Top-seed St. Joseph of Metuchen was the only higher seed to advance to the GMC Tournament semifinals, as Woodbridge, North Brunswick and East Brunswick all knocked off higher seeded teams Wednesday in the quarterfinals at North Brunswick Community Park.
It sets up a Saturday semifinal doubleheader featuring 7-seed East Brunswick and 6-seed North Brunswick in the opener at noon, and top-seed St. Joe’s against 5th-seed Woodbridge in the second game.
Both games can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio from Ray Cipperly Field at East Brunswick Tech, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action, with pregame for Game One beginning approximately 11:45 am. Click here to listen to both games live, and for free, thanks to presenting sponsor Dayton Toyota Service on Route 130 in South Brunswick.
The first team to advance Wednesday afternoon was the Barrons, over on Field Two, as they knocked off fourth-seed Old Bridge (14-11) by a 3-1 score behind another solid starting effort from Eddie Nunez.
Known as a strikeout pitcher, that wasn’t his M.O. in the game, but after giving up a run in the second, Woodbridge plated two in the third on back-to-back singles by Josh Vazquez and Ty Kobylakiewicz, the latter of which turned out to be the difference. Kobylakiewicz added an RBI double in the 5th to make it 3-1 Barrons.
Nunez went the distance, striking out four and scattering five hits in seven solid innings for Woodbridge (18-4).
Click below to hear postgame reaction from Woodbridge head coach Mike Monaco:
The Barrons will play St. Joe’s of Metuchen, the defending GMC Tournament Champions. In one of the two nightcaps, the top-seeded Falcons cruised past 9th-seed South Brunswick 14-4 by the ten-run rule in six innings. And it was one of the most undramatic walk-offs you’ll ever see: a grand-slam by Mark Gialluisi.
St. Joe’s (19-6) scored early and often, and built a 9-1 lead going into the top of the sixth. But South Brunswick (10-11) scored three times to make it 9-4. St. Joe’s got a run in the bottom of the inning before loading the bases for Mark Gialluisi, who hit a walk-off grand slam to end it. He finished with five runs batted in.
Falcons starter Andrew Goldan only pitched four-and-a-third innings, allowing a run on two hits, striking out seven to get the win. With a comfortable lead, head coach Mike Murray pulled him, with the intent of keeping his pitch count down – he only threw 66 pitches – to save him for a potential closer role Saturday.
Click below to hear postgame reaction from St. Joseph head coach Mike Murray:
The other opening game saw 6th-seed North Brunswick rally to beat 3rd-seed Middlesex, 14-13. It was a see-saw game that saw a pair of seventh-inning rallies, and ended with a controversial play at the plate.
Both teams were hitting the cover off the ball, with Middlesex holding a 2-1 lead after one inning. North Brunswick tied it at two in the third, but the Jays grabbed a run to make it 3-2. The Raiders got three in the fourth to make it 5-3, but Middlesex tied it up at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning. North Brunswick went ahead 7-5 in the top of the fifth, but the Blue Jays got three in their at bat to make it 8-7, then added two more in the sixth to make it 10-7.
And that’s where it got interesting, if not downright unfathomable.
North Brunswick exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh – including a two-run homer by Frandy Martinez – to take a 14-10 lead.
And they almost gave it all back.
Middlesex got two on for AJ West, who cranked a three-run homer to pull the Blue Jays within one.
Ty Nicolay then got aboard, stole second, and made it to third on a fly ball to right, bringing up Bobby Ulmer, the walk-off grand-slam hero of last year’s Group 1 semifinal game.
Down 0-2 in the count after fouling off a tough pitch for strike two, the next pitch sailed over the catcher’s head. Nicolay broke from the third, and the play at the plate was close one, the throw low to the ground to the pitcher covering, and it appeared to beat him to the plate.
The home plate umpire called Nicolay out on the tag, ending the game and sending North Brunswick (16-8) to the semifinals, knocking out the Blue Jays (18-5).
Middlesex – including Nicolay and Ulmer – pleaded that the ball was loose on the ground and that the tag was never applied, but to no avail. Fan photos of the play show the ball out of the pitcher’s glove and on the ground, but after Nicolay had passed the plate.
Click below to hear postgame reaction from North Brunswick head coach Mark Blevins, and senior Frandy Martinez, via his cousin Gabriel Perez:
And so the Raiders are on to face 7th-seed East Brunswick, which avenged a pair of regular season losses to Monroe with a 4-2 win over the second-seeded Falcons in the other nightcap.
Monroe (14-7) got to Bears starter Dustin McGuinness in the bottom of the first for a pair of runs, but East Brunswick (12-10) got them right back in the top of the second on an RBI double by Romeo Diaz and and RBI single by Christian Bermudez.
They then took a 3-2 lead in the third on a throwing error on a ball hit to the left side of the infield by Jack Gerould, and added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI double to the right field wall by Ryan Basham. They could have had more, but they left the bases loaded, with Gerould grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
But it didn’t matter the way McGuinness settled down after spotting Monroe a pair of runs. He only allowed one more hit the entire way, a tough ball hit by Ryan Syvertson to short that Michael Marchese threw in the dirt, but it wouldn’t have gotten the speedy Syvertson anyway.
After a walk to the next batter, McGuiness didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the way, retiring eleven straight, closing the game with a three-hit, 10-strikeout performance to get the win.
Click below for postgame reaction from East Brunswick’s quarterfinal win: