Author: Mike Pavlichko

Woodbridge looks to reload after graduation of three key seniors

We said it last year, and we’ll say it again: Woodbridge baseball quietly put together one of its best years in program history in 2022, making a run to the North 2, Group 4 finals, and finishing the year 25-7.

To do similar this year won’t be quiet at all.

The ’22 version of Barrons’ baseball could hit up and down the lineup, even the underclassmen like Ty Kobylakiewicz (.364, 28 RBI, 3 HR), A.J. Bosch (.357, 12 RBI) and Drew Lukachyk (.351, 24 RBI). But they will miss Drew’s older brother Brett – who was tied with Kobylakiewicz for the team lead in run production – as well as Josh Vazquez at Matt Troche.

And the, there’s the pitching. Troche and Vazquez ate up almost 90 innings last season, with 80 strikeouts combined between them. And the Barrons will need more than Eddy Nunez to step up, although that’s where the whole thing starts. Nunez had a fantastic sophomore season, throwing a team-leading 62 2/3 innings and allowing just 45 hits and 19 earned runs. He had a 2.12 ERA and struck out a team-best 62 hitters.

Head coach Mike Monaco likes what he sees from his team in the preseason, but knows they will play in a competitive GMC White Division that’s been revamped. Gone are Spotswood, Metuchen, JFK and Piscataway to the Blue, while North Brunswick moves to the Red, but in come Perth Amboy, JP Stevens and Edison from the Red. Combined with Middlesex, Sayreville and Colonia, it’s a tough schedule in the division.

And the season gets underway with the rival Patriots right off the bat, with Woodbridge visiting Colonia for its season opener on Tuesday, April 4th, part of a home-and-home that sees the Patriots visit the Barrons two days later.

Woodbridge will make its lone regular season appearance on Central Jersey Sports Radio on Tuesday, May 2nd, at 7 pm, when the Barrons host Perth Amboy in the first of a two-game divisional series.

Click below for a full preview of the Woodbridge baseball season with head coach Mike Monaco:

Last year, Rutgers Prep was a finalist; this year, the goal is to finish

Rutgers Prep baseball coach Larry Santowasso is the first to admit that maybe the 2022 version of the Argonauts was a little ahead of schedule.

Counting on two uber-freshmen, a host of sophomores and juniors, and just four seniors – only two of whom saw significant playing time – Prep went 19-6, and reached the finals of both the Prep B Tournament and the Somerset County Tournament. They earned the top seed in Non-Public North B in the state tourney, but were upset in the first round by eventual champion Immaculata.

They reached two finals, but couldn’t finish. So now, that’s the goal in 2023.

The team is now bonding and partaking of Spring Training in the most Spring Training of settings: Vero Beach, Florida, where they work out every year and scrimmage teams from the Sunshine State at the Jackie Robinson Sports Complex. And yet, this team may need it the least, because the Argonauts are mostly in tact from last season.

The Rutgers Prep baseball team after a scrimmage in Vero Beach, FL, as the Argonauts prepare for the 2023 season. (Submitted photo by head coach Larry Santowasso)

Sure, the Argonauts lose two significant seniors. Nick Baldev – a position player and fielder who hit .217 and drove in 11 runs, but also pitches 32 innings and struke out 55, while walking only 18 to the tune of a 2.62 ERA – has graduated, along with first baseman/outfielder Anthony Brigante, who his .262 but drove in 22 runs.

Everyone else is back, though. There’s senior James Jackman (.353, 11 RBI, 4 HR), junior Evan Laub (.333, 15 RBI), junior Nick Pizzie (.400, 26 RBI) and sophomore Cody Rullo (.358, 10 RBI). And then, the biggest bat of them all, Andrew Parisi, who as a freshman only hit .537, led the state in RBIs with 54, and cranked 11 home runs – good for fourth in New Jersey.

On the mound, the top pitcher returns in Zach Fronio. As a freshman, he threw 42 2/3 innings, striking out 58, walking 19, finishing with just a 1.64 ERA.

Rutgers Prep opens its season on Tuesday, April 4th against Montgomery, and make an appearance on Central Jersey Sports Radio on Thursday, April 13th, when the Argonauts entertain Somerville in a Raritan Division game set for 4 pm.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Rutgers Prep head coach Larry Santowasso:

St. Joseph-Metuchen will rely on new top pitchers, heavy-hitting senior lineup in ’23

Two of the best pitchers – and there were many great ones – in the Greater Middlesex Conference have graduated from St. Joseph of Metuchen.

But two others will see their roles amplified this year, while a veteran, slugging lineup returns for the Falcons, making them again one of the favorites to go all the way in the GMC in 2023.

