The motto “Do it for Danny” ran through the minds of the players on the Saint Joseph High School baseball team anytime they took the field during its contest against Williamstown on July 22 in the South Jersey Bracket quarterfinals of the Last Dance World Series.
The sudden tragedy of losing their former teammate Daniel Anderl earlier in the week hurt players to their very core and people in the Saint Joseph Metuchen community in every such way.
Their teammate was gone, but his memory was not.
The Falcons made it their mission to play in Anderl’s honor the rest of the way in the Last Dance World Series.
It should with the squad holding off Deptford for a 6-3 victory on July 21 and then roaring past Williamstown to a 11-1 triumph to advance to the Final Four of the South Jersey bracket.
“We’re trying to honor his memory by doing something that he loved,” said senior pitcher Adam Boucher. “Danny loved being out on the field with us. He was a great teammate and a genuine person. He’s part of the Saint Joseph community forever and we’re going to try to keep winning games in his honor.”
Anderl was shot to death on July 19 when a gunman targeted his mother, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, in their North Brunswick home. His father was in the hospital with serious injuries as of press time. Salas was uninjured.
The 20-year-old was a 2018 graduate of St. Joe’s.
The Falcons stormed out to an early three-run lead and didn’t look back, defeating Williamstown by the mercy rule in the sixth inning and will next play Jackson Memorial in the elite eight on July 28 at FirstEnergy Park.
Freshman catcher Mark Gialluisi ended the game for the Falcons in style by throwing out the Williamstown runner trying to steal second base.
It was way back in the first inning when Gialluisi received a great throw by third baseman Nikko Matos and then made a great tag at home plate to stop Williamstown from pushing a run across.
Gialluisi followed that great defensive play with a sacrifice fly in the second inning to extend St. Joe’s lead to 5-0 after Colin Leyner knocked in a run with an RBI double.
Do a JOB! RBI Sac-Fly by Mark Gialluisi extends the @SaintJoesMetBB lead to 5-0. Falcons taking advantage of runners in scoring position here in the 2nd inning. CC: @central_jersey @FalconsSJHS @StJoesMetuchen #NJLastDance #NJBaseball ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/M6SL4OWBN8
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) July 22, 2020
“My approach was to put the ball in the air and drive it,” Gialluisi said. “It feels great to help the team win and play with this group of guys. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
The five-run cushion was plenty enough for Boucher who followed up his four no-hit outing against Edison during the pool play championship game with another great start for the Falcons.
The senior right-hander and Duke University commit threw five innings of one-run ball and racked up seven strikeouts to get his second victory of the tournament.
After Williamstown started the fifth inning off with back-to-back singles, Boucher battled back to keep the Falcons’ four-run lead in hand.
With runners on first and third and two outs, the senior right-hander blew a fast ball right by Williamstown’s Jon Wood to end the inning and escape the jam.
Huge Strikeout by Adam Boucher to battle back & get out of a 1st & 3rd jam in the 5th inning. That’s 7 strikeouts for the senior. @SaintJoesMetBB up 5-1 going into the 6th inning. CC: @FalconsSJHS @central_jersey @StJoesMetuchen #NJBaseball #NJLastDance ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/nU2BcqtX4P
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) July 22, 2020
“That was the turning point of the game,” Boucher said. “We got some momentum with that last strikeout and then did a good job of tacking on runs to advance.”
The senior also had two hits at the dish for the Falcons.
Boucher is happy the team has been able to win the last two games for Anderl and knows his former teammate is proud of what they have been able to accomplish so far as he looks down on them from above.
“I’m sure Danny is looking down on us and is proud of what we’ve been able to do,” Boucher said.
The grittiness of Boucher to get out of the fifth inning with no damage done sparked a huge six-run sixth inning for St. Joe’s.
Already with three runs across in the inning, senior Brett Subers stepped to the plate with two runners in scoring position.
Wanting to do something special for his fallen teammates and friend, Subers was able to barrel up a pitch for a booming shot off the left field wall for a two-run double that extended St. Joe’s lead to 10-1.
“That was 100% for Danny,” Subers said. “Since his death, we just have a bigger purpose. We’re giving it everything we got on the field and playing the way he would have wanted us to.”
Senior Dylan Graham recorded an RBI single in the following at-bat to put the Falcons up 10 runs and allow the Metuchen team to use the mercy rule to seal up the win in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Leyner and Matt Sot each finished with two runs scored in the victory.
Now as one of the final eight teams standing in what was a 222-team tournament, St. Joe’s Coach Mike Murray is happy that his close knit group has more time under the sun on the diamond together this summer.
He’s proud of what his team has been able accomplish in the tournament and he knows his former player is proud of his teammates, too.
“Nothing on the baseball field is going to change a tragedy, but (Dan) would have been happy with how we’re playing,” Murray said. “That’s the biggest takeaway we have.”