GMC Tournament Semifinals belonged to the pitchers, in historic fashion

North Brunswick’s Zach Konstantinovsky threw a complete game, one-hitter against South Brunswick in the GMC Tournament semifinals Monday – and lost. That’s how good the all-around pitching was by all four teams.

The following story has been corrected to indicate Edison had two hits, instead of three, against St. Joseph, meaning the four teams combined for a record low eight hits in the semifinals.

The great thing about sports is some record is always ready to be broken.

In the 2021 GMC Tournament semifinals, two records were set. And it was thanks to the outstanding pitching from all four teams playing at Ray Cipperly Field Monday afternoon.

This year’s version of the semis set a record for the fewest runs scored by the four teams combined, as well as the fewest combined hits, in the history of the GMC Tournament, which goes back to 1986.

South Brunswick defeated North Brunswick in the opening game 2-0, while St. Joseph defeated Edison 3-1 in the second contest. That’s a grand total of six runs.

Only four times in 34 previous semifinal events have the teams combined to score fewer than ten runs.

Nine total runs were scored in the semis in 2017, 2013 and 1997, but the all time low came in 2008 when St. Joe’s beat JFK 3-1 and Old Bridge beat Edison 2-1, a total of seven runs. The Falcons beat the Knights 3-2 in the final that year, for a combined 12 runs in the two semifinal games and the final.

The record low for the semis and finals came in 2017, when St. Joe’s beat Old Bridge 3-2 in one semi, Monroe beat Woodbridge 3-1 in the other, and St. Joe’s topped Monroe 1-0 in the title game. That’s a total of ten runs, a mark that could still be beaten this coming Sunday.

And when you look at who’s expected to start, you’ll realize that’s not out of the realm of possibility.

As for hits, it was slim pickin’s as well Saturday, in record fashion, as the teams combined for just eight hits.

In the opener, South Brunswick managed just one hit off the Raiders’ Zach Konstantinovsky, a home run to left field by infielder Justin Gallagher in the fifth innings. The second run came in the 6th came on an E5, a fielders’ choice bunt, a hit batsman, and a sac fly to left fielded that turned out to be a 7-5-4 double play. North Brunswick got just two hits: a Frandy Martinez single in the second, and an infield hit by Kyle Tarabokia in the third.

RECAP AND REACTION: Tuttoilmondo, Sanchez combine to strikeout 16 and blank North Brunswick to send Vikings to 2nd straight GMCT final

Meanwhile, in game two, the teams combined for five hits. St. Joe’s had three, including a pair of singles in the first, the second of which had Robbie Carvelli driving in a run. Then, Carvelli knocked in another run in the third with a single.

Edison had two, including a solo homer by Walker Zampella.

RECAP AND REACTION: St. Joe’s advances to GMCT final behind another strong outing from Goldan

That’s a combined eight hits in the two games. The previous low was nowhere near it, more than double in fact, when the 1998 semifinals generated just 17 hits, the only other pair of semifinals in GMC Tournament history where both games produced fewer than 10 hits combined.

Edison blanked Carteret 6-0 in a game that produced only eight combined hits, while East Brunswick edged South Plainfield 4-3, with the teams mustering a total of nine hits combined.

Monday’s results, though, said less about the hitting than they did about the state of pitching among the four teams in the semifinals.

After all, the combined ERAs of the four starters only totalled 4.48 coming into the weekend. What else would you expect out of South Brunswick’s Joey Tuttoilmondo, North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky, Edison’s Dom LaPelosa, and St. Joeseph’s Andrew Goldan?

Konstantinovsky threw one bad pitch – the homer he allowed to Gallagher, and it wasn’t even that bad of a pitch – and went the distance in the loss. Even Gallagher said after the game he didn’t think he’d got all of it. Head coach C.J. Hendricks didn’t think it would stay inside the foul pole.

Tuttoilmondo was on fire, fanning 12, then Frankie Sanchez came on in relief and struck out four more Raiders, picking up the save.

LaPelosa got a somewhat surprising early hook, coming out in the third after falling behind 3-0. He wasn’t getting hit particularly hard, but head coach Vinny Abene went with freshman Jaxon Appelman, who shut down the Falcons, throwing four innings of no-hit ball in relief.

And Andrew Goldan, well, what can you say? A complete game two-hitter, his only mistake a one-out solo shot by Edison shortstop Walker Zampella in the 6th. He pitched out of a sticky situation in the 7th, allowing a one-out walk to Charlie Taub, then a single to Ty Mellinger with two outs, but got Justin Rivera to fly out to center to end the game.

Not shown in the box or line score was the skill with which virtually everyone worked Monday. A lot of backwards Ks in the book meant a lot of hitters fooled by pitchers that looked no good to swing at, only to tickle the ends of the plate and be called third strikes. Fastballs, curves, breaking balls were all mixed in well.

And it made for some historically low-scoring, and – dare we say – thrilling baseball Monday afternoon in East Brunswick.

South Brunswick coach C.J. Hendricks has not committed to a starter yet for Sunday’s GMC Tournament final (12 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio, air time 11:30 am) against St. Joe’s, and he could go with Tuttoilmondo or Sanchez, depending how his state tournament pitching shakes out this week.

The Vikings are a 5th-seed in Central Jersey Group 4, and will host 12th-seed Old Bridge Wednesday at 4 pm in the first round. Should they win, they would play Friday against the winner of 4th-seed Edison and 13th-seed Princeton. Then come the finals Sunday at noon at Ray Cipperly Field.

But St. Joe’s skipper Mike Murray let their be no doubt after the recorder was turned off following his team’s win who would start against the Vikings in the GMC final: Andrew Goldan.

The Falcons have a non-conference game at Bergen Catholic Tuesday afternoon, and no one who’s worthy of a postseason start will touch the mound in that game.

St. Joe’s has a first-round bye in the Non-Public South A bracket, where are the 5th-seed, and will play at 4th-seed Red Bank Catholic – which also has a first-round bye – Friday afternoon. Either Colin Leyner (3-1, 3.14 ERA) or Jimmy Mulvaney (1-1, 3.10 ERA) are likely to get the start against the Caseys.

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