This afternoon at 4:00, Central Jersey Group 1 champion Middlesex takes on South Jersey Group 1 winner Woodstown for a trip to the statewide Group 1 finals.
Middlesex (20-4) vs.
Point Pleasant Beach (20-4)
4:00 pm Monday at Mountainview Park in Middlesex, NJ
The game will be broadcast live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.
Pregame coverage begins at 3:30 pm.
Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the play-by-play.
Click here to listen live.
Postgame reaction will be on cjsportsradio.com following the game.
Middlesex: Stephen Young (3-1, 2.47 ERA – postseason 1-0, 8 IP, 3 H, 9 K, 0.00 ERA)
OR Aidan Kozak (3-1, 2.47 ERA – postseason 1-0, 5 IP, 2H, 10 K, 0.00 ERA)
Woodstown: Chase Reiger (5-2, 5.47 ERA – postseason 1-0, 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R/ER, 3.50 ERA)
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Middlesex (1-seed, Central Jersey Group 1 champ)
1st Round: def. (16) Piscataway Tech 16-1
Quarterfinals: def. (8) South Hunterdon 6-0
Semifinals: def. (12) Florence 11-0
Finals: def. (6) Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-1
Woodstown (4-seed, South Jersey Group 1 champ)
1st Round: def. (13) Penns Grove 6-0
Quarterfinals: def. (12) Haddon Twp. 6-1
Semifinals: def. (8) Pennsville 8-3
Finals: def. (2) Schalick 3-1
The winner moves on to Championship Saturday at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, where all four public school group finals are being played.
The winner of the Middlesex/Woodstown Semifinals will take on the winner of the North 1/North 2 semifinal. Second seed Hasbrouck Heights (20-4) came out of North 1, beating 4th-seed Kinnelon in the title game 6-2. The North 2 winner was 2nd-seed New Providence (16-7), which topped 12-seed Whippany Park 6-2.
The Group 1 final is scheduled for 1 pm this Saturday. That follows the Group 4 final at 10 am. The Group 2 final is set for 4 pm, with the Group 2 title game at 7 pm.
The rain dates are Sunday and Monday, if needed.
AUDIO COVERAGE LINKS:
STATS & NOTES:
While Middlesex has won 12 of its last 13 games, against Pt. Pleasant Beach, the Jays had a streak snapped where they had scored at least six runs a game since a May 18th win over Dunellen in all but their 8-1 loss to South Brunswick in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals a couple of weeks ago. Still, they’ve scored ten or more runs in six of their last 11 games.
The Blue Jays only mustered two runs against the Garnet Gulls, but they put the bat on the ball when they needed to, and with good wood. For the most part, all they were guilty of was not “hitting it where they ain’t.”
Several balls were hit hard, but right at Gulls’ fielders, including Ryan Vollmer lining into an unassisted double play at first to end the fifth inning. The scorcher was hit right to Alex Glen, who just stepped on the bag to double off eventual hero Anthony Long.
But talking of Long, he was he was 1-for-3 against Point with a fielder’s choice, and the hero in the bottom of the seventh. With nobody out and the bases loaded after an intentional walk to Stephen Young, he hit a liner to second, and on fielding in, Matt VanBrunt threw wide to home trying to get the force, allowing Mark Geist to score the winning run.
Still, Ryan Vollmer is the Jays’ hottest hitter in the tourney. Though he was 0-for-2 against Point, he had a sac fly RBI in the third inning to tie the game at 1-1. He had a three-run homer, and later a two-RBI single to end Wednesday’s semifinal by the mercy rule in walk-off fashion. Overall in the NJSIAAs, he’s gone 7 for 13 (.538) with 9 RBIs, two triples, and two home runs.
On the mound, the lone run Middlesex gave up in the first inning with two outs was just the second run they’ve allowed in the state tournament, snapping a string of 24 and 1/3 scoreless innings (which includes a regular season makeup game against South River a week ago). The last run they had surrendered was with two out in the top of the first against Piscataway Tech in the opening round.
Which means the Jays’ have not allowed a run after the first inning in all four games of the NJSIAA Tournament.
Despite the run allowed to Point, Middlesex’s team ERA remains astonishingly low of late: 0.58 in the postseason.
On the Woodstown side, they have won 15 straight since a May 6 loss to Schalick, their second of the regular season, though they avenged that this weekend with a 3-1 win over the Cougars in the South Jersey Group 1 title game Saturday afternoon. They’ve won 19 of 21, in fact, since starting the season 1-3, with losses to Schalick, Overbrook and Gloucester Catholic.
Head coach Mark DiCastro, whose first season was supposed to be last year before it was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, says he fully expected the slow start from his team, with only one experienced player – catcher Chase Swain – returning.
Swain and Lucas Pendergrast – who will likely start at second base Monday – Swain are tied to top the team in hitting, with .514 batting averages. Pendergrast has knocked in a team-leading 40 runs, while Swain’s three homers pace the Wolverines. DiCastro says Pendergrast can be nearly impossible to get out when he’s at the top of his game, which he believes he is right now.
Prior to coming up empty against Schalick, he was 6-for-9 with ten RBIs and three home runs in the first three playoff games. He was 0-for-3 against the Cougars.
Right fielder Ben Woodruff is another one to watch. He was 6-for-14 with six RBIs in the South Jersey Group 1 sectional.
DID YOU KNOW?
Woodstown’s win over Schalick in the South Jersey Group 1 title game gives them their first sectional crown in over two decades, and there’s a local connection to their last one. In 2000, they won the South Jersey Group 2 title, but lost to Ridge in the Group 2 semis by a score of 7-5. The Red Devils trailed 5-1 in that game before reliever Eric Dial came on in relief in the fifth inning. All he died was retire the last nine batters he faced and put the team on his back at the plate, slugging a pair of three-run homers to send Ridge to the finals, where they beat Wesr Morris-Mendham for the Group 2 title. They’d go on to win another over Dumont in 2002.
Having won their fourth straight Central Jersey Group 1 trophy, and fifth in six seasons under head coach Justin Nastasi, the Blue Jays continue a string of unprecedented success for the program.
Nastasi has helped guide the Blue Jays to titles in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. The best stretch before that was in the early 90s when they won their section (Central Jersey Group 2) three years in a row from 1990-1992, and again in 1994, making it four titles in a span of five years.
Overall, Middlesex has won 15 sectional titles, with their first coming in 1965.
As far as group champions – which weren’t played until 1971 – Middlesex has won five titles: 1990, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2018, the two most recent coming under Nastasi.
The Blue Jays are tied for fifth all-time for NJSIAA state (group) titles with those five, along with Cranford, Don Bosco Prep, Glen Ridge, Notre Dame, St. Rose of Belmar and Toms River South.
Only seven schools have won more. Emerson (1-1 against Middlesex in group finals) has won six, Pennsville and Hamilton East (Steinert) have won seven, Audubon, Bishop Eustace and Seton Hall Prep have won eight, and Gloucester Catholic leads the pack by a country mile, with a whopping 20 state titles.
Nastasi’s teams in five-plus seasons are 123-39 overall (.759) and 30-9 (.769) in the postseason since he took over in 2015, including a whopping 27-3 in the states.
Here is a look at their five previous seasons under Nastasi:
2-1 in GMC Tournament (reached the quarterfinals)
Beat Shore 15-3 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Lost 3-1 at Emerson in the Group 1 title game
Eliminated in GMC Tournament preliminary round
Lost in Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals
GMC Tournament quarterfinal exit
Beat Metuchen 3-2 for Central Jersey Group 1 title
Beat Emerson 5-4 in the Group 1 title game
2018 (24-4, GMC Blue Division Co-Champs):
GMC Tournament first round exit
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-0 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Beat Park Ridge 3-0 in the Group 1 title game
2019 (22-7, GMC Blue Division Champs):
GMC Tournament first round exit
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 6-1 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Lost 3-0 at Glassboro in Group 1 semifinals
2020 – No season
2021 (20-4, GMC Blue Division Champs):
Reached GMC Tournament Quarterfinals
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-1 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Currently in Group 1 Semifinals vs. Woodstown
CONTINUED SUCCESS, PART TWO:
The Middlesex win against Point Pleasant Beach gives them six straight wins against the Garnet Gulls – all in the playoffs – since the Blue Jays moved down from Central Jersey Group 2 to Group 1 after the 2012 season. Middlesex has outscored them by a total of 41-6, with one shutout, though this year’s meeting was the closest by far.
Here are the last five matchups:
6/11/21 – CJ1 Final: Middlesex def. Point Beach 2-1
5/31/19 – CJ1 Final: Middlesex def. Point Beach 6-1 (lost in Group 1 semis)
5/29/18 – CJ1 Final: Middlesex def. Point Beach 2-0 (Group 1 Champs)
5/24/17 – CJ1 Quarterfinals: Middlesex def. Point Beach 11-2 (Group 1 Champs)
5/22/14 – CJ1 Quarterfinals: Middlesex def. Point Beach 9-1 (lost in CJ1 semis to South River)
5/29/13 – CJ1 Semifinals: Middlesex def. Point Beach 11-1 (Group 1 Champs)