Tag: HS baseball

Central Jersey Sports Radio Baseball Player of the Year: North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky

There are so many great student-athletes in Middlesex and Somerset Counties, in any sport.

But when it came time to pick one, single baseball player overall for the 2022 season, the choice was a no-brainer.

The player must be dominant; that’s a simple criteria. But to do it on the mound, while also being a hitter no one wanted to face at the plate, that just made the choice one that required very little thought: North Brunswick’s Zack Konstantinovsky.

And, unfortunately for the rest of the GMC, he’s only a junior. That means another season of blowing through hitters, working at his fast pace. And of being pitched around at the plate, depending who else is in the lineup.

On the mound, Konstantinovsky – who will play at Rutgers starting in the 2024 baseball season – threw 67 innings this year, going 7-0, striking out 119, while walking only two batters – one in the regular season, one in the postseason. He allowed only 39 hits, and nine runs – seven of them earned – with a 0.612 WHIP.

At the plate, all he did in the cleanup spot was hit .381, knocking in 27 runs and hitting four homers to go along with seven doubles.

And when it really counted, in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Final, he outdueled St. Joseph-Metuchen standout Andrew Goldan for a 4-2 win, and the Raiders’ first-ever GMCT title.

Not too shabby.

North Brunswick with its 2022 GMC Tournament Championship trophy. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko talk with Zack Konstantinovsky, the CJSR 2022 Baseball Player of the Year:

Ridge senior Olivo talks baseball Team of the Year, then heads off for football

2021 brought a state sectional title to the Ridge baseball team, and 2022 a Somerset County Tournament Championship, it’s first in over a decade.

That was all an exciting time for Mike Olivo, a pitcher and starting centerfielder for the Red Devils, who were named this week the inaugural Bellamy & Son Paving Team of the Year, finishing No. 1 in the final rankings of the 2022 season.

And now, having graduated – following a challenging four years that saw COVID wipe out his sophomore baseball season – he’s off to Hartford, Connecticut, where he’ll play in the secondary for Trinity College. After all, he was an important leader on the football team for head coach Andy West the last couple of years.

Ridge QB Michael Olivo talks with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino after the Red Devils defeated Hillsborough on November 6, 2020. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

His teams went a combined 13-5, while Olivo – a quarterback on offense – put up impressive career numbers in two varsity seasons: over 1,900 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, along with over 1,700 rushing yards. On defense, where he’ll play in college, he recorded five INTs in three seasons, and 70 total tackles.

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko got a chance to talk with Olivo about the baseball team that brought two titles in two years home to Basking Ridge, his teammates, and moving on to play on the gridiron. Click below to listen:

Skyland Conference coaches choose All-Division baseball honorees

The Skyland Conference baseball coaches have announced their All-Conference teams, by division, for 2022, with players being honored from every team.

Here’s a full list of First and Second Team selections, plus Honorable Mentions, for all three divisions.

DELAWARE DIVISION

First Team:

  • Bridgewater-Raritan: Evan Goldberg, Michael Fattore
  • Hunterdon Central: Chase Fischer, Mike Contiliano, Ryan Facinelli, Kyle McCoy
  • Ridge: Connor Byrne, Mike Olivo, Brian Leitz, Brendan Callanan
  • Somerville: Tyler Stone, Matty Wright
  • Watchung Hills: Lorenzo Meola, Martin Howell, Jake Memoli

Second Team:

  • Bridgewater-Raritan: Jason Cozzi, Matt Fattore
  • Hillsborough: Matthew Westcott
  • Hunterdon Central: Brandon Padre, James Scott, Nick Ferri, Logan Mason
  • Immaculata: AJ Johnson
  • Montgomery: Mark Jenkins, Adam Neufield
  • North Hunterdon: Ethan McHugh, Chris Bravaco
  • Ridge: Julian Kielb, Luke Somelofske
  • Somerville: Parker Muratore

Honorable Mention:

  • Bridgewater-Raritan: Joe Spirra
  • Hillsborough: Graham Ross
  • Immaculata: Matt Warzeniak, Josh Thompson
  • Montgomery: Trevor Hansen
  • North Hunterdon: Bobby Mazurkiwicz, Kyle Johnson, Ryan Streaker
  • Phillipsburg: Dylan Melsky
  • Ridge: Matt Aber, George Busnach
  • Somerville: Sean Noone
  • Watchung Hills: Devan Sutaria, Shreyas Sekhar, John King

VALLEY DIVISION

First Team:

  • Bernards: Matt Giunta, Aubrey Freslone
  • Franklin: Dylan Ling, Dylan Millman
  • Gill St. Bernard’s: John DiGregorio, Matt Park, Logan Mote
  • North Plainfield: Chirstian Morel
  • Rutgers Prep: Zach Fronio, Nick Pizzie, Andrew Parisi
  • Voorhees: Owen McComb, Ben Crescenzi, Will Ripke
  • Warren Hills: Cody Miller

Second Team:

  • Bernards: Austin Tondo, Derek Fuls
  • Franklin: Peyton Bonds, Ryan Piro, Warren Bell
  • Gill St. Bernard’s: Dylan Sempervive, Christian Mote, Zack Wendell
  • North Plainfield: Giovanni Gonzalez
  • Rutgers Prep: James Jackman Jr., Cody Rullo, Max Treonze
  • Voorhees: James Muller, Chris Quartuccio
  • Warren Hills: Matthew Garabed

Honorable Mention:

  • Bernards: Charlie Gonella
  • Franklin: Anthony Burroughs
  • Gill St. Bernard’s: Carter Nowack
  • North Plainfield: Davyn Ciriaco
  • Rutgers Prep: Evan Laub
  • Voorhees: Jake Knapp
  • Warren Hills: Evan Matthew

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

First Team:

  • Belvidere: Jake Beaney
  • Bound Brook: Jake Anderson, Lucas Coleman, Leo Azcona
  • Delaware Valley: John Croasdale, Anthony Saniscalchi
  • Manville: Elijah Capone
  • Pingry: Liam Royster, Nick Lorenzo, Jake Francis, Thomas Santana
  • South Hunterdon: Donald Gallagher, Jackson Kilmer, David Cooper, Nate Lawton

Second Team:

  • Belvidere: Ervin Jones
  • Bound Brook: Patrick LePoidevin, Ronny Pimentel
  • Delaware Valley: Justin Kolpan, Jack Reardon, Zachary Erling
  • Manville: Nick Bentz, James Mascola, Geoffrey Mathis
  • Pingry: Alex Payne, Kailar Ahn, Jha Nav

Honorable Mention:

  • Delaware Valley: Jaden Corbin
  • Manville: Joshua Barrios
  • Pingry: Herb Toler
  • South Hunterdon: Dillon Gallagher

Ridge is No. 1, the 2022 Team of the Year, in final Bellamy & Son Top Ten Rankings

Winning its first Somerset County Tournament Championship in over a decade helped propel the Ridge Red Devils to No. 1 in the inaugural Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten rankings on Central Jersey Sports Radio, and in the end, that’s where they finish – No. 1 in 2022 and the CJSR Team of the Year.

With more wins than all but one team in the CJSR coverage area, Ridge narrowly missed out on making the North 2, Group 4 title game, with a close, extra-inning loss to Woodbridge. Ridge finished the season 24-4, their most wins since picking up 22 in 2014.

Finishing second was North Brunswick. The Raiders knocked off then-No. 1 and top-seed St. Joseph-Metuchen in the GMC Tournament Final, winning their first title ever, and finished the year 22-10, with a loss to East Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group Four Finals. They were the lowest seed to win the GMC title since 14th-seed South Plainfield won it all in 2018, and second-lowest since JFK won in 2013.

North Brunswick with its 2022 GMC Tournament Championship trophy. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

The full rankings follow, with more details on the rest of the teams below:

In third is St. Joseph, 22-9, and the GMC Red Division Champions. Dominant all year long against the rest of the league, they ran up against the juggernaut that is Zach Konstantinovsky in the GMC Tournament finals. Zack “K” held the Falcons to two runs on three hits, in a 4-2 win. With some arm trouble to top starters Donovan Zsak and Andrew Goldan down the stretch, Joe’s was eliminated in the semifinals of Non-Public South A by Christian Brothers Academy.

Fourth is Woodbridge, which set a program record for wins, finishing 25-7, and might be the best team in the area without a title on its resume. The gritty, never-say-die bunch finished second in the White Division to Middlesex, and were knocked out in the GMCT semifinals by St. Joe’s. They did, however, beat Ridge in a marathon 11-inning North 2, Group 4 playoff game, before losing 5-1 at Hunterdon Central to future MLB draft prospect Kyle McCoy. The Barrons graduate a handful of seniors and are expected to be another tough out next season.

Fifth is East Brunswick, which made it to the Central Jersey Group 4 title game, losing to eventual statewide group 4 winner Howell. The Bears had a deep pitching staff, and lost one of the more epic GMCT semifinals ever played, a 1-0, 12-inning affair against North Brunswick. They finished 17-13.

In sixth is Immaculata. The Spartans may have been only 14-13, but play in the tough Skyland Conference Delaware Division, which – top to bottom – may be the best in the CJSR coverage area, rivaling the GMC Red. Though the Spartans didn’t even make it to the Somerset County Finals, they did something no other Somerset County team did this year: make it to Bob DeMeo Field in Hamilton for the Group Finals. And they did it by knocking off top-seed Rutgers Prep in the Non-Public North B finals, 11-2, then rallying from a 7-0 deficit entering the bottom of the 6th to beat Gill St. Bernard’s for the sectional crown. Immaculata would, fall, however, to Ranney in the Non-Public Group B finals.

Seventh is Rutgers Prep, which finished 19-6, Valley Division Champions in the Skyland Conference, and made the finals of the Somerset County Tournament, falling to Ridge. Powered by – among others – a pair of freshmen in pitcher Zach Fronio and catcher Andrew Parisi, the Argonauts will continue to be contenders.

Middlesex comes in eighth, the GMC White Division champion at 23-6. The Blue Jays won two critical games against Woodbridge just before the county tournament seeding meeting to win the title in their first year up from the Blue, a significant feat. But in the tournament, they suffered a late collapse against North Brunswick in the quarterfinals, and were the victim of a controversial call on a play at the plate that killed their rally. And after beating Point Pleasant Beach in the Central Jersey Group 1 finals for each of the past three seasons, this time, the Garnet Gulls came through. Middlesex will be in reload mode next year, with a number of seniors graduating.

Checking in ninth is Pingry, which finished 23-2 and had a tremendous year in and out of its division, and won the Prep A Tournament Championship, defeating Hun. They were also Skyland Conference Mountain Division champs, with their two regular season losses coming to Delaware Division squads – Ridge and Somerville. Their only other defeat came in the state tournament, to St. John Vianney our of the Shore Conference.

In tenth is Monroe, which finished 16-11, and came in second in the GMC Red Division, behind St. Joe’s. They started hot, going 7-1 before dropping four-in-a-row mid-season, including two to St. Joseph, sandwiched in between losses to Somerville and Jackson Liberty. They then ran off another seven wins in eight games before getting knocked out of the GMC Tournament in the quarters by East Brunswick. Their season ended in the Central Jersey Group 4 semis with a loss to eventual state Group 4 champ Howell.

Immaculata falls to Ranney, 10-1, in Non-Public B title game

In so many ways, it didn’t play out like many people thought.

There prevailing thought was their might be a lot of scoring in the Non-Public Group B title game, especially after a home run to lead off the game by Ranney pitcher A.J. Gracia. But even though Immaculata got a run back in the second when Spartans’ starter Josh Thompson came home on a wild pitch, the game was a pitchers’ duel headed into the sixth, with both starters going well, and the score still tied at one.

The thing was, both pitchers were nearing the standard 110 pitch limit. And all of a sudden Josh Thompson was in trouble, allowing a leadoff walk and a bloop single to Gracia and Brett Wehringer, then after a strikeout, and RBI infield hit by Jack Tallent to break the one-all tie. And that’s when the floodgates opened, and there was no going back.

After a groundout back to Thompson, Diego Tavarez knocked in two runs with a single to give Ranney a 4-1 lead.

Then in the sixth, Ranney got plenty of insurance, scoring six more runs in an inning that saw more walks (five) than hits (three). And the Panthers still left the bases loaded.

Final score: Ranney 10, Immaculata 1, to win the Non-Public Group B title, the Panthers’s first.

Thompson took the loss, while Gracia got the win. The loss ends Immaculata’s season at 14-13, but it was a highly successful year, as a four-game run through their playoff section – including a win over top-seed Rutgers Prep – culminated with a come-from-behind walkoff win against Gill St. Bernard’s last Friday in the North B final, 8-7, giving Immaculata its fifth sectional title in program history, which is what the season will most be remembered for.

Well, that and their turnaround from an 0-3 start, a season that didn’t see them string together more than three wins in a row until the playoffs, which they entered with a sub-.500 record, and came out on the other side with a trophy.

Click below for postgame reaction with starting pitcher Josh Thompson and head coach Kevin Cust:

Sophomore Josh Thompson
Immaculata’s Josh Thompson (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head coach Kevin Cust

Immaculata seeks third State Championship when Spartans face Ranney for Non-Public B title

And one team remains.

The lone team left from the Central Jersey Sports Radio coverage area in the NJSIAA state playoffs will wrap up its season today, as the Immaculata Spartans take on Ranney School in the Non-Public Group B title game down in Hamilton.

Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas will call all the action for you live from Veteran’s Park with first pitch set for 7 pm. Scroll through this story for a complete preview, pitching matchups, key stats and notes, past coverage, title history, and more.

Non-Public Group B Championship Game:

Details:
Immaculata (16-13, North B Champion) vs.
Ranney (25-5, South B Champion)
7 pm Wednesday at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, NJ
Click here to listen. Pregame starts at 6:15.
Announcers: Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas

Starting Pitchers:
Immaculata: Josh Thompson (7-2, 3.75 ERA)
Ranney: Marcello Mastrianni OR Nick Coniglio OR A.J. Gracia

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Immaculata – 5-seed, North B:
1st Round: def. (12) Newark Academy, 10-0 (5 innings)
Quarterfinals: def. (4) Morristown-Beard, 9-6
Semifinals: def. (1) Rutgers Prep, 11-2
Finals: def. (6) Gill St. Bernard’s, 8-7

Ranney – 1-seed, South B
1st Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: def. (8) Holy Cross, 10-0 (5 innings)*
Semifinals: def. (5) Holy Spirit, 16-8
Finals: def. (2) Gloucester Catholic, 8-7
*5-inning no-hitter by Nick Coniglio

COVERAGE ON CENTRAL JERSEY SPORTS RADIO

THE SKINNY ON…

Immaculata: It’s been an up and down season to say the least for the Spartans. Their current four-game winning streak – which started with the opening round win over Newark East Side – is their longest of the season. After starting the season 0-3, they won their next three, then had another three-game winning streak in mid-May, but lost their last three games heading into the playoffs.

Now at 14-12, simple math tells you that means the Spartans were just 10-12 heading into the state playoffs. But they play in the rough-and-tumble Skyland Conference Delaware Division, loaded with teams like Hunterdon Central (North 2 Group 4 champs and Division champs), Ridge (North 2, Group 4 semifinalist, and Somerville.

