New Somerset County Tournament baseball schedule will quicken event’s pace, push seeding back later, but also present new challenge

Rutgers Prep celebrates winning the 2023 Somerset County Championship with a 1-0 win over Ridge at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater on May 9, 2023. (Photo: Chris Tsakonas)

A new schedule for the Somerset County baseball tournament will shrink the event’s footprint on the calendar, potentially allow for more accurate seeding in 2024, and make it a better overall event, say organizers.

According to a schedule shared with Central Jersey Sports Radio by Immaculata Athletic Director Tom Gambino – who runs the event as the Chair of the Somerset County Interscholastic Athletic Association – the seeding meeting will now take place on May 6th, with the championship game being played on May 23, just 17 days later.

The seeding meeting will be 36 days after Opening Day on April 1, compared to last season when Opening Day was on April 3, and the seeding meeting was held on the 17th, just two weeks later.

Part of that was necessitated by the availability of TD Bank Park in Bridgewater for the finals. To host the games there, the county is at the mercy of the Somerset Patriots’ schedule, which usually finds the team home one week and away the next. The SCT traditionally has had its semifinals one week, and finals two weeks later.

Finding a date also has to jive with all the other high school events taking place there as well.

This year, the semifinals will be on May 20th and the finals May 23rd at TD Bank Park.

By compressing the time between those games, it allows the tournament to start two weeks later – the first round will be May 9th this year as opposed to April 19th last year – allowing the seeding meeting to happen later as well.

As if two weeks of play to determine seeding weren’t bad enough, other issues compounded it last year. A shorter preseason created by the NJSIAA to provide a month off between the winter and spring regular seasons means teams were still working things out the first two weeks. That was evident in play around the state last year.

But since Somerset County teams play in the Skyland Conference, which features teams from Hunterdon and Warren Counties as well, not every team played their full Somerset County schedule in those first two weeks.

One of the byproducts was that Rutgers Prep – a very good baseball team, as it turned out, which eventually made it to their sectional final in the state tournament, too – won the SCT as a 12-seed, not having a fully formed body of work before the seeding meeting.

They were 1-6 at that point. By the time they won the SCT, they were 9-9, with five of those wins coming in the Somerset County Tournament, and all over higher seeded teams.

The new schedule, however, presents another unique challenge for coaches. With the semifinals and finals two weeks apart, an ace could have pitched both games. Now, with only two days in between, it will require coaches to manage their pitching staffs a little more carefully.

Do you go with your No. 1 in the semis or the finals? Save him, or throw him in a win-or-go home scenario?

The new schedule for the 2024 Somerset County baseball tournament is as follows:

  • May 6: SCT seeding meeting
  • May 7: Play-In Round, if needed
  • May 9: First Round
  • May 13: Second Round
  • May 16: Quarterfinals
  • May 20: Semifinals, 1 and 4 pm
  • May 23: Finals, 7 pm
  • May 24: Finals (Rain Date), 7 pm

All games are played at higher seeds except for the semifinals and finals. There is no rain date for the semifinals.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko discuss the 2024 SCT changes with SCIAA Chair Tom Gambino:

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