2024 HWS Baseball Final: Hernandez the Hero for North Hunterdon

County and Regional Tournaments, the coveted accolades teams strive for before the State Playoffs, always ignite fierce competition. It's like the NJ High School’s “Conference Tournament” before the grand event. The HWS County Final in Phillipsburg on Friday, gave fans a night to remember. It was a game that kept baseball fans on the edge of their seats. 

Under a humid, overcast afternoon, Philipsburg and North Hunterdon clashed in the HWS Final, showcasing their heart and passiont. Despite playing on their home field, the Stateliners took on the role of the road team, a testament to their fierce determination and resilience.  

The first few innings of the game barred witness to both starters being overly amped up, overthrowing their fastballs. Lions starter Zach Fronio entered Friday allowing only 11 walks on the year and had not given up an earned run since April 13th. The southpaw struggled to find the zone early but still left the game trailing 2-1 after four innings of play. 

Both teams tacked on a run in the 5th inning keeping it at a one-run game heading into the bottom of the 7th at 3-2. Phillipsburg reliever Eddie Weindel, after a scoreless 6th, looked to close the game and the final out. A leadoff walk followed by a single and passed ball forced an intentional walk to load the bases with just one out.

As the game entered extra innings, the pressure was on. The Statliners, playing as the road team on their home field, needed a pitcher who could rise to the occasion. Senior Weindel demonstrated legendary poise and composure, working in and out of trouble, delivering an outing that even Mariano Rivera would be proud of. His performance was nothing short of stellar for an HWS final. 

The sun had begun to set on the day just as the 11th inning dawned on the diamond: each team and their fans on the doorstep of HWS county immortality.  Phillipsburg loaded the bases with two outs as Jacob Kisselbach dug in. The Senior found a hole up the middle, driving in two runs to once again put the Statelines on the brink of a championship.

With Weindel coming off 24 pitches the day before and around 80 thus far in the game, the Senior had around 40 pitches to close out the title. With fatigue being a concern, Phillipsburg elected not to send Weindel out. North Hunterdon took full advantage, loading the bases with just one out in the bottom of the 11th. 

Tyler Anderson watched as Phillipsburg brought in another reliever to close the out the game. Anderson patiently studied each warmup pitch and dug in for the biggest plate appearance in his career thus far. The senior wasted no time and jumped on the first pitch, driving in two runs and evening the score at five. 

The momentum had shifted, and after three scoreless innings, both teams came alive and pushed runs across. Nick Hernandez strolled to the plate, facing a scenario we all dream of as kids in our backyard. The moment wasn’t too big for Nick as he launched a 2-0 fastball over the leftfield wall, and we had Pandamonim in Phillipsburg. 

A dramatic walk-off three-run home run capped off a historic night for North Huntington, winning 8-5 in one of the greatest games we will ever see! As Hernandez rounded 2nd, Ben Linzer (who earned the win in relief) ran side-by-side with his longtime teammate in a scene that will live on for years to come. 

Only a few days ago, both of these teams were thrilled to have advanced past the HWS 1st round. Little did they know that all eyes in the state would be on them, giving New Jersey the game of a lifetime.

How can you not be romantic about baseball?! 

Be sure to check out JerseySportingNews.com more content on HWS Teams

About The Author