And they’ve beaten some really good teams, too, along the way. In the playoffs, they knocked off top-seed and Somerset County Tournament finalist Rutgers Prep 11-2, and late in the regular season, they beat Red Bank Catholic, which won the Shore Conference Tournament this year.

Bottom line is: the Spartans seem to have found their groove at the right time.

Ranney: At 25-5, and winners of the Shore B Central Division at 11-0, Ranney has the look of a winner, claiming their first-ever sectional title in walk-off fashion over Gloucester Catholic. And this team can score runs.

The Panthers are averaging 10.5 runs per game this year, and have scored at least 10 runs in half of their 30 games played this year, including a controversial 46-run outburst in a shutout win over Asbury Park – which went winless in just eleven games this season – back on April 12th. Ranney scored 35 runs in the first inning, then got four in the second, three in the third and one more in the fourth.

But when scoring fewer than ten runs, Ranney is 10-5, and 0-5 when scoring five runs or less. So, Immaculata will need to keep the Panthers from scoring early and often.

Their losses have all come to Shore Conference powerhouses, though – Rumson Fair-Haven (22-4), St. John Vianney (18-7-1), Middletown South (21-10) and Jackson Memorial (22-9) – with an out-of-conference defeat to Ocean City (19-9).

Their divisional schedule – other than Point Pleasant Beach, which is 20-9 after beating Middlesex Friday to win the Central Jersey Group 1 title – is rather weak. The rest of the teams – Mater Dei, Henry Hudson, Keyport, Keansburg and Asbury Park – are a combined 25-57.

But the did also have five victories against 20-win teams this season: Delbarton, Ferris, St. Mary-Rutherford, Middletown South and Don Bosco Prep, which will play in the Group A final at 4 pm Wednesday against St. Augustine. They’re the only one of the five remaining in the state tournament.

In postseason play, Ranney lost in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 to Jackson Memorial, 9-2. They lost in the first round of the Monmouth County Tournament, 6-5 to St. John Vianney.

KEY STATS

Immaculata: The Spartans are led by A.J. Johnson, a senior infielder/pitcher who’s tops in a number of offensive categories (.337, 29 hits, 3 HR, 11 walks). Freshman Jayden Capindica is going to be one of the core guys to build around in the future. The freshman is hitting .307 on the season, leading the team with 16 runs scored and 21 runs batted in, along with three triples, for a team-leading slugging percentage of .507. In the states, he’s hitting 5-of-13 with a whopping 13 RBIs, including five on sixth-inning two-run homer and a seventh-inning walk-off bases loaded triple to win the Non-Public North B final in dramatic comeback fashion over Gill St. Bernard’s. Danny Ferguson is the team’s leading hitter in the states, hitting .364 (4-for-11) with two walks.

Josh Thompson has been excellent on the mound in two starts, one an easy cruise past Newark Academy in the opening round of the North B playoffs, the other a complete game in the 11-2 upset of top-seed Rutgers Prep, the Somerset County Tournament runner-up. In 11 and 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just three runs, all earned, for a 1.86 ERA. Aidan Rumain has had two appearances in the postseason thus far, including two critical shutout innings against Gill St. Bernards, and hasn’t allowed a run in three innings of work overall.

Immaculata has outscored its four state tournament opponents 38-15, with a shutout of Newark Academy factored in. They also held top-seed Rutgers Prep to two runs in their sectional quarterfinal game.

Ranney: As a team, the Panthers are hitting .442, though that number would be significantly lower if you took the Asbury Park game out of the equation. Against the Blue Bishops, they went 30-for-42 (.714), and otherwise they would be .421, still highly respectable. Diego Tavarez leads the regulars at .558 on the season, with AJ Gracia next at .492, with 39 runs batted in. That’s second on the team to Charlie Chropuvka’s 41. Read more on his heroics in the South B final below.

Pitching-wise, junior Nick Coniglio threw a five inning no-hitter in the South B quarterfinals, a 10-0 victory over 8th-seed Holy Cross. In 30 innings pitched this season, he has an 1.87 ERA. He threw an inning and a third against Gloucester Catholic.

NOTES AND NUGGETS

Can You top This? Both teams got to the Group B Final in dramatic fashion. Things didn’t look good for Immaculata in the North B final, getting no-hit into the fifth, and trailing 7-0 heading into the sixth. But a two-run homer by freshman Jason Capindica was part of a three-run sixth that cut the Gill St. Bernard’s lead to three, then his bases-clearing double in the seventh walked it off for the Spartans. It was the program’s fifth sectional title, to go with crowns in 1985, 1995, 1997 and 2010.

Ranney, meanwhile, also came back in its final at bat in the South B title game against Gloucester Catholic. And it was a super-wild finish, with almost all the run-scoring coming late. Ranney took a 1-0 lead in the first and a 3-0 lead with another two runs in the fifth, and things looked good. But the Rams scored three times in the sixth to tie it, with the Panthers scoring twice in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-3 lead. And things were just getting started. In the seventh, Gloucester Catholic added four more to take a 7-5 lead. But in the bottom of the inning, Ranney got a three-run walkoff homer from Charlie Chropuvka to win it 8-7, and take the program’s first-ever sectional title.

The GMC Connection: Ranney head coach Pat Geroni previously coached at Monroe, where he led the program to unprecedented success for seven seasons before stepping down in 2018 with a record of 104-62. His teams made three GMC Tournament finals, in 2013, 2015 and 2017, beating Sayreville in 2015 to win the Falcons’ first and only title. They also made the Central Jersey Group 4 title game in 2014, losing to Jackson Memorial.

Now in his third year with the Panthers – not counting the missed COVID year – Geroni is 52-20 at Ranney.

Or, and Or: Ranney head coach Pat Geroni was still evaluating who his starting pitcher would be, and said then it could even be a game time decision between Marcello Mastroianni, Nick Coniglio and A.J. Gracia. He also said it’s possible Immaculata could see all three pitchers. Since the Panthers last played Friday, there would be no pitch count restrictions on any of the three.

Common Opponents: There are none, and Ranney didn’t play anyone from the Skyland Conference out of league, but Immaculata did play Red Bank Catholic, the Shore Conference Tournament champion who finished 20-9 on the season. The Spartans beat them 7-4 on May 19th.

Most Famous Alums: For Immaculata, it’s probably Theo Riddick and head coach Kevin Cust’s brother, Jack, who are most well-known, having played in the NFL and MBL, respectively. Not an alum, but Pierce Frauenheim was the longtime football coach – for 47years – and athletic director at the Somerville school, after a notable career at Rutgers on the gridiron.

For Ranney – which only has just over 600 students from pre-K and up – it’s actress Kiertsen Dunst, though she only attended through fifth grade. Jessica Springsteen, the Boss’ daughter and an international equestrian – also is a graduate.

Championship History:

The Spartans have had immense Somerset County Tournament success, winning a record 14 titles, all between 1991 and 2019, including an unprecedented run of six straight from 1997 to 2002, and four of the next five from 2004 to 2008.

But the state tournament is always tougher. Still, the Spartans have five now to their credit, plus two group titles:

  • 2022: North B Champs (beat Gill St. Bernard’s 8-7, playing in the Group B final)
  • 2010: South A and Group A Non-Public Champs (beat St. Joseph-Metuchen in the Group A final)
  • 1997: North A Champs (lost to Bishop Eustace in the Group A final)
  • 1995: North B Champs and Group B Non-Public Champs (beat Gloucester Catholic in the Group B final)
  • 1985: North B Champs (lost to Gloucester Catholic in the Group B final)

For Ranney, it will be the Panthers’ first trip to a group final, with their Non-Public South B title being the program’s first.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF IMMACULATA:

Coming together: Immaculata grew from Day One in ’22, now playing for state title

It’s been a long and winding road – and sometimes full of hills, too – for the 2022 Immaculata Spartans.

And yet, somehow, maybe even by way of a miracle, they’re in the the state finals Wednesday.

That is not to say there was no talent involved. Heck, there was plenty of that. But everyone in ‘Lata-land is still buzzing over what happened last Friday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

The Spartans had been through the gauntlet of the Skyland Conference Delaware Division. Night in and night out, tough outs like eventual division champ Hunterdon Central, eventual Somerset County Tournament champ Ridge, Somerville, Bridgewater, and we could go on.

In the states, they won big in the opening round, beat Prep B runner-up Morristown-Beard in the quarters, and ran roughshod over SCT finalist Rutgers Prep – the top seed in the section in the semis – and all of a sudden found themselves down 7-0, and getting no-hit by Gill St. Bernard’s.

They wound up winning that game 8-7 on a walk-off bases-clearing double by Jason Capindica, to claim the program’s fifth sectional championship, and first in a dozen years.

So here they are: Wednesday, the Non-Public North B Spartans will take on South B champ Ranney out of Tinton Falls, 7 pm at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will have all the action, live and free – click here to listen – with Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Immaculata coach Kevin Cust about the Spartans’ run to the state finals:

Early love of baseball still fuels Immaculata freshman Capindica

From a very young age, probably before he could even remember, Jayden Capindica was obssessed with baseball. That obssession was further fueled by his summer nights spent at TD Bank Park, watching his beloved Somerset Patriots.

To Young Jayden, he might as well have been watching the Yankees. It was baseball, up close and personal. It didn’t hurt that those were some pretty damn good teams, too. He was there for the regular season, playoffs, and championships, including Travis Anderson’s walk-off homer to win the 2009 Atlantic League Championship.

Which makes it even more of a perfect story line that Capindica’s home run Friday afternoon at Diamond Nation helped his Spartans claw back from a 7-0 deficit, winning it on his bases-clearing double in the seventh, to shock Gill St. Bernard’s and win Immaculata its fifth sectional title in program history.

Now, the Spartans will go for their third state championship Wednesday, when they take on Ranney School out of Tinton Falls. And you’d be a fool to think Capindica won’t have a profound impact on the game; he always does.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with freshman Jayden Capindica as the team prepares to play for a state title:

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast Wednesday’s Non-Public Group B title game between North B champion Immaculata and South B champion Ranney. Game time at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton is 7 pm. Pregame starts at 6:15 with Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas on the call. Click here to listen for free.

Added emphasis on athletics has turned Ranney into a parochial power, with some GMC influence

The move was a no-brainer for then Monroe baseball coach Pat Geroni. With two young children at home, he wanted to be closer to his family as much as he could.

He practically lives around the corner from the Ranney School, a small private school with only 600 or so students enrolled from kindergarten through high school,and a heavy emphasis placed on a ademica.

But it was also a private school that had an opening for a head baseball coach, and a push to emphasize athletics to a higher degree. Geroni was up for the challenge.

And so, after seven seasons in southern Middlesex County, Geroni traded his Falcon purple and gold for Panther blue, leaving Monroe with over 100 victories and a GMC Tournament title on his resume.

Three years later, his move has paid off. Thanks to a dramatic semifinal walkoff win over perennial power Gloucester Catholic, Ranney is a sectional champion for the first time ever, and playing for a state title Wednesday.

The Panthers will play Immaculata for the Non-Public Group B title at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, and Central Jersey Sports Radio will carry the game live, with first pitch set for 7 pm, and pregame set for 7:15. Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas will call all the action, with pregame at 6:15. Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talking with Ranney head coach Pat Geroni: