peralta cousins exchanged jerseys.
By the numbers
► The rivals combined for more runs scored (8) than hits (7).
► Gilligan (7-0) entered with a 0.81 ERA and did not allow an earned run. Only two of the four runs that Vellis permitted were earned.
► Passaic Tech had been 0-4 in county finals since its 2004 win. That team was coached by Jim Lentine, who also guided the Bulldogs to the 1989 crown.
They said it
“I tell them, ‘Look, just be patient, and we’ll be alright.’ And they followed the game plan.” —Nutile on the instructions he gave to his hitters before the game.
Greg Tartaglia is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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