Tag: Immaculata

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:

Spartan Miracle: Powered by Capindica, Immaculata rallies from seven runs down to shock Gill St. Bernard’s, win Non-Public North B crown

Starter Mike Warzeniak went down to an early injury, the bullpen was struggling to hold it together, and Immaculata was getting no-hit into the fifth.

In short, things looked pretty bleak for the 5th-seeded Spartans in the Non-Public North B title game, and 6th-seed Gill St. Bernard’s looked well on its way to winning its first-sever sectional title.

But the bullpen eventually settled, Aidan Rumain shutting out Gill in the top of the sixth, and that’s when the tide turned.

Immaculata got three runs in the bottom of the sixth, two off a homer down the left field line from freshman Jayden Capindica, but had still only cut a 7-0 deficit to 7-3.

Then, after another scoreless inning from Zimmerman, and two more runs in to get it to 7-5, Capindica came up again, with the bases loaded, two out, and a 1-2 count.

Down the line, opposite field to left, bases clear, ‘Lata walks off with an 8-7 win, and the Non-Public Group B title.

It’s the Spartans’ fifth sectional championship, and their first since 2010, when they won the Group A championship.

Now, they get to take on South B champion Ranney, the top-seed in that section, which beat two-seed Gloucester Catholic 8-7 Friday afternoon in Tinton Falls. That title game will be at either 4 or 7 pm at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, and Central Jersey Sports Radio will have the game for you live.

Click below for interviews with head coach Kevin Cust, and freshman Jason Capindica:

Freshman Jayden Capindica
Head coach Kevin Cust

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to say Adam Rumain pitched the last two innings for Immaculata, not Greg Zimmerman.

It’s Championship Friday! Five area teams vie for state sectional titles

One team seems like they’re there every year. Another has some of the deepest pitching in their league. A third has played the role of underdog to the hilt. And of the other two, one is guaranteed to go home a champion today.

Those are the story lines this Friday, as Middlesex, East Brunswick, Woodbridge, Immaculata and Gill St. Bernard’s all play for sectional titles in four separate championship games this afternoon.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will bring you one of those contests live, the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title tilt between 3rd-seed Woodbridge and top-seed Hunterdon Central. Game time is at 3. Pregame begins at 2:30 from Flemington with Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action. Click here to listen.

Scroll down for previews and more details on all four title games involving CJSR-area teams:

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Championship Game:

Details:
(3) Woodbridge (25-6) at
(1) Hunterdon Central (23-4)
3:00 pm Friday in Flemington, NJ
LISTEN LIVE

Starting Pitchers:
Woodbridge – Eddie Nunez (9-2, 1.98 ERA)
Hunterdon Central – Kyle McCoy (6-0, 0.00 ERA)

LISTEN TO THE HEAD COACHES:

Woodbridge head coach Mike Monaco
Hunterdon Central head coach Kevin Cuozzi

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Woodbridge:
1st Round: def. (14) Newark East Side, 12-2
Quarterfinals: def. (6) Westfield, 8-4
Semifinals: def. (2) Ridge, 5-4 (11 innings)

Hunterdon Central:
1st Round: def. (16) Phillipsburg, 14-0
Quarterfinals: def. (9) Elizabeth, 10-1
Semifinals: def. (4) Watchung Hills, 4-0

Key Stats:

Eddie Nunez can go nearly the distance Friday, having thrown 46 pitches against Ridge in relief in their 11-inning marathon Tuesday. That means he has 104 remaining, six shy of the 110 pitch limit for a single game. Matt Troche and Drew Lukachyk are also available, but Josh Vazquez – who started the Ridge game, is not.

Troche – at a respectable .239 – has the lowest average in the starting lineup, and only three starters are hitting below .300 heading into the final, which means there are no easy outs in the Barrons lineup.

Yes, you read that right about Kyle McCoy. The tall, lanky lefty has not allowed a single earned run all year, letting up just one inconsequential run up all year, that in the Red Devils’ opening round playoff game, a 16-1 victory over Elizabeth. He’s being talked about as an MLB Draft prospect, and head coach Kevin Cuozzi says they’ve eased him off the gas pedal a bit this year – something he can afford to do with a deep staff – to keep him McCoy fresh just for this time of year.

Championship History:

Woodbridge is seeking its first-ever state title, in only its fourth finals appearance since the advent of the playoffs in 1971. They were champs in 1935, 1938 and 1939, those last two coming under Nick Priscoe, who also was the football coach, and for whom the Barrons football stadium is named. His teams won double championships – in baseball and football – in ’38 and ’39, and he also won a state title on the gridiron in 1960.

In the playoffs, Woodbridge is oh-for-three in finals:

  • 1977: lost to Piscataway, 2-1, in the Central Jersey Group 4 final
  • 1987: lost to Hunterdon Central, 3-0, in the Central Jersey Group 4 final
  • 2017: lost to Millburn, 3-1, in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 final

Hunterdon Central last won a sectional title in 2018, when they went 28-2. They beat Manalpan 4-0 in the CJ 4 final, then went on to win the statewide Group 4 title, beating Westfield 7-0 in the championship game.

The also won the Central 4 title in 2017 (2-1 over Freehold) but lost to Millburn in the statewide Group 4 final, 10-5. In 2016, they beat South Brunswick 12-2 to win the CJ 4 title, then won the state Group 4 crown with a 4-2 win over Morristown. In 2013, they beat Brick Memorial in the CJ4 final, 2-1, but lost to Eastern in the Group 4 semis.

The Red Devils’ last sectional final loss came to Hillsborough in 2012, a 6-1 defeat. The Raiders that year went all the way to the Group 4 final, where they lost to Manalapan, 2-0, finishing 17-14.

More Red Devils: If Woodbridge is to win its first-ever sectional championship, they will have beaten the Red Devils in back-to-back games: Ridge in the semifinals, Hunterdon Central in the finals.

What’s Next? The winner of this game goes on to host the winner of North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4, based on the rotating host sites pre-determined by the NJSIAA. (Last year was the first year of that system, with Central and North 1 champions hosting. This year, South and North 2 champs host.) The North 2, Group 4 final is between 2-seed Passaic Tech (25-5) and 4-seed Livingston (20-8). That game is scheduled for 1:30 this afternoon at PCTI.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF WOODBRIDGE:

Central Jersey Group 4 Championship Game:

Details:
(9) East Brunswick (17-2) at
(2) Howell (22-6)
2:00 pm Friday in Howell, NJ

Starting Pitchers:
East Brunswick – Joe Ditzel (4-1, 0.84 ERA)
Howell – Nick Gomes (4-1, 2.76 ERA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

East Brunswick:
1st Round: def. (8) Freehold Twp., 8-6
Quarterfinals: def. (1) Middletown South, 1-0
Semifinals: def. (5) North Brunswick, 4-2 (8 innings)

Howell:
1st Round: def. (15) Manalapan, 3-1
Quarterfinals: def. (7) Monroe, 5-4
Semifinals: def. (3) Jackson Memorial, 3-2

Key Stats:

East Brunswick has beaten all higher seeds to get to the final, including the top-seed, defending champ and heavy favorite Middletown South in the quarterfinals. And their win over 5th-seed North Brunswick was a revenge win for the Bears. They lost a regular season meeting in walk-off fashion on back-to-back home runs, and a 1-0 game in the GMC Tournament semifinals that took 12 innings.

The key pitching number to know is Ditzel’s sub-one earned run average. The Bears have allowed just eight runs in their first three state playoff games, including that shutout of Midd South. They’ve been playing solid baseball the last month or so

Championship History:

It’s been a while for both of these schools: East Brunswick has won only one sectional title, Central Jersey Group 4 in 1997. Howell hasn’t won since 1994. One very long streak will come to an end today.

What’s next? The winner here gets the South Jersey Group 4 winner. That game features 6th-seed Cherokee (21-7) at top-seed Kingsway (26-4), and is being played at noon today.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF EAST BRUNSWICK:

Central Jersey Group 1 Championship Game:

Details:
(1) Middlesex (23-5) vs.
(2) Point Pleasant Beach (19-9)
4:00 pm Friday at Mountainview Park in Middlesex, NJ

Starting Pitchers:
Middlesex – Stephen Young (4-1, 3.05 ERA) OR Aidan Kozak (4-1, 1.60 ERA)
Point Pleasant Beach – James Larsen (3-3, 4.62 ERA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Middlesex:
1st Round: def. (16) Highland Park, 10-0 (5 innings)
Quarterfinals: def. (8) Riverside, 12-3 (6 innings)
Semifinals: def. (5) Shore, 11-1 (6 innings)

Point Pleasant Beach:
1st Round: def. (15) Henry Hudson, 10-0 (5 innings)
Quarterfinals: def. (7) Bound Brook, 4-0
Semifinals: def. (3) New Egypt, 9-1

Key Stats:

These teams have met in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game each of the last three playoff seasons, with Middlesex winning them all. Yes, they certainly have the Garnet Gulls’ number. The Jays beat them on a walk-off last year 2-1. They beat them in 2019, 6-1. And Middlesex shut them out 2-0 to win the CJ1 title in 2018.

For good measure, they also beat Point Beach in the 2017 Central 1 quarterfinals, making it four straight seasons they’ve ended Point’s year.

Championship History:

The numbers for Middlesex under Justin Nastasi indicate a dynasty. To wit:

  • 2021: GMC Blue Division Champions, Central 1 Champs, Group 1 State Champions
  • 2019: GMC Blue Division Champions, Central 1 Champs
  • 2018: GMC Blue Division Co-Champions, Central 1 Champs, Group 1 State Champions
  • 2017: Central 1 Champs, Group 1 State Champions
  • 2016: no titles
  • 2015: Central 1 Champs

It’s quite the remarkable run for the Blue Jays, who nearly moved up to Group 2 this year. Football and basketball did, but not baseball, owing to the different number of schools in each sport that field teams.

What’s next? The winner here gets the victor in the South Jersey Group 1 title game, featuring 9-seed Woodstown (16-9) at 6-seed Paulsboro (16-9). If it’s the Blue Jays and Woodstown, it would be a rematch of last year’s Group 1 semifinal at Middlesex, which they won 7-5 on a walk-off grand slam with two outs by Bobby Ulmer – you can read the recap and hear the game winning call below. Except this year, the game would be down at Woodstown, a mere 92 miles down the Turnpike, and South of the Mason-Dixon Line.

At today’s gas prices, assuming 30 miles per gallon, that’s about a $30 trip, plus another $11 in tolls round-trip.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MIDDLESEX:

MIDDLESEX STATE TOURNAMENT COVERAGE FROM 2021:

Non-Public North B Championship Game:

Details:
(6) Gill St. Bernard’s (15-13) at
(5) Immaculata (13-12)
1:00 pm Friday at Diamond Nation in Flemington, NJ

Starting Pitchers:
Gill St. Bernard’s: Logan Mote (2-4, 4.16 ERA) OR Carter Nowak (4-3, 3.32 ERA)
Immaculata: Matt Warzeniak (3-2, 2.56 ERA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Gill St. Bernard’s:
1st Round: def. (11) Mater Dei, 13-3 (5 innings)
Quarterfinals: def. (3) Montclair-Kimberley, 7-4
Semifinals: def. (2) St. Mary-Rutherford, 3-0

Immaculata:
1st Round: def. (12) Newark Academy, 10-0 (5 innings)
Quarterfinals: def. (4) Morristown-Beard, 9-6
Semifinals: def. (1) Rutgers Prep, 11-2

Key Stats:

One, two and three.

One, as in only one meeting ever between these two teams in the schools’ histories, at least so far as anyone remembers. And that meeting, ironically enough, came this year, when Gill beat the Spartans in the second round of the Somerset County Tournament, 4-2, also out at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Two, as in Gill St. Bernard’s – until the state tournament – had not won more than two games in a row all season.

Three, as in the Knights also haven’t lost more than three games in a row all season, and they only did that once, in late April/early May. Immaculata, meanwhile, has been slightly more up-and-down all year. The Spartans opened the season 0-3 – including a season-opening 15-4 loss to Somerville as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio – but then reeled off three straight wins to get back to .500 by mid-April. They had two more three-game skids throughout the year, and two more three-game winning streaks, including in the playoffs heading into today’s final.

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 four to their credit, plus two group titles:

  • 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 Gill St. Bernard’s, this will be their fourth trip to a sectional final in the last six seasons, still looking to bring home their first hardware. Previous finals appearances:

  • 2019: Lost at St. Mary-Rutherford 2-1 (North B)
  • 2018: Lost at DePaul 8-4 (North B)
  • 2016: Lost at Holy Cross 4-3 (South B)

What’s next? Since there are only two sections in each non-public group, unlike the four in the public ranks, the winner of this game goes right on to the Non-Public Group B final next Wednesday at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton. Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game, which should be either at 4 or 7 pm. Immaculata or Gill would get the winner of the South B title game, which is being played at 3:30 today, and features (2) Gloucester Catholic (21-9) at (1) Ranney (24-5) in Tinton Falls.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF IMMACULATA and GILL ST. BERNARD’S:

Extra, Extra! Woodbridge and East Brunswick advance in extra innings, Blue Jays cruise, and an all Skyland title game on a busy state playoff Tuesday

East Brunswick got revenge for its 12-inning loss to North Brunswick in the GMC Tournament semis with an extra inning win of its own, while Woodbridge needed eleven to knock off defending North 2, Group 4 champ Ridge.

Those were just some of the highlights as Week Two of the NJSIAA baseball playoffs got underway, with public and non-public sectional semifinal action.

In a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio in the North 2, Group 4 semis, third-seed Woodbridge never trailed and outlasted 2nd-seed Ridge 5-4 in 11 innings.

FULL GAME RECAP and POSTGAME AUDIO: Woodbridge stuns Ridge with Bosch’s almost-in-the-park-home run, to win in 11, gain North 2 Group 4 final

GAME HIGHLIGHTS: 11 Innings in 6 Minutes: Listen to all the highlights from Woodbridge’s N2, G4 semifinal win over Ridge

Meanwhile, at Community Park in North Brunswick, 9th-seed East Brunswick scored two in the eighth and then kept the 5th-seeded Raiders off the board in the bottom of the inning to secure a 4-2 win. The Bears have been red hot the last month or so, and have knocked off three higher seeds en route to the Central Jersey Group 4 final.

They beat 8-seed Freehold Township 8-6 in the first round. Then came a 1-0 win over top-seed, defending champ, and section favorite Middletown South before Tuesday’s semifinal win against North Brunswick. Pinch-hitter Ryan Schultz had an RBI single in the inning, driving in what turned out to be the winning run.

East Brunswick was 0-for-2 in dramatic fashion against North this year. In the regular season, they lost 5-4 in walk-off fashion on a two-run homer by Zack Konstantinovsky, followed by the winner from Omar Carreras.

In the GMC Tournament semifinals, they lost 1-0 in 12 innings.

Meanwhile, in Non-Public North B, it will be an all-Somerset County final, as 5th-seed Immaculata will entertain 6th-seed Gill St. Bernard’s Friday afternoon. The Spartans stunned top-seed Rutgers Prep with an 11-2 win, while the Knights traveled up to Bergen County and came away with a 3-0 win over second-seed St. Mary-Rutherford.

Middlesex also advanced in Central Jersey Group 1, with an 11-1, six-inning win over fifth-seed Shore. That sets up a rematch of last year’s sectional title tilt with Point Pleasant Beach. The second-seeded Garnet Gulls beat 3-seed New Egypt Tuesday 9-1. The Jays and Point played in last year’s final, with Middlesex winning 1-0 in its final at bat on an E4 with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Somerville, Watchung Hills and St. Joseph-Metuchen also were eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday.

Below are the semifinal results::

Central Jersey Group 4:
(9) East Brunswick def. (5) North Brunswick, 4-2 (8 innnings)
(2) Howell def. (3) Jackson Memorial, 3-2

Central Jersey Group 3:
(10) Middletown North def. (6) Somerville, 8-4

Central Jersey Group 1:
(1) Middlesex def. (5) Shore, 11-1 (6 innings)
(2) Pt. Pleasant Beach def. (3) New Egypt, 9-1

North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 4:
(1) Hunterdon Central def. (4) Watchung Hills, 4-0
(3) Woodbridge def. (2) Ridge, 5-4 (11 innings)

Non-Public South A:
(6) Christian Brothers Academy def. (2) St. Joseph-Metuchen, 11-0 (6 innings)

Non-Public North B:
(5) Immaculata def. (1) Rutgers Prep, 11-2
(6) Gill St. Bernard’s def. (2) St. Mary-Rutherford, 3-0

Following are the sectional title games scheduled for Friday, with notes on who those teams would match up with in the Public Group Semifinals Monday, or the Non-Public Group Finals on Wednesday. Note that in the public group semifinal rounds, South Jersey and North Jersey, Section 2 champions are the pre-determined hosts.

Central Jersey Group 4 Final:
(9) East Brunswick at (2) Howell
Winner plays at the South 4 Champion, either (1) Kingsway or (6) Cherokee, on Monday, June 13

Central Jersey Group 1 Final:
(2) Pt. Pleasant Beach at (1) Middlesex
Winner plays at the South 1 Champion, either (6) Paulsboro or (9) Woodstown, on Monday, June 13

North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 4 Final:
(3) Woodbridge at (1) Hunterdon Central (on CJSR)
Winner hosts the North 1 Champion, either (2) Passaic Tech or (4) Livingston, on Monday, June 13

Non-Public North B Final:
(6) Gill St. Bernard’s at (5) Immaculata
Winner plays the South B Champion, either (1) Ranney or (2) Gloucester Catholic, on Wednesday, June 14 at Veterans Park in Hamilton (on CJSR).