Middlesex may be only public school to earn a top-seed in NJSIAA state tourney when brackets are revealed Wednesday; Rutgers Prep could get a top nod, too

Middlesex Blue Jays pose following their 2-1 victory over Point Beach in the 2021 CJ1 championship game. (Photo: Justin Sontupe)

There are a lot of good baseball teams in Middlesex and Somerset Counties, but in the latest and final power point standings available on NJ.com, the official NJSIAA repository for power point data, Middlesex and Rutgers Prep may be the only two teams to earn a top-seed in the upcoming playoffs.

The Blue Jays suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday, as North Brunswick put together a seven-run top of the seventh to erase a 10-7 deficit and take a 14-10 lead, only for Middlesex to fall a run short, 14-13, after a three-run homer by AJ West, and a highly controversial call on a play at the plate, when Ty Nicolay tried to score on a wild pitch.

Middlesex almost always does well in the state tournament, and head coach Justin Nastasi has taken the program to unprecedented heights, so look for the Blue Jays to do some damage.

Rutgers Prep, despite a 6-0 loss to Ridge in the Somerset County Tournament final Monday night, is a solid team, too. At 18-4, they avenged regular season losses to Montgomery and Voorhees, and their only other two losses are in tournament title games – to Montclair-Kimberley in the Prep B Finals, and Ridge Monday night.

Overall, 41 teams from Middlesex and Somerset Counties appear to be in the playoffs.

Here’s a look, section by section, at where it appears teams in our coverage area stand. All team records are at the cutoff, which was this past Saturday.

Central Jersey Group 1: Middlesex (18-5) is a lock, in front by a healthy 477-352.5 over Point Pleasant Beach (15-8), the team the Jays beat in last year’s CJ1 title game. South Amboy is 4th at 12-4, Bound Brook 7th at 10-9. Perth Amboy Tech checks in at 8-11, Manville 12th at 6-12, Highland Park at 15 at 4-13. Projection: Expect to see the Blue Jays in the final, and they’re a good bet to win it. They’re that good, and a threat to make a run to the group final every single year. This year is no different.

Middlesex’s AJ West cranks a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh of the GMC Tournament Quarterfinals at North Brunswick Community Park on May 18, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Central Jersey Group 2: The highest-ranked team here is South River (18-6) at No. 5, with Spotswood (13-11) right behind them. Metuchen is 7th at 11-11. Bernards (9-11) is 10th, and East Brunswick Tech and Carteret, both 9-7, should be 15 and 16. Projection: With uber-freshman Julius Rosado – who we saw throw a 5-inning no-hitter at East Brunswick Tech on May 4th – the Rams should advance over a sub-.500 team in the first round. Do they have enough to get to the semis. Spotswood is a scrappy bunch, and will surprise some people with their good pitching, if they can get their defense in line. They played their “best game of the year” in the field in a 4-2 Commander’s Cup loss to East Brunswick last week, according to head coach Glenny Fredricks. And Metuchen beat Woodbridge – a Group 4 school – twice this year in the regular season, who who knows?

Central Jersey Group 3: Somerset County Tournament semifinalist and second-seed Somerville is the highest-ranked team here at 6, with a 10-12 record. JFK (7-16) is the only other area team likely to be in the field. Projection: Don’t let The ‘Ville’s sub-.500 record fool you. They’re as high as they are for a reason, a tough schedule, and anyone sleeping on Chris Banos’ team will find themselves with a longer summer than they expected.

Central Jersey Group 4: Three GMC teams are right in the middle of the top eight, with GMC Tournament finalist North Brunswick (17-8) in fifth, followed by Old Bridge (14-11) and Monroe (15-7). East Brunswick checks in 9th with a 13-11 record. South Brunswick is 10-11 in 12th, with Montgomery (8-110 right behind them. Projection: If North Brunswick can get enough pitching and piece it together after Zack Konstantinovsky – with his 100 Ks and just one walk on the year – they sky’s the limit for the Raiders. But any of those GMC Red teams can do some damage. East Brunswick battled North to a 12-inning, 1-0 defeat in the GMC Tournament semis Saturday, so we know the surging Bears can hang in there, pitching-wise. And with a Joey Tuttoilmondo – the new Viking single-season and career strikeout leader – South Brunswick can make a dent, too. If the standings hold, they’d open at North Brunswick. Circle that date on your calendar.

North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky deals to East Brunswick’s Romeo Diaz in the third inning of the GMC Tournament Quarterfinals at EB Tech on May 21, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

North 2, Group 1: The only two area teams here likely won’t make a dent: 13th-place Dunellen (7-10 and 16th-seed Somerset Tech (2-9).

North 2, Group 3: Colonia is the highest-ranked team here, at 12-10 and in 7th place. South Plainfield (11-12) checks in 12th, with North Plainfield (6-13) in 15th place. Projection: There are some really good teams at the top here. Cranford is the Union County Tournament Champion, and 20-4 Millburn with the top seed lost to Seton Hall Prep – ranked in The state top 20 at No. 14 – in the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament. It’ll be hard to get past them.

North 2, Group 4: Ridge is at No. 2 right now at 19-2 at the cutoff, followed by Woodbridge (19-5) and Watchung Hills (13-9) in third and fourth. Bridgewater-Raritan (11-10) and Franklin (9-10) are 7th and 8th. JP Stevens (7-15) checks in at 10 and Piscataway (7-16) is at 13. Projection: Ridge, fresh off its first Somerset County championship in eleven years, has got to be chomping at the bit to get another crack at Hunterdon Central, which, after a brief disappearance from the statewide Top 20, has vaulted all the way up to No. 6 right now. The Red Devils (Flemington) are the only team to beat the Red Devils (Basking Ridge) this season, doing it twice, 7-6 at Ridge on April 4, and 5-1 at home on May 3. How bad does Ridge want it? They should make mince meat of Plainfield in the opening round, then likely would meet Bridgewater-Raritan in the second round, a team they’ve already beaten twice this year. How fun would a battle of the Red Devils be in Flemington in the second week of June?

Ridge players celebrate with the 2022 Somerset County Tournament Championship Trophy on the field at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater on May 23, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Non-Public South B: In the unofficial standings in the 14-team section, Rutgers Prep (18-3) is just a half a power point ahead of St. Mary-Rutherford (17-50 – by a 436 to 435.5 margin. Can’t get closer than that! Immaculata (10-10) is fifth, Gill St. Bernard’s (11-11) 6th, Timothy Christian (10-5) in 8th, and Wardlaw-Hartridge (0-16) s 13th. Projection: The non-public are always tough to call, with so much variety. Should Rutgers Prep make the final, they could rematch with Montclair-Kimberley, which beat them 3-1 last week in the Prep B Final, down on Easton Ave.

Non-Public South A: St. Augustine, the expected top seed, is the No. 2 team in the state, at 20-1 at the cutoff. GMC Tournament finalist St. Joseph-Metuchen (20-6) is right behind them. Pingry (20-2) is fifth, St. Thomas Aquinas (13-5) is 9th in a 12-team field. Projection: There are a lot of good teams here. Augustine is one of the top teams in the state. St. Joe’s is ranked 12th statewide, and Pingry just won the Prep A tournament. Should be a good one!

Leave a Reply