Donovan Szak and Andrew Goldan are gone – not too far away at Rutgers – but with both having dealt with some injuries last season, it got Bryan Rios and Jimmy Mulvaney more experience as juniors. This season, as seniors, they’ll be called upon to get the ball in big spots for Joe’s as seniors.

But one area seventh-year head coach Mike Murray shouldn’t have to worry about is the batting order.

Well, let’s clarify that: his only worry may be figuring out who are the best nine players to write on his scorecard.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Christian Azcona, Josiah Brown, Robbie Carvelli, and Mark Gialluisi are all back, and the trick will be figuring out where to fit in some of the younger players to get them experience while also winning ball games in the very tough Red Division.

The Falcons open their season on Tuesday, April 4th at home against Monroe, and we’ll have St. Joe’s on the air on Central Jersey Sports Radio on Tuesday, April 18th for a 4 pm game against defending GMC Tournament champ North Brunswick, in a rematch of last year’s county final, the second game of a back-to-back home-and-home set.

Click below to hear more about the 2023 St. Joseph Falcons as head coach Mike Murray talks with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Ridge debuts at No. 1 in preseason Bellamy & Son Paving H.S. Baseball Top Ten

The Ridge Red Devils – coming off a 24-4 season, a Somerset County Tournament championship, and a heartbreaking 11-inning loss in the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals to end their season – will begin 2023 right where they left off: Number One in the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten.

Not only does Ridge take the top spot in our preseason rankings, but the top four teams remained the same. The rest saw some significant movement.

The Red Devils have some key pieces back from last year’s club, including pitchers Connor Byrne and Brendan Callanan, while Callanan, Luke Somelofske and Julian Kielb – the team’s top run producer a year ago – are among the top hitters returning.

In second, it’s North Brunswick, which won its first-ever GMC Tournament Championship last year, beating defending champ St. Joseph of Metuchen in the final. The Falcons check in at No. 3.

The Raiders went 22-10 last season, and have a lot of key hitters back, including Omar and Yomar Carreras and Frankie Garbolino, while Rutgers-bound strikeout whiz Zach Konstantinovsky returns for his senior season. Last year, “Zack K” threw 67 innings, struck out 120 hitters, and walked only two, with a miniscule 0.73 earned run average.

The Falcons finished 22-9 last year, and were the Red Division Champions. Their returning lineup is loaded, with standouts like Mark Gialluisi, Robbie Carvelli, Josiah Brown and many more returning, though they lose two of the best pitchers in the league – Donovan Szak and Andrew Goldan, both of whom are now at Rutgers.

Checking in at No. 4 is Woodbridge. The Barons were 25-7 last year and a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 finalist, having won an epic 11-inning game at Ridge, but falling to Hunterdon Central in the final. The Barrons return their top pitcher in Eddy Nunez, as well as key offensive players like senior Ty Kobylakiewicz, and juniors Drew Lukachyk and A.J. Bosch.

In fifth is Rutgers Prep, which was 19-6 last season and won the Skyland Conference Valley Division, and made it to the Somerset County final, falling to Ridge. A young team in 2022, they still won’t have a lot of seniors, but players like sophomores Andrew Parisi (.537, 54 RBI, 11 HR) and Zach Fronio (42 2/3 innings pitched, 1.34 ERA) will have lots of experience to call upon.

East Brunswick checks in at No. 6. A Central Jersey Group 4 finalist, the Bears were 17-13 last season, and lost an epic GMC Tournament semifinal game to North Brunswick 1-0 in 12 innings.

Monroe – 16-11 a year ago – is in seventh, while Pingry comes in eighth. The Big Blue were 23-3 last season and had just one regular season loss, to Ridge. Their other two losses were in the county and state tournaments.

Immaculata – 14-13 a year ago – comes in ninth. A young ballclub went 14-13 last season, but lost some key offensive players and some big arms, like Aiden Rumain, Matt Warzeniak and Christian Martell.

And Bridgewater-Raritan, which has a veteran group returning from last year’s 15-13 team debuts in this year’s poll at No. 10.

Below is the complete Bellamy & Son Paving Preseason Top Ten:

Doing the conference shuffle: 22 Middlesex, Somerset teams find a new home in ’23

Forget realignment, both the Greater Middlesex and Skyland Conferences will see some major reconstruction in their divisional alignments for baseball this season.

Of the 32 teams in the GMC, 17 will be playing in a new division in 2023, with the creation of a fifth division – the GMC Silver.

And in the Skyland, eight of the 32 are moving, with a seven teams (five from the CJSR coverage area) going to a new Division, and North Plainfield now in the GMC, as it began playing there in all sports (except football’s Big Central) for the 2022-23 school year. And the Raritan Division makes it’s return after a two-year hiatus.

GMC adds a division…

The Silver essentially becomes the fifth division, as the bottom six teams from last season’s GMC Gold Division standings form the new group of six: Calvary Christian, Dunellen, Highland Park, Perth Amboy Magnet, Piscataway Magnet and Wardlaw-Hartridge.

South Amboy and Timothy Christian remain in the Gold, joined by four baseball teams that played in the Blue Division last season: Carteret, East Brunswick Magnet, New Brunswick and Somerset Tech.

Remaining in the Blue Division – which was the smallest last year at six teams – are South River and St. Thomas Aquinas. First-year GMC school North Plainfield moves into the Blue, while Metuchen, JFK, Piscataway and Spotswood come down into the Blue from the White, with the Chiefs easily the largest school in the division.

The White Division will keep Colonia, Middlesex, Sayreville and Woodbridge, adding Edison, JP Stevens and Perth Amboy from the Red.

Fresh off its first-ever GMC Tournament championship, North Brunswick moves up to the Red – the division least touched by the GMC’s realignment – as six teams remain: East Brunswick, Monroe, Old Bridge, St. Joseph-Metuchen, South Brunswick and South Plainfield.

The shuffle leaves the top three divisions – the Red, White and Blue – with seven teams each, while the Gold and Silver will have six each.

The addition of an extra division will matter little to postseason play. Unlike basketball, there’s no requirement that each of the division winners get a top eight seed since there are two tournaments: the main GMC Tournament, and the Invitational, for those not seeded among the first 16. However, the addition of North Plainfield giving the league 33 teams means that unless one school opts out, there will be 17 in the Invitational, and a play-in game would be required.

Back to tradition, mammoth Delaware Division is gone…

After the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the 2020 season, the Skyland Conference experimented with a three-division setup, which left a mammoth ten-team Delaware Division. That’s gone now, with the season more compressed, and less time for divisional play.

So, the league is back to the traditional four-division format, with the return of the Raritan Division.

In the top division – the Delaware – Bridgewater-Raritan, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, Immaculata, Ridge and Watchung Hills will remain in what is back to a more reasonably-sized six-team division, allowing for ten divisional games.

Montgomery, North Hunterdon, Phillipsburg and Somerville will leave the Delaware and join the newly-reformed Raritan Division, which also will take Franklin and Rutgers Prep out of the Valley for form another six-team grouping.

In the Valley, Bernards, Gill St. Bernard’s, Voorhees and Warren Hills will remain, to be joined by Pingry for a five-team division.

And the Mountain – having only lost Pingry – remains mostly in tact as another five-team division: Belvidere, Bound Brook, Delaware Valley, Manville and South Hunterdon.

Ridge will look to defend Somerset County Tourney title with a mix of veterans and newcomers

Win some, lose some. Graduate some, return some.

That’s the story for the Ridge baseball team as it embarks upon the 2023 season, which it will open on Tuesday, April 4th at Diamond Nation in Flemington against Immaculata, a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Red Devils won the Somerset County Tournament championship in 2022, blanking Rutgers Prep in the final 6-0. And they had the horses to make a run at the North 2, Group 4 championship, but they lost an epic 5-4 game in 11 innings in the sectional semis to Woodbridge.

It might not have been how he planned it, but Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell says the emotions of that game are still felt, and it’s given the 2023 club a fuel for the fire, a sense that they left some unfinished business.

That’s the win some, lose some.

On the roster side of things, the offense will lose catcher George Busnach (2 HR, 17 RBI), centerfielder Mike Olivo (.433, 1 HR, 17 RBI) and left fielder Brian Leitz (.411, 1 HR, 16 RBI). But Ridge returns outfielder Luke Somelofske (.413, 10 RBI), shortstop Brendan Callanan (.446, 1 HR, 22 RBI) and top run producer and infielder/outfielder Julian Kielb (.429, 2 HR, 27 RBI).

On the mound, the Red Devils also will miss Olivo and his miniscule 0.31 ERA in 45 1/3 innings pitched, as well as Andrew Shahwah. But they bring back Callanan and Connor Byrne, who combined for over 102 innings thrown last year, neither, with Callanan sporting a 2.03 ERA, and Byrne at 1.83.

Blackwell believes his team – which has spent a lot of time with each other win the offseason – will be poised for another run this year.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko preview the Ridge season with head coach Tom Blackwell:

Defending GMCT champ North Brunswick approaching ’23 with ease, not worried about outside expectations

When you have natural born leaders like Frankie Garbolino and strikeout machines like Zack Konstantinovsky returning for their senior seasons, as well as a host of other talented players like Kyle Anderson, Omar and Yomar Carreras and a host of others, it would be easy for outsiders to pin expectations on a baseball team like that.

Especially coming off their first ever Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship.

But North Brunswick’s Frankie Garbs, Zack K, their teammates and head coach Mark Blevins aren’t having any of it.

“This year, it feels like there’s a little bit of a weight off. You just relax and play, and whatever happens, happens,” says seventh-year head coach Mark Blevins.

Zack Konstantinovsky throws a pitch in the GMC Tournament final against St. Joseph-Metuchen on May 29, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

“You can play very, very well and you can lose,” Blevins says, adding he’s “a baseball realist.”

But one would be hard-pressed to look at all the key contributors coming back for the Raiders and not consider them a favorite to win the GMC Tournament again this year.

Note: that says “a” favorite, as in there may be several teams with a very good chance to claim a trophy in the middle of May in East Brunswick. And even though that’s less than two months away, there’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and then.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with North Brunswick head coach Mark Blevins about the upcoming season:

Central Jersey Sports Radio unveils 2023 H.S. Baseball Broadcast Schedule

The high school baseball season in New Jersey begins on Monday, April 3rd, and Central Jersey will be there from Opening Day right through to the end with live play-by-play of ten regular season games, the Greater Middlesex County Tournament, Somerset County Tournament, and the state tournament.

We’ll open April 3rd with some small-school love, as East Brunswick Magnet visits Timothy Christian in Piscatway for a GMC Gold Division game, then hop over to Flemington for a Somerset County matchup at Diamond Nation between defending Non-Public North B Champion Immaculata and defending Somerset County Tournament Champion Ridge.

Week two will feature another matchup from each county, with Somerville at Rutgers Prep on Thursday, April 13th, followed by in-town rivals JP Stevens and Edison squaring off on the Eagles’ red turf on Saturday, April 15th at noon.

We’ll also have a rematch of last year’s GMC Tournament Final – with defending champion North Brunswick at 2021 champion St. Joseph in Metuchen – on Tuesday, April 18th.

The North Brunswick Raiders celebrate winning the 2022 GMC Tournament Championship, their first ever. (Photo from video by Mike Pavlichko)

On Sunday, April 23rd, Central Jersey Sports Radio will brig you a doubleheader from the Autism Awareness Challenge at North Brunswick Community Park. We’ll be on the air at 10 am for a GMC-Skyland crossover between South River and Bernards, then Edison and Barnegat at 1 pm.

Tuesday, April 25th – unless either team is playing in the SCT quarterfinals – we’ll have the Battle of Route 206 as Hillsborough travels up the road to take on Bridgewater-Raritan. Then, that Thursday, we’ll be at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater for the Somerset County Tournament Semifinals.

May begins with a pair of GMC matchups, as Perth Amboy visits Woodbridge on Tuesday, May 2nd, for a game under the lights at 7 pm. Then, on Thursday, May 4th, it’s rivals North Brunswick at South Brunswick at 4 pm.

Ridge players watch from the dugout in the 2022 Somerset County Tournament Championship Game at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater on May 23, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

The second week of May has us squarely into county tournament play. Tuesday, the 9th, it’ll be the Somerset County Tournament Finals back at TD Bank Park at 7 pm. Then, on Wednesday, the 10th, it’s a doubleheader featuring two of the four games in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals from North Brunswick Community Park.

On Saturday, May 13th, it’s the GMC Tournament Semifinals at Ray Cipperly Field at East Brunswick Magnet High School, with games set for 12 and 2:30 pm, followed by the GMCT Championship Game a week later, on Sunday, May 20th, at 2 pm.

Mike Pavlichko, Justin Sontupe, Dom Savino and Chris Tsakonas will bring you all the action all season long, along with interviews, previews, recaps and more at Postgame reaction once again will be sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen, for an immersive sporting experience! They have leagues, classes and parties, and open gym on the courts and turf; simply check their Instagram for daily availability.

Coverage of area teams in the NJSIAA State Tournament will be announced at a later date. Click here for the full broadcast schedule complete with dates and times.

Welcome back, again: Yascko takes the reins at alma mater Edison after three seasons as OC

The Edison High School football team has a new head coach who is anything but new to the program.

After spending three seasons as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator, working with a unit that featured his son as the quarterback, Matt Yascko has been elevated to head coach.

No surprise, if we’re being brutally honest.

The Edison Board of Education Tuesday night approved the appointment of Yascko to the post, where he takes over for Matt Fulham, who retired in January after 20 seasons at the helm. He left with an 80-100-1 record, and handing off a program that has made the playoffs four straight postseasons dating back to 2018, capped off with a Central Jersey Group 5 championship, the school’s first sectional title in 31 years, this past fall.

With the senior Yascko heading the offense, and the younger Yascko in charge of it on the field, the combo went 20-10 over the past three seasons.

Edison’s Matt Yascko (the QB/son, left) and Matt Yascko (the offensive coordinator/father, right) helped lead Edison to its first sectional title since 1991. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

READ MORE: Yascko & Yascko: How the father-son QB-OC tandem united to help bring Edison its first title in 31 years

The hiring is a natural fit for the Eagles, whose staff has many local ties to the community. Yascko is an Edison alum, and was on the 1991 championship team in his junior season, so the move keeps the position in the family, while also promoting from within, allowing for a sense of continuity with a “new” head coach.

Of course, Yascko has significant chops as a head coach. Following a run as an assistant under Bob Molarz at Carteret, Yascko took the reins of the Ramblers for 14 seasons, going 82-67 and reaching three state finals, winning titles in 2007 and 2012.

But he left in July of 2020 – coincidentally around the time Carteret dropped fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic – in order to spend more time around his son. In 2019, the younger Yascko was as a freshman for Edison, and got called upon to start the last six games of the year when Lucas Loffredo went down to injury, then moved and transferred out of the district.

That summer, when the offensive coordinator position opened up, Fulham offered Yascko the job, and the rest was history.

Yascko is the tenth head coach in Edison history, but only the second alum to lead the program. Mike Wojick is the other, and he was Yascko’s head coach when the team won the 1991 Central Jersey Group 4 crown.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Matt Yascko about being named Edison’s new head football coach. Scroll further down for additional comments about Yascko’s hiring.

Reaction from Edison:

Edison Athletic Director David Sandaal: “I couldn’t be happier. Matt has been a winner all of his life. As a player, he was a junior on the 1991 Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship team, won two sectional crowns as the Head Coach for Carteret, and was the offensive coordinator this past fall for our 2022 state sectional championship team.”

Edison Wide Receivers Coach Brian Calantoni: “This day is a culmination of what we all worked for, for many years. We have the best coach and the best coaching staff in the state. We have six alumni on the staff. Coach Yascko is the epitome of Edison High School football, all about the team the town and the school. He’s humble, and he’s a hard worker and his teams are the same. Today is one of the best days in Edison High School football history.”

Mergin Sina, Mark Taylor among those to be honored at The Basketball Reunion next month

Now in its second year, The Basketball Reunion – an event created to bring together players and coaches from high school and college teams throughout various eras – will induct two high school coaches with local ties into its Hall of Honor.

Gill St. Bernard’s boys’ basketball coach Mergin Sina, and St. Benedict’s boys; basketball coach Mark Taylor – who also previously coached at Ridge and St. Joseph-Metuchen – will be honored on April third at the second annual event at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Sina played his college ball in New Jersey at Seton Hall, and after a 12-year professional playing career overseas that saw him inducted into the Portuguese Basketball Federation Hall of Fame, took over the girls’ program at Gill, going 105-49 in six seasons and winning the program’s first two Somerset County Tournament titles in 2009 and 2010. He then took over the boys’ program, where he just wrapped up his 13th season, is 273-71, and has won seven of the last eight SCT championships, including five straight from 2015 to 2019.

Taylor has been at St. Benedict’s in Newark for 12 years and has racked up more than 300 wins, in addition to the 255 victories he had combined at Ridge at St. Joseph of Metuchen. With the Falcons – where he also played his high school ball and is in the Athletics Hall of Fame – Taylor coached two future NBA players in Andrew Bynum and Jay Williams, who was the second pick in the 2002 NBA Draft out of Duke.

Sina and Taylor will be inducted in the “Special Recognition” category.

The Basketball Reunion will be held on the floor of the Prudential Center the night of April 3rd, with a “steakhouse” dining experience, capped off by a watch party of the NCAA Tournament’s men’s basketball national championship game. The event will be emceed by award-winning sports anchor Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV, Channel 4, in New York for the second straight year.

Among those also being inducted in various categories: former Seton Hall stars Terry Dehere and Shaheen Holloway; the 1982 Rutgers women’s basketball AIAW National Championship team; , Dana O’Neil, senior writer for the Athletic; referees Tim Higgins, Ed Corbett and Tom Lopes, all of whom have New Jersey ties; and Mike Fratello and Brian Hill in the NBA Coaching Legends category.

For more information on the event, visit The event is open to the public. Proceeds benefit the Team Hill Foundation and its “programs to assist disadvantaged youngsters on the path to success in life.”