Montclair sophomore Sam Ackerman did not want to strike out.
The Mounties were down 4-3 to Livingston at home, but Ackerman did not want to go down swinging.
On a 1-2 pitch Ackerman smoked a high fast ball into left centerfield. "I didn't want to strike out," said Ackerman, who hit it into the next diamond at Woodman Field.
And he tried to run as fast as he could so that he scored not only himself but also Chris Pignatello for the Super Essex Conference American win, 5-4, on April 11.
"I was running as hard as I could, but I was pretty tired," said Ackerman about pitching most of the game.
The walk-off home run just culminated a big day for Ackerman as he went 7 1/3 innings and limited a powerful Lancers lineup to two earned runs. Ben Hamilton would get the last two outs in the top of the eighth to set up the game-winning home run.
"I think everything was working for me especially my changeup," said Ackerman.
Ackerman is just one of several underclassmen who have not only defeated Livingston, but also Seton Hall Prep, two of the top baseball programs in the county.
And Montclair head coach Ron Gavazzi lauded his sophomore in the win over Livingston. “Sam threw a great game,” said Gavazzi. “Any time when you win on a walk-off home run it is certainly something special.”
Gavazzi is one of the keys to the success for the Mounties for this season and beyond. “He brings a lot to the table and also is a team leader,” said Gavazzi about Ackerman.
The sophomore Mountie comes in off a 2010 season where he was first team All-American SEC and also second team All Essex County after going 6-1 as a freshman.
During the summer he played for a traveling team New Jersey Twins. "I was really focusing on working on my changeup so that I could rely less on my curveball," said Ackerman, who added that his two-seam fastball is his number one pitch. He also fires a four-seam fastball.
In addition he is working on his hitting at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River and is taught by Brandon Cohen, who played at Seton Hall University and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.
The Livingston outing was much improved after a tough start to the season against Montville.
But Ackerman had a tough time on Wednesday at Millburn where he was hit in his right leg by a line drive. He pitched the first inning and pitched part of the second inning but could not make it through. "I could not push off," said Ackerman. "I was using all arm."
With Ackerman and the young team, Montclair could be considered a dark horse to win the Greater Newark Tournament with the seeding for the tourney next week.
It might be early, but Ackerman, a Yankees fan, would someday like to pitch or play a game at Yankees Stadium. “That would be awesome,” said Ackerman.
If the Montclair sophomore continues to improve that goal will not be a pipe dream. First things first though—a couple of state and county titles would be just what he and the rest of the Mounties baseball team would like before Ackerman graduates in 2013.