Tag: Middlesex

Instant Replay: Group 1 State Final – Middlesex 4, New Providence 3 (13 inn.)

The Middlesex Blue Jays won their seventh overall state championship – and sixth in the Group Final era – by beating New Providence 4-3 in 13 innings on a walk-off single by senior catcher Mark Geist.

Scorll down to hear the full game broadcast, as originally heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The victory was Middlesex’s third straight in walk-off fashion, fourth if you count their mercy-rule walkoff against Florence in the sectional semifinals.

Middlesex won the Central Jersey Group One title 2-1 over Point Pleasant Beach on June 11th on a bases loaded fielder’s choice, which turned out to be a throwing error on the Gulls’ second baseman. As thrilling as it was, the score was only tied at one, and the bases were loaded with nobody out, much less of a pressure situation than would come a few days later.

On the following Monday, trailing 5-3 after allowing a grand slam to South 1 champ Woodstown in the group semifinals, Middlesex was down to its final strike with junior Bobby Ulmer at the plate, and he hit an 0-2 pitch with two out over the left field wall for a grand slam of his own, to give Middlesex a stirring 7-5 win.

Which made it all the more intriguing when the Blue Jays took a slim, 1-0 lead into the seventh against New Providence in the state Group 1 final. Three outs away from a championship, the Pioneers nickeled and dimed Middlesex for three runs to take a 3-1 lead.

But as Middlesex had proven in the postseason, they may be down, but are never out.

They tied the game at three and sent it to extra innings.

Then more extra innings, then still more.

Ultimately, after Stephen Young came on in relief in the seventh and held New Providence scoreless for 6 and 2/3 innings, Middlesex got its shot.

Perhaps fittingly, it was Ulmer – the local legend born just a few days earlier – who got the rally started with a leadoff walk. A sac bunt moved him to second, and a groundout to the right side of the infield moved him to third.

That’s when senior catcher Mark Geist’s seeing eye single between third and short brought home Ulmer with two out, and set off a celebration that continued back in Middlesex with an escort from police and fire trucks when they arrived back home from Veterans’ Park in Hamilton.

Click below to hear the complete game broadcast, including the 45-minute pregame show featuring interviews with players and coaches, as well as Middlesex Athletic Director Mike O’Donnell. Listen as Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino bring you the call:

Another walkoff! Middlesex wins Group 1 title on Geist’s 13th inning hit

It wasn’t as dramatic as the grand slam Bobby Ulmer hit Monday to send Middlesex to the Group 1 title game – after all, it was a seeing-eye single – but its importance, ultimately, was even greater, owing to the bigger stage,

Mark Geist’s two-out single to left just past a diving Dean Licari at third base won Middlesex their third Group 1 title in the last four seasons, as they beat New Providence 4-3 in 13 innings, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Middlesex got a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI double by Matt Venutolo, and it held til the seventh.

But in the top of the seventh, New Providence got to Jays’ starter Raiden Yost for 3 runs – one allowed by reliever Stephen Young – to take a 3-1 lead.

Still, as Middlesex has shown time and time again in the postseason, they’re never out of it.

Matt Venutolo led off with an infield hit, then Mark Geist – who would later be the hero – walked. A bunt by Ty Nicolay moved the runners up. Stephen Young’s walk loaded the bases, before a sac fly by Anthony Long got Middlesex within one, and Ryan Vollmer’s single tied the game.

That’s the way it would stay until the 13th, thanks to the brilliant pitching of Stephen Yong, who came in with two outs in the seventh, and finished the game to get the win.

In the 13th inning, Bobby Ulmer – the walk-off grand slam hero Monday in the semis against Woodstown – drew a leadoff walk.

A.J. West laid down a sac bunt that moved Ulmer to third, and a grounder to second by Venutolo pushed him to third. That’s when Geist pushed a pitch past the third baseman, bringing Middlesex the championship.

The Blue Jays finish 22-4, winning their seventh state title in program history, in ten tries.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Middlesex’s Group 1 title game win:

Mark Geist
Senior catcher Mark Geist, with the game-winning hit
Junior pitcher Stephen Young, who threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief
Middlesex head coach Justin Nastasi

Complete Group 1 Championship Preview: Middlesex vs. New Providence

This afternoon at 1:00, Central Jersey Group 1 champion Middlesex takes on North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 winner New Providence for a trip to the statewide Group 1 finals.

DETAILS:

Middlesex (21-4) vs.
Point Pleasant Beach (17-7)
1:00 pm Saturday at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, NJ

LISTEN:

The game will be broadcast live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.
Pregame coverage begins at 12:10 pm.
Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the play-by-play.
Click here to listen live.
Postgame reaction will be on cjsportsradio.com following the game.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Middlesex: Raiden Yost (4-2, 1.15 ERA – postseason 1-0, 8 IP, 5 H, 8 K, 0.88 ERA)
New Providence: Jason Graham (3-2, 2.19 ERA – postseason 1-0, 11 IP, 13K, 1.27 ERA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Middlesex (1-seed, Central Jersey Group 1 champ)
1st Round: def. (16) Piscataway Tech 16-1
Quarterfinals: def. (8) South Hunterdon 6-0
Semifinals: def. (12) Florence 11-0
Finals: def. (6) Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-1
Group Semis: def. South 1 Champion Woodstown 7-5

Woodstown (2-seed, North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 champ)
1st Round: def. (15) Shabazz 22-2
Quarterfinals: def. (7) Becton 10-0
Semifinals: def. (3) Dayton 10-0
Finals: def. (12) Whippany Park 6-2
Group Semis: def. North 1 Champion Hasbrouck Heights 12-2

AUDIO COVERAGE LINKS:

Middlesex is ready with skill, magic – or anything else – to win Group 1 title

Blue Jays’ five seniors say thanks to all who helped them in their careers

Hello, it’s been a while: New Providence seeks first state title since ’98

Middlesex success began with O’Donnell, but Nastasi was there, too

GAME BROADCADT: Middlesex 7, Woodstown 5

Another 7th inning rally for Middlesex, another CJSR audio recap!

Postgame breakdown: Mike and Dom look back at Blue Jays’ thrilling come-from-behind win

Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Middlesex in familiar territory, a win away from another group final

AUDIO: Listen to the Blue Jays’ 7th inning rally in 90-seconds!

GAME BROADCAST: Middlesex 2, Point Pleasant Beach 2

Yost Pitches Middlesex to 4th Straight Central Jersey Group 1 Championship

Jays want to put one on the thumb, seeking fifth overall, fourth straight CJ1 title under Nastasi Friday afternoon

Listen to all 11 runs scored by Middlesex in CJ1 semifinal win over Florence

Blue Jays fly into fourth straight CJ1 title game with 11-0 win over Florence

GAME BROADCAST: Middlesex 11, Florence 0 (5 inn.)

Middlesex a win away from fourth straight sectional final, fifth in six years

Vollmer wants to go out like he came in – with a Blue Jays’ championship

STATS & NOTES:

Here’s a streak: Middlesex has won two straight games in walk-off fashion in the NJSIAA Tournament, both assisted by wild throws by the other team.

In the Central Jersey Group 1 title game against Point Pleasant Beach just over a week ago, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with nobody out by virtue of a double, a beat-out sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, the latter of which was meant to load the bases and induce a force play at home. With the infield in, the gulls got exactly what they wanted when Anthony Long sent a roller on the grass to second. But Mark VanBrunt’s throw home was wide of the plate, pulling the catcher up the third base line, and Geist scored to give Middlesex the win.

In the Group 1 semifinals Monday against Woodstown, it was like deja vu, but even more dramatic. Down 5-3, back-to-back singles to leadoff the inning put runners at first and second with no one out, and the Wolverines changed pitchers, bringing in Lucas Prendergast from second base. He picked up a strikeout for the first out of the inning, then got Ryan Vollmer to ground to first.

Just a few feet from the bag, Tyler Wolf elected not to step on the bag for the sure out, but go to second in an attempt to turn two and end the game, or at least get a force out. But his throw – like Van Brunt’s the Friday before – was just wide of the bag and pulled Brant Williams off the base, leaving everyone safe.

Had wolf gotten the one out, the game would have ended with the next batter, as Raiden Yost flew out to left. But it was only the second out, bringing up junior Bobby Ulmer, with two extra base hits already on the afternoon, and an pitch-around walk in the sixth because of them.

In retrospect, Woodstown could have elected to walk Ulmer again. That would have made it 5-4 with a little less room for error, but a chance to limit the damage with A.J. West at the plate, who had been 0-3 on the afternoon without hitting the ball out of the infield.

Then again, the way Middlesex has been going this season, it might not have mattered.

Nonetheless, Ulmer found himself in an 0-2 hole before driving the Middlesex fans into delirium, smashing a grand slam to left field to win the game 7-5. Now, here they are again in the Group final, for the fourth time in six years under head coach Justin Nastasi.

Middlesex has won 13 of its last 14 games, the only defeat in that stretch being an 8-1 loss to South Brunswick in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals a couple of weeks ago. Run production is down a bit the last two games, and the Jays allowed five runs – including a grand slam of their own – to Woodstown, but that’s to be expected when you get to this point in the state tournament.

As for New Providence, they have been a bit streaky. The Pioneers started the season 0-3 with tough out-of-division games against Union, governor Livingston and Cranford, but then reeled off nine straight wins before dropping four of their next seven.

But since then, they have won five straight, all in the state tournament. And four of the five have been by the ten-run mercy rule, including a season high offensive output in a 22-2 first-round win over Shabazz in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 playoffs. They then blanked Becton 10-0, and Dayton by the same score. They are coming off a 12-1 win over Hasbrouck Heights, the North 1 champ, in the group semifinals.

Of ten players with plate appearances in the states, half of them are hitting .500 or better. That should make for an interesting matchup against Middlesex starter Raiden Yost, considering all year long the opposition is batting .195 against him. Their .200 average in eight postseason innings isn’t much better.

Cue the cliche, something’s gotta give.

Exact RF is the sponsor of the Middlesex senior “Thank You” segment. Click here to listen.

What will happen on the other side when ace Jason Graham takes the hill against the Blue Jays? Opponents are hitting just .154 against him in 11 innings in the NJSIAAs. He’s struck out 13 and walked three while allowing just two earned runs on six hits.

Graham is a smoking hot .647 at the plate for New Providence, 11-for-17 with a team-leading seven postseason RBIs, tied with third baseman Dean Licari in that department. He also has eight doubles.

The title game win against Hasbrouck Heights was the Pioneers’ third straight sectional title, so here are two teams that have won a combined eight titles in the last six seasons.

FORGET “WHO’S ON FIRST?” … WHO’S THE HOME TEAM?

At this point in the state tournament, with no “higher seed” comparing apples to apples, the NJSIAA uses a coin flip to determine the home team. That will occur shortly after the teams arrive at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton Saturday.

TITLETOWN, NJ??:

Having won their fourth straight Central Jersey Group 1 trophy, and fifth in six seasons under head coach Justin Nastasi, the Blue Jays continue a string of unprecedented success for the program.

The Middlesex Blue Jays pose following their 2-1 victory over Point Beach in the CJ1 championship game. (Photo credit: Justin Sontupe).

Nastasi has helped guide the Blue Jays to titles in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. The best stretch before that was in the early 90s when they won their section (Central Jersey Group 2) three years in a row from 1990-1992, and again in 1994, making it four titles in a span of five years.

Overall, Middlesex has won 15 sectional titles, with their first coming in 1965.

As far as group champions – which weren’t played until 1971 – Middlesex has won five titles: 1990, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2018, the two most recent coming under Nastasi.

The Blue Jays are tied for fifth all-time for NJSIAA state (group) titles with those five, along with Cranford, Don Bosco Prep, Glen Ridge, Notre Dame, St. Rose of Belmar and Toms River South.

Only seven schools have won more. Emerson (1-1 against Middlesex in group finals) has won six, Pennsville and Hamilton East (Steinert) have won seven, Audubon, Bishop Eustace and Seton Hall Prep have won eight, and Gloucester Catholic leads the pack by a country mile, with a whopping 20 state titles.

Nastasi’s teams in five-plus seasons are 124-39 overall (.761) and 31-9 (.775) in the postseason since he took over in 2015, including a whopping 28-3 in the states.

Here is a look at their five previous seasons under Nastasi:

2015 (17-7):
2-1 in GMC Tournament (reached the quarterfinals)
Beat Shore 15-3 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Lost 3-1 at Emerson in the Group 1 title game

2016 (14-12):
Eliminated in GMC Tournament preliminary round
Lost in Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals

2017 (26-5):
GMC Tournament quarterfinal exit
Beat Metuchen 3-2 for Central Jersey Group 1 title
Beat Emerson 5-4 in the Group 1 title game

2018 (24-4, GMC Blue Division Co-Champs):
GMC Tournament first round exit
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-0 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Beat Park Ridge 3-0 in the Group 1 title game

2019 (22-7, GMC Blue Division Champs):
GMC Tournament first round exit
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 6-1 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Lost 3-0 at Glassboro in Group 1 semifinals

2020 – No season

2021 (20-4, GMC Blue Division Champs):
Reached GMC Tournament Quarterfinals
Beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 2-1 for the Central Jersey Group 1 title
Currently in Group 1 Finals vs. New Providence

STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Until 1959, champions were declared in each section by the NJSIAA. But until 1971, the playoffs ended at sectional titles. Starting in ’71, teams played down to group champions (much like what the NJSIAA membership decided officially last week to do in football).

Middlesex and New Providence have met twice before in the state final, splitting the pair. The Blue Jays won in 1990, but the Pioneers returned the favor eight years later.

Middlesex:

1965: Won Central Jersey Group 2

1982: Lost to Emerson in Group 1 final
1990: Beat New Providence in Group 1 final
1998: Lost to New Providence in Group 1 final
2007: Beat Hoboken in Group 1 final
2013: Beat Pompton Lakes in Group 1 final
2015: Lost to Emerson in Group 1 final
2017: Beat Emerson in Group 1 final
2018: Beat Park Ridge in Group 1 final
2019: Playing New Providence in Group 1 final

*Middlesex is 5-3 all-time in Group finals (all Group 1)

New Providence:

1970: Won North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1

1975: Lost to Audubon in Group 2 final
1976: Beat Hightstown in Group 2 final
1990: Lost to Middlesex in Group 1 final
1998: Beat Middlesex in Group 1 final
2004: Lost to New Milford in Group 1 final

*New Providence is 2-3 all-time in Group finals (1-1 in Group 2, 1-2 in Group 1)

Middlesex is one of 23 schools that have won back-to-back group titles. A win against New Providence would give them three in four seasons. No school has ever won more than three straight; the five that have won three in a row are Audubon (1994-96), Cherry Hill West (1989-91), Gloucester Catholic (1984-86), Hamilton East (Steinert) (1998-2000) and Seton Hall Prep (2005-07).

FIRST TIME, LONG TIME:

Head-to-head, the last time the teams met was in 2014, with Middlesex winning a regular season game 6-5. That was the last year Mike O’Donnell was the head coach.

Middlesex is ready with skill, magic – or anything else – to win Group 1 title

There have been five state titles in baseball in Middlesex High School’s history.

Three of them have come in the last eight years.

And there’s a chance to add one more Saturday when the Blue Jays – the Central Jersey Group 1 champions – take North 2 champ New Providence down at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton.

Game time is 1:00, and Central Jersey Sports Radio will have live play-by-play of the game, starting with a special pregame show at 12:10 pm. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action, and you can listen live by clicking here.

Middlesex has won its last two games in the state tournament in walk-off fashion.

Last Friday in the Central Jersey Group 1 championship game, a bases-loaded ground ball to second scored the winning run in a 2-1 victory over Point Pleasant Beach, when the Gulls’ second baseman threw wide of home plate to get the runner from third on a force play.

Then on Monday afternoon – in the Blue Jays’ final game of the year at Mountainview Park – junior Bobby Ulmer, down 0-2 in the count, with his team trailing 7-5 with two out and the bases loaded – whipped the home fans into a frenzy when he smacked a Grand Slam to left field to win the game 7-5, and send his team into the statewide Group 1 final against New Providence.

The win has tuned Ulmer into a local legend in Middlesex who won’t soon be forgotten, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s title game against New Providence.

Middlesex and the Pioneers have met twice before in the state finals. The Blue Jays beat them in the 1990 final, but New Providence returned the favor in 1998.

Click below to hear previews of Saturday’s Group 1 championship game between Middlesex and New Providence:

Middlesex senior starting pitcher Raiden Yost
Middlesex 6th-year head coach Justin Nastasi

Hello, it’s been a while: New Providence seeks first state title since ’98

New Providence has won three straight North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 titles. But for all their success, there’s one feather they haven’t been able to put in their proverbial ball caps for quite some time.

The distinction of winning a state championship.

The Pioneers hope that will change Saturday when they take on Middlesex in the Group One final, as New Providence guns for its first statewide group title since 1998. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 pm, with live coverage by Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning at 12:10 with Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino. Click here to listen.

Ironically, or just in a perfect twist of fate, their opponent in that 1998 final was Middlesex.

New Providence beat Middlesex for the 1998 Group 1 title. (Source: Newspapers.com)

That was a tight game, and this one isn’t expected to be much different.

Jason Graham, the Pioneers’ ace – who is also hitting over .600 in the postseason to help his cause whenever he’s on the mound – will get the start in the title game against the Blue Jays. Middlesex has ace Raiden Yost available, as well as Stephen Young, who got the win Monday against Woodstown in the group semis, his second of the postseason in two starts.

For New Providence, head coach Chris Brodeur is happy with where the Pioneers are as a program, with good feeder programs and dedicated teams in town.

This season, though, didn’t get off to an easy start, with losses to three tough out-of-conferennce opponents.

But, he says his senior leadership quickly dismissed those games, and they got on a role in divisional play, winning nine straight games.

“We never felt streaky,” Brodeur says. He says the team doesn’t focus on the results but just plays baseball.

Click below to hear Chris Brodeur talk about the Pioneers’ 2021 season and the group final against Middlesex:

Blue Jays’ five seniors say thanks to all who helped them in their careers

In their four years in high school – three years, really, because of COVID-19 – the five seniors have seen a lot.

Their Middlesex baseball program has won two GMC Blue Division titles outright, and shared another.

They’ve won the Central Jersey Group 1 title every year.

They’ve won one statewide Group 1 title, and are gunning for another this Saturday when they take on New Providence at 1 pm at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton (12:10 air time on Central Jersey Sports Radio).

And they have a lot of people to thank.

Thanks to longtime Middlesex business Exact RF Broadcast and Wireless, we bring you thank you messages, from the Blue Jays’ five seniors: Raiden Yost, Kenny Yonker, Anthony Long, Mark Geist, and Ryan Vollmer.

Click below to listen to their messages:

Middlesex success began with O’Donnell, but Nastasi was there, too

The Middlesex baseball program had run aground when Mike O’Donnell came on board, having moved just up the road from Franklin, where was started his first year out of school as an assistant, and found himself the head coach at the end of the season.

Born and raised in Middlesex, when he had the opportunity to take over as the head coach there, he jumped.

And one of his first calls was to Justin Nastasi.

All he did was bring the school its second-ever Group 1 title in 2007, and its first-ever GMC title in 2012.

So, when another opportunity beckoned after the 2014 season – to move on up to the Athletic Director’s office at Middlesex – that became a no-brianer, too.

And so did the decision as to who he should hire to be his replacement: Justin Nastasi.

And though the Blue Jays won their first of five Central Jersey Group 1 titles under Nastasi that year, it wasn’t the easiest transition right off the bat, but it eventually worked out.

In his sixth season, Nastasi’s Blue Jays have not only those five Central Jersey Group 1 titles, but two statewide championships, and they’ve been tot the overall title game three times.

Saturday will be their fourth trip.

Saturday at 1 pm, Middlesex (24-4) takes on North Jersey Section 2 Group 1 champion New Providence (17-7) at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, in a game that can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Air time is at 12:10 for the pregame show, featuring a host of interviews, with Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino calling all the action. Click here to listen live.

Click below to hear Middlesex Athletic Director Mike O’Donnell talk about the recent development of the Blue Jays’ program, and the current string of success:

Instant replay: Middlesex 7, Woodstown 5 (Group 1 semifinals)

In a game that featured two grand slams, Bobby Ulmer’s walkoff in the bottom of the seventh will be the stuff of legend.

Oh, who are we kidding? It already is.

In an 0-and-2 hole, the junior slugged a pitch from reliever Lucas Prendergast over the left field wall to give his Blue Jays a 7-5 win over Woodstown, sending Middlesex to the Group 1 finals for the fourth time under head coach Justin Nastasi in his six season at the school.

Click below to hear the complete Central Jersey Sports Radio broadcast of Middlesex’s 7-5 win over Woodstown in the Group 1 semifinals:

Another 7th inning rally for Middlesex, another CJSR audio recap!

Junior DH Bobby Ulmer’s walk-off grand slam in the Group One semifinals against Woodstown gave his Blue Jays a 7-5 win over Woodstown, and a berth in the Group 1 championship game Saturday at 1 pm at Veterans Park in Hamilton.

Middlesex (20-4) will take on New Providence (17-7), which beat Hasbrouck Heights 12-1 Monday in the other semifinals.

The rally by the Blue Jays in the 7th inning was their second in-a-row. In fact, they loaded the bases against Point Pleasant Beach, too, in their 2-1 win Friday afternoon in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game.

Click below to hear an audio recap of Middlesex’s 7th-inning rally against Woodstown:

MORE COVERAGE:

Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

Postgame breakdown: Mike and Dom look back at Blue Jays’ thrilling come-from-behind win