The 2023 GMC Tournament Championship Game once again lived up to its billing.
It was the pitcher’s duel everybody had hoped for, with each team’s ace going – St. Joseph of Metuchen’s Jimmy Mulvaney and North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky, who may – still, after the loss – be the best pitcher in the state of New Jersey.
It was a 2-0 win for the third-seeded Falcons, who turned the tables on the Raiders. Last year, Joe’s was the defending champ and top-seed, and North Brunswick took the title with a 4-2 win. This year, North was the defending champ and top seed, and lost by two runs.
But there are many more storylines than that.
Eagles and Falcons…
Let’s start with St. Joe’s entering hallowed ground: they have now tied Edison for most GMC Tournament wins since the league began play in 1986, with eight each. That record stood for a while, as Edison had a powerhouse program in the 1990s, with stellar pitchers in their own right, like Brian Appelman and Bobby Brownlie.
The Eagles – under Jim Muldowney – won their first title in 1990, then won four straight years from 1992 to 1995, and after a two-year break, won three of the next four, in 1998 and 1999, then again in 2001.
Meanwhile, St. Joe’s did not win its first title until three seasons after that run, in 2004, when they blanked Carteret 6-0. They then made the finals four of the next five years, winning three of them, in 2006, 2008 and 2009. They didn’t return again until 2014, winning it that year and in 2017 to give them their sixth crown. In 2021, the first year after COVID shut down baseball, the Falcons won again, lost last year, and won again this year for their eighth.
Under head coach Mike Murray, St. Joseph has now won three GMC Tournament titles in four trips over his seven seasons in Metuchen.
Interestingly, with the Falcons now 8-2 all-time in GMC finals, seven of those wins have come via shutout. And all three wins have come by a combined 5-0 score.
Close games have lived up to the hype…
The GMC Tournament hasn’t seen a final decided by more than two runs since1012, when third-seed Middlesex knocked off top-seed Sayreville 10-4. The 2013 game was decided by two runs – 7-seed JFK over 9-seed Monroe, 4-2 – and then the next six games right up to COVID were decided by one run, with finals in 2015 and 2018 going to extra innings.
Since baseball resumed after the pandemic, all three GMC finals have been decided by two runs. St. Joe’s beat South Brunswick 2-0 in 2021, North Brunswick beat St. Joe’s last year 4-2, and this year, they beat the Raiders 2-0.
Defending champs don’t always defend…
All-time, since 1986, only ten teams have made the GMC finals the year after winning it, with Edison doing it five times, and going 4-1 as defending champs. Overall, though, the record is 5-5, and just 1-4 if your nickname is not the Eagles.
- Edison won in 1992, defended in 1993
- Edison won in 1994, defended in 1994
- Edison won in 1994, defended in 1995
- Edison won in 1995, lost in 1996
- East Brunswick won in 1997, lost in 1998
- Edison won in 1998, defended in 1999
- St. Joseph won in 2004, lost in 2005
- St. Joseph won in 2008, defended in 2009
- St. Joseph won in 2021, lost in 2022
- North Brunswick won in 2022, lost in 2023
Pitchers continue to dominate GMC Final Four and more…
The 2021 GMC Tournament final four – semifinals and finals – set a record for the fewest runs and fewest hits ever in the history of the tournament.
The 2023 tournament matched it, if only in terms of runs scored.
Let’s start with the semifinals, which saw a pair of two-run games: St. Joseph over South Plainfield and North Brunswick over Monroe, both by 2-1 scores. That matched the record set in 2021 of a total of six runs between the two games, which saw South Brunswick beat North Brunswick 2-0, and St. Joe’s beat Edison 3-1.
That year, St. Joseph blanked South Brunswick in the final 2-0, as Andrew Goldan bested Joey Tuttoilmondo, to make it just eight runs across the three games. This year’s final was also 2-0, matching the all-time low for the semis and finals of eight combined runs in the three games.
It wasn’t the same for hits, though. The three games in 2021 totaled just 14 hits, but the Raiders and Falcons combined for 12 in the championship game alone. The two semis this year saw 19 combined on their own, for a total of 33 hits.
Top seed is no guarantee…
Start with the fact that since 2011 – in the last 12 tournaments now – the top seed has reached the championship game less than half the time, with just five championship game berths. With the loss by North Brunswick, the No. 1 seed is just 2-3 when reaching the GMC Finals in that timespan.
The win by St. Joseph snaps a four-game skid against North Brunswick, that included three regular season’s loss and last year’s title game defeat. The last win for the Falcons over the Raiders before that had come on April 23, 2019.
Zack can go on Thursday…
One of the storylines to the GMC Tournament final being moved – for a second straight year – from Saturday to Sunday due to inclement weather was the fact that it could have thrown a monkey wrench into North Brunswick’s state tournament pitching plans.
St. Joseph didn’t have the same issue because in a 12-team field in Non-Public South B, the second-seeded Falcons got a bye through to Friday, where they’ll play the winner of 10-seed Immaculata and 7-seed Paul VI of Haddonfield.
But for North Brunswick, Zack Konstantinovsky – Sunday’s starting pitcher – could not have thrown Monday anyway when the second-seeded Raiders open up play in Central Jersey Group 4 at home against 15th-seed Long Branch, due to NJSIAA pitch count rules. However, he could have gone Thursday – if the Raiders make it to the second round – since, no matter how many pitches he threw, he would have had the mandatory four-days rest, and his pitch count would reset. A maximum of 150 pitches are allowed over five calendar days.
But with the final on Sunday, Thursday would be the fifth day.
North Brunswick head coach Mark Blevins told Central Jersey Sports Radio on Thursday he was going with Zack as long as he could Sunday, and he indeed pitched a complete game.
But according to his pitch count as posted by the team, he only threw 90 pitches. Had he thrown 91, he’d be unavailable for Thursday, but now he is.
So, the question is, after Blevins goes with likely starter Kyle Anderson – the Raiders’ No. 2 behind Konstantinovsky – does he bring Zack back on three days’ rest Thursday? He would get a maximum 60 pitches, and unofficially, he threw his 60th pitch to the third hitter – with two outs – in the fifth inning Sunday.
Or does Blevins go with No. 3 starter Alejandro Jabar, who is more than capable?
The trick is: what comes next? If North Brunswick throws Jabar, that puts Zack in a potential sectional semifinal, and makes him unable to pitch in a possible sectional title game, which could very well be at top-seed Old Bridge, which swept the Raiders this year, 6-1 and 3-2. And he only threw one inning of relief in one of those games, the eighth inning of a 3-2, ten inning loss. He allowed no hits, no runs and struck out two.
We say throw what he can and hope he gets you deep into Thursday, let the bullpen finish it off, and have him free and clear for a potential sectional final. Why save those 60 pitches? Well, maybe because he hasn’t gone on three days’ rest all year. Tough call to make.
Of note: if the Raiders get by Long Branch, it’ll be an all GMC-quarterfinal. They’d play the winner of 10-seed South Brunswick and 7-seed Sayreville Thursday at home.
Speaking of Zack…
Though numbers online show Konstantinovsky gave up one earned run in the game, it clearly should be two. The first was no question, a solo home run off the bat of Tyler Delvecchio that was really all St. Joseph wound up needing yesterday. The second was an RBI single by Will Ramsay in the top of the seventh that came with two outs.
But it developed like this: After a one-out single by Joseph Zammitti – who was pinch-run for by Jaden Jamison – Bobby Christensen laid down a bunt to move him over. It was punched to the left of the mound, to Zack’s right, the opposite way of his momentum on his follow-through. He got tried to turn, first getting twisted around, then slipping on the soft grass.
Click below to listen to the play as it happened:
But the point of this story is not the play – in which it truly should have been scored a hit, as no one touched the ball and Zach could not field it (if a second baseman trips on a ground ball and it goes between fielders into the outfield, it’s a hit, not a physical error with the ball) – it’s the earned run, the second of the game.
It was Zack’s first game allowing two earned runs since last year’s GMC Tournament final against St. Joseph, which the Raiders won 4-2. The last time he allowed more than one earned run in a loss came in North Brunswick’s final game of 2021, a 4-3 loss in Flemington to Hunterdon Central in the Central Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals.
GMC TOURNAMENT FINALS HISTORY:
- 1986: East Brunswick 14, Madison Central 3
- 1987: Cedar Ridge 2, Colonia 1
- 1988: Carteret 4, JP Stevens 2 (11 innings)
- 1989: Madison Central 8, Cedar Ridge 7 (8 innings)
- 1990: Edison 9, South Plainfield 3
- 1991: East Brunswick 6, South Plainfield 5
- 1992: Edison 1, Bishop Ahr 0
- 1993: Edison 12, JFK 3
- 1994: Edison 10, Monroe 3
- 1995: Edison 5, Piscataway 3
- 1996: Bishop Ahr 4, Edison 3 (13 innings)
- 1997: East Brunswick 3, JFK 2
- 1998: Edison 2, East Brunswick 1
- 1999: Edison 7, Bishop Ahr 2
- 2000: Woodbridge 7, JFK 1
- 2001: Edison 4, Spotswood 1
- 2002: South Brunswick 4, Piscataway 2 (9 innings)
- 2003: Piscataway 9, East Brunswick 5
- 2004: St. Joseph 6, Carteret 0
- 2005: East Brunswick 8, St. Joseph 1
- 2006: St. Joseph 11, South Amboy 0
- 2007: Spotswood 7, JP Stevens 6
- 2008: St. Joseph 3, Old Bridge 2
- 2009: St. Joseph 6, North Brunswick 0
- 2010: South Brunswick 9, North Brunswick 2
- 2011: (2) Old Bridge 3, (4) South Plainfield 2
- 2012: (3) Middlesex 10, (1) Sayreville 4
- 2013: (7) JFK 4, (9) Monroe 2
- 2014: (4) St. Joseph 1, (6) South Plainfield 0 (walk-off bases loaded walk)
- 2015: (2) Monroe 1, (8) Sayreville 0 (8 innings)
- 2016: (2) East Brunswick 1, (9) JP Stevens 0
- 2017: (1) St. Joseph 1, (6) Monroe 0
- 2018: (14)South Plainfield 2, (12) Perth Amboy 1 (12 innings)
- 2019: (1) Old Bridge 2, (3) South Brunswick 1
- 2020: NO SEASON – COVID
- 2021: (2) St. Joseph 2, (5) South Brunswick 0
- 2022: (6) North Brunswick 4, (1) St. Joseph 2
- 2023: (3) St. Joseph 2, (1) North Brunswick 0
MOST GMCT FINALS APPEARANCES:
- St. Joseph – 10
- Edison – 9
- East Brunswick – 7
- South Plainfield – 5
- North Brunswick, South Brunswick, JFK, Monroe – 4
- JP Stevens, Bishop Ahr, Piscataway, Old Bridge – 3
- Madison Central, Cedar Ridge, Carteret, Spotswood, Sayreville – 2
GMC TOURNAMENT MULTIPLE WINNERS:
- 8-Edison, St. Joseph-Metuchen
- 5-East Brunswick
- 2-South Brunswick, Old Bridge
Cedar Ridge, Madison Central, Carteret, Bishop Ahr, Woodbridge, Piscataway, Spotswood, Middlesex, JFK, Monroe, South Plainfield (11 schools) have all won one title each.
TEAM RECORDS IN THE GMC TOURNAMENT FINALS (with most recent win):
- East Brunswick 5-2 (2016)
- Bishop Ahr 1-2 (1996)
- Carteret 1-1 (1998)
- *Cedar Ridge 1-1 (1987)
- Colonia 0-1
- Edison 8-1 (2001)
- JFK 1-3 (2013)
- JP Stevens 0-3
- *Madison Central 1-1 (1989)
- Middlesex 1-0 (2012)
- Monroe 1-3 (2015)
- North Brunswick 1-3 (2022)
- Old Bridge 2-1 (2019)
- Perth Amboy 0-1
- Piscataway 1-2 (2003)
- Sayreville 0-2
- South Amboy 0-1
- South Brunswick 2-2 (2010)
- South Plainfield 1-4 (2018)
- Spotswood 1-1 (2007)
- St. Joseph 8-2 (2023)
- Woodbridge 1-0 (2000)
*Cedar Ridge and Madison Central merged to form Old Bridge HS in 1994.
TEAMS THAT HAVE NEVER REACHED THE GMC FINALS, by current Division:
- Red Division: none
- White Division: none
- Blue Division: Metuchen, South River
- Gold Division: New Brunswick, East Brunswick Tech, Somerset Tech, Timothy Christian
- Silver Division: Dunellen, Highland Park, Perth Amboy Tech, Wardlaw-Hartridge, Piscataway Tech, Calvary Christian