In 2021, Monroe earned the top seed in the GMC Tournament, and was promptly knocked out in the opening round by 16th-seed JFK, which hadn’t won more than three games in a row all season. Call it what you want, but head coach Tim Ballard at the time had a feeling about his team.
Fast forward 375 days later, and the Kennedy – which had only won back-to-back games once in all of 2022 – did it again, this time in the state tournament.
In a battle of the Mustangs, the 15th-seed from Iselin (9-18) beat 2nd-seed Brick Memorial on the road, 8-4, in the Central Jersey Group 4 first round, setting up a quarterfinal matchup Saturday – at a time to be announced – at 10th-seed Middletown North (16-10), which pulled a minor upset of its own Wednesday, winning 3-2 at 7th-seed Robbinsville.
This time, it was Donovan Claiborne who came up big, a kid who has emerged as JFK’s ace, and he certainly pitched big in a big spot, allowing just four runs on six hits in 5 and 2/3 innings, while also going 2-for-4 with a double and four runs batted in at the plate.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with head coach Tim Ballard about the victory: