Tag: Middlesex

South Group 1 Playoff Analysis: Manville may not stay among Top 4

Cutoff Weekend starts with tomorrow night’s games under the lights, and Central Jersey Sports Radio is taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll land in the playoffs.

We’re not looking at too many tiebreakers just yet, and even adding the few residuals to be had can make for infinitely more possibilities – although there are none up for grabs from any Big Central opponents at this point – so we’re not doing those either. But we are looking at where we think teams will fall in the top 16.

We’ll have two live shows Saturday to give you the very latest. The first is tentatively scheduled for 11 am, as Mike Pavlichko hosts a Playoff Update show, factoring in all the Friday night games. Then, our second annual Playoff Projection airs at 6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio for all our unofficial pairings. Click here to listen to both shows.

Below is our analysis, with each team’s current ranking in the UPR standings noted.

(Click here for official standings on Gridiron New Jersey)

Top Seeds: There are no undefeated teams here, but it looks like Woodstown and Woodbury have a lock on the top two spots, no matter what happens in their games this weekend. If both lose or both win, Woodbury appears to get the top seed. Woodstown would have to win and get a loss out of Woodbury to get the top seed.

#4 Manville: The Mustangs should finish 8-1, easily dispatching of Bound Brook, which is winless, has scored 18 points all year in seven games, and no more than six points in any single game this season. So, we’re not even going to go with what happens with a loss so Pat Gorbatuk can keep the Rolaids in his glove compartment for now. This is certainly better than last year, when at 6-2, Manville missed the playoffs with a weak schedule. This year’s was better from the Big Central, and picking up a Week Zero game against Keyport – which they won – turned out to be a boon, too. All that aside, though, having Bound Brook this final week will hurt them, even with a win. And we don’t think Manville can stay in the top four, even with losses by teams like Salem and Maple Shade. The trouble is, they would need losses by both Paulsboro and Audubon. So unless a bus breaks down somewhere in deep South Jersey, we peg the Mustangs for anywhere from a fifth to seventh place finish overall. We believe It would be fifth if both Maple Shade and Salem lose, sixth if Salem wins and Maple Shade loses, and seventh is Maple Shade wins and Salem loses. Either way, hosting a first-round playoff game at 8-1 is a far cry from going 6-2 and missing altogether.

#12 South Hunterdon: The Eagles play at New Hope/Solebury, their Pennsylvania rivals, so this game won’t count in the UPR standings. It’s all up to their opponents. We think their range is as high as nine if Florence, Asbury Park and Keyport all lose, and as low as 12th if they all win. Any other combo should put them right in the middle of that range somewhere, pending residuals, and on the road in any eventuality in the first round.

#16 Middlesex: The Blue Jays visit New Providence Friday night, and just like the other way around, this is an even game, so it doesn’t really move the needle much. But they still need it; a loss eliminates them, according to our calculations. With a win, Middlesex would stay in 16th without any other games added, and they’ll need help: namely, losses by Buena or Penns Grove (Schalick and Clayton behind them can’t jump that high, and appear irrelevant). Buena (2-5) visits 5-2 Glassboro Friday while Penns Grove (2-6) is at 6-1 Woodstown). So both those losses are fairly likely.

UNOFFICIAL: Group 1 Playoff Standings Update

Brearley keeps winning, but the Bears keep dropping in the playoff standings. Here’s a closer look at the North and South Group 1 supersections based on Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial calculations after Week 7’s Friday night games:

Brearley is the only legitimate playoff contender from the Big Central, but the Bears keep slipping. That’s not because they keep winning, it’s because of their schedule and the teams they’re beating.

To wit: the Bears are tops in the section in power points, but eighth in the UPR. That says their wins at 7-0 are not as good as Mountain Lakes, which has the same record, is in fifth in power point average, third in OSI, and third in UPR. Same deal with Wood-Ridge, which is second in power point average – just behind Brearley – but first in OSI at 60.37. Brearley’s is 45.49.

Part of the problem is this: there are not enough quality Group 1 schools of Brearley’s size in the Big Central to play. To find teams with better OSIs, they might have to play some Group 2s or even Group 3s. But that’s another story for another day.

Brearley was fourth from Week Three through Week Six. Now they fall to sixth place, and with Dunellen on the schedule, could they fall even further out of the top eight and lose a first round home game due to the schedule? We’ll know more after Saturday play today, and as the Strength Index values are locked in going into next week. Then we can see what scenarios play out – best- and worst-case – for the Bears.

Manville suffered a bit of the same fate as Brearley, as the Mustangs dropped from 5th to 6th despite a win Friday night; they beat a “weak” OSI Highland Park team. They’re at Bound Brook next week so it’ll be much of the same most likely, if they beat the Crusaders. The question is, can they now hold on to a top eight finish, which would guarantee them a first round home game in the playoffs?

South Hunterdon with a Friday night win over Dayton moved up a bit from 12th to 11th, not terribly consequential in the long run. The Eagles don’t have a shot at the top eight, but are in the playoffs.

Middlesex, which lost to Brearley Thursday night, dropped one spot to 19th, but the Blue Jays still have a shot next week, if they can beat New Providence. It remains to be seen if they will need some help from the teams around them. On the OSI side, they would be helped by losses by Buena and Penns Grove. On the ppower points side, they’re looking at losses by Paulsboro (yes, way up in the UPR but just one spot ahead of them in power point average) Audubon and Asbury Park. (Asbury plays Saturday at Lakewood, then next Friday at Shore.

Bottom Line: Manville needs a win next week to have a shot – and maybe a good one at that – to finish in the top eight. South Hunterdon is in and will be in the bottom eight. Middlesex needs a win and maybe some help to get in, but it’s not doable with a loss.

Group 1 playoff analysis: Can Manville hang on to a top four seed?

With Cutoff Weekend just three weeks away here in New Jersey, we continue to take a look at each playoff supersection, and how the Big Central teams within them can hope to fare.

SOUTH 1 (Click here for official standings)

Manville (5-1) is right where it was last week, following a 27-0 win over Dunellen. And while they just want to win one game at a time and Pat Gorbatuk is focused on getting the Ws, the question is, even with an 8-1 record at the cutoff, can they hold on to a top four seed and get home field through at least the sectional semifinals?

Woodstown (5-0) is the top seed here, followed by Woodbury (5-1) with 1 and 2.4 UPRs, respectively. Salem (4-2) is next at 3.4 and Manville has a 3.8 UPR. It’s doubtful the Mustangs can make a top two finish, based on their schedule: Belvidere and Highland Park at home, closing at Bound Brook. those three teams are a combined 0-16 with an average SI value of 26.8. (Highland Park is below an 18, but the lowest you can get as an opponent for a win is 20.)

If those values were locked in now – and those of their opponents – they’d have a 39.97 OSI, knocking them down 5 places, worth 3 UPR points, putting them at 7.8, into sixth – assuming of course, no one else drops, something that could go either way.

For power points, those three games will be worth only 7 points each, unless one of them picks up a win before their 8th game (residuals are limited to an opponent’s first seven games). With a power point average of 13.83, they could dip to around 11.5 if nothing changes. That would drop them another three places, or 1.2 UPR points. And this is more certain, as there’s much less variation here, and those three remaining opponents are going to be hard-pressed to come up with any wins this week or next. Although they could gain residuals from teams they’ve already beaten.

The short answer is this: a lot of things have to break right for Manville, even if they take care of business, which they should. it may be out of the Mustangs’ control. That said, it’s a very good possibility they get a top eight seed, and at least a first round playoff home game.

South Hunterdon (3-2, 11.6 UPR) – which Manville has already beaten – is in 11th, down two spots from last week, after a second straight loss, this one to Brearley. They finish with Dunellen and Dayton, a pair of games they should win, before a Cutoff Weekend game at New Hope-Solebury in Pennsylvania, a game that won’t count for playoff contention Still, let’s call them a solid playoff team, squarely in the bottom eight.

Middlesex (3-2) is in 18th place, just two out of a playoff spot, but they have a tough three final games: at Roselle Park, home to Brearley and at New Providence. they most likely need to win two out of three to even have a shot, as long as that loss is to the Bears and not one of the other two teams. Stay tuned on this one, we’ll know more after this week, based on how the other teams do around them. Pitman sits in 16th at a 15.6 UPR, with Schalick (16.8) in 17th.

One thing to watch for the Blue Jays: Audubon is on the inside of the bubble at 1-3. But two wins is the minimum to make the playoffs. If that holds – and they have Collingswood (2-3-1), Haddon Heights (3-2) and Paulsboro (2-3) in the home stretch – and Middlesex finishes 17th, Audubon is out and the Blue Jays get in.

NORTH 1 (Click here for detailed standings)

It’s up two more spots for Brearley (5-0), one of four undefeated teams left in the Big Central. They moved up from sixth to fourth after a 14-0 win over South Hunterdon. Th top four teams are undefeated, with Mountain Lakes (1.4 UPR), Waldwick (3.2), and Wood-Ridge (3.2) all with the same 5-0 record. Brearley has a UPR of 4.

Can they stay within the top four? They’re a bit in the same situation as Manville. The schedule isn’t kind from a Strength index perspective, but it’s not as dire as it is for the Mustangs, either. The Bears play at Highland park, then at Middlesex, and close home against Dunellen.

Yes, they should win those games, but their numbers would drop. And Cedar Grove is nipping at their heels, at 5-1 with a 4.2 UPR, just two-tenths of a point behind. They have a better schedule, and even the best team they play – Caldwell, 5-0 with the state’s longest active winning streak at 20 games – with a loss is worth over 43 points toward OSI.

Our projection is Brearley is a solid top eight, but isn’t going stay in the top four even at 8-1 on Cutoff Weekend.

Group 1 playoff analysis: Manville stays near the top after blanking South Hunterdon

At the midway point of the season, it’s time to start honing in on the playoff picture, with just four weeks to go before the state cutoff for public schools. We begin our analysis with Group One.

SOUTH (Click here for official standings)

Manville didn’t move an inch in either direction in the South Group 1 UPR standings after a huge 13-0 shutout win at home over South Hunterdon Friday night, but it still helped them immensely.

After missing the playoffs with a 6-2 record at the cutoff last year – and a late loss to Metuchen hurting their cause – the Mustangs are looking solid in a bid to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Manville remains in fourth place, 4-1, with a UPR of 3.6. With the 16th place team having a 16.2 UPR, we think the Mustangs may have locked up a playoff berth with the win, providing they take care of business the rest of the way. And they should; of their next four opponents, Dunellen (on the road Friday night) is the only one with any wins this season (2-2). The remaining three – Belvidere, Highland Park, and on the road at Bound Brook, in that order – all are winless in 2022.

Even with an inexplicable loss to one of those clubs, Manville should still make the playoffs, but should they run the table, it’s a pretty safe bet the Mustangs will open the playoffs at home.

Woodbury is the top team in the supersection, followed by Salem. It’s unlikely Manville would catch either, based on their schedule, and they could slip a bit the next few weeks depending on what teams around them do, and what their schedules look like. For example, the teams ahead of them may have tougher schedules, but they also may be more likely to lose a game than Manville.

The picture will become clearer in a few weeks.

South Hunterdon drops one spot to 9th with the loss. And a defeat to a good team like Manville (or if the Mustangs had lost to the Eagles) actually would do less to hurt them than a loss to lesser teams, which is why the drop wasn’t more precipitous.

But South Hunterdon has a stronger schedule, and only three games left, starting with a road game in Kenilworth against undefeated Brearley this Friday. That’s two big ones in a row for South Hunterdon. (More on Brearley when we look at North 1.)

Middlesex is a bubble team at this point, checking in at 15, with a 16.2 UPR after a 43-42 overtime win over Dunellen. Behind them is Pitman at 16 with a 16.2 UPR and Palmyra with a 16.4 UPR in 17th place.

NORTH (Click here for official standings)

There are a lot of good teams at the top of this supersection, with five undefeated squads among the top seven. From the top down, it’s Mountain Lakes and Wood-Ridge in the top two spots, both 4-0, followed by a pair of Cedar Grove (4-1), Park Ridge (3-1) and another 4-0 team, Waldwick, in fifth.

Brearley is in 6th, also with a 4-0 mark, tied with Weequahic out of Newark with a 5.8 UPR. The South Hunterdon game is critical this Friday night because it’s the best remaining team on their schedule, with a 63.56 Strength Index value.

This week’s opponent for the Bears, Highland Park (0-5), is down to 18.9 in the Strength Index (but NJSIAA rules set a minimum 20 pts for OSI calculation), so even a win their will cause Brearley’s 46.3 OSI to drop. Assuming they get at least 20 for beating the Owls, they will drop to a 41.04 this week (pending the change in value of other teams they’ve played).

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.

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:

Middlesex’s Nastasi isn’t surprised at Woodbridge run to the North 2, Group 4 final

Hunterdon Central is the top seed in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 NJSIAA playoff section, and for good reason. They’ve had a tremendous season, are loaded with talent, including legitimate MLB draft prospect Kyle McCoy, and are one of the deepest teams in the state.

They’re ranked No. 5 in the NJ.com Top 20 this week, too.

But Ridge was the second-seed, and No. 6 in the state last week, and Woodbridge beat them.

Few gave them a chance.

But the Barrons believed, and so did Justin Nastasi, whose team swept the Barrons in a mid-May home-and-home to clinch the White Division title outright over Woodbridge.

But still, Nastasi says he knew it was a good Woodbridge team they beat, one that could be poised to make some noise in the state tournament.

While his Blue Jays will be taking on Point Pleasant Beach for a fourth straight time in the Central Jersey Group 1 finals – 4 pm Friday at Mountainview Park – the Barrons will play top-seed and heavy favorite Hunterdon Central in the North 2, Group 4 title game, at 3 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Nastasi believes the Barrons very much have a chance.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Justin Nastasi about the Woodbridge Barrons:

Middlesex is right where everyone expected them to be; now it’s time to win a 5th straight CJ1 title

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And so it goes for Middlesex under Justin Nastasi, who has his top-seeded Blue Jays back in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game again.

And yet again, they will play Point Pleasant Beach. The Garnet Gulls have had their state tournament run ended in each of the last three seasons by the Blue Jays: in 2018, 2019, and last season, en route to the Group One title.

Friday, the top-seeded Blue Jays (23-6) play second-seed Point Beach (19-9) in the CJ 1 final at 4 pm at Mountainview Park.

About the only question for Nastasi is who he will start Friday afternoon, likely either Stephen Young or Aidan Kozak.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk about the Blue Jays’ season and the final against Point Beach:

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).

There’s a new team atop the Bellamy & Son Top Ten: Ridge overtakes St. Joe’s after Falcons’ upset in GMCT Finals

North Brunswick’s upset of St. Joseph-Metuchen wasn’t enough to make the Raiders No. 1 in the Week 9 Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten, but it was enough to knock the Falcons from their season-long perch atop the rankings.

St. Joe’s was replaced by Somerset County Tournament champion Ridge, which beat Rutgers Prep 6-0 in the SCT final a week ago Monday. The Raiders – who shocked the Falcons with a 4-2 win Sunday in the GMC title tilt – moved up from fourth to second, while Joe’s dropped to third in the latest rankings.

Below are the Full Week 9 rankings: