The year was 1997, and it was the pinnacle of success in the long and storied history of the East Brunswick High School baseball program.
Sure, the Bears had won county titles before. In fact, they won the first-ever GMC Tournament in 1986, beating Madison Central 14-3 in the finals. They won another in 1991.
But in 1997, EB was king – going the distance to win their first – and to this day, only – state title. The next day, they won the GMC Tournament again. Both times, Ryan Molchan came up big.
On May 30th, he threw a two-hit shutout at Mercer County Park to beat Edison and Rutgers star and MLB prospect Bobby Brownlie 5-0 in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game.
One May 31st, he went three-for-four, but most importantly singled home Scott Wells with two out in the bottom of the seventh to beat JFK, 3-2.
Yes, two championships in two days.
Friday, the 2022 Bears (17-12) will try to win the school’s second state championship, when 9th-seed East Brunswick travels to 2nd-seed Howell (22-6) for the Central Jersey Group 4 title game.
They didn’t win the GMC this year, getting beaten in the semifinals 1-0 in 12 innings by North Brunswick. But they exacted revenge on the Raiders for that – and a walk-off defeat in the regular season on back-to-back homers – by beating them 4-2 in eight innings Tuesday in the sectional semis.
And the hero in that game was Ryan Schultz, who came up as a pinch hitter in the eighth and drove in the winning run.
Joe Ditzel – not even one of the team’s top two starters – will get the nod, but he’s no slouch. He’s got an ERA of under one (0.86) and has allowed just one earned run – the lone run in that GMCT semifinal game against North Brunswick – in his last seven appearances.
Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Schultz and Ditzel ahead of Friday’s state title game: