Tag: Middlesex

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:

St. Joseph, Ridge, Rutgers Prep continue to lead Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten, while North and East Brunswick debut

The top three teams remain the same in the Week 8 Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten, but two new teams made the the Top Ten this week.

North Brunswick debuted and jumped all the way to fourth, on the strength of a big run as the 6th-seed in the GMC Tournament. They’re in Saturday’s title game after outlasting East Brunswick – the 7th-seed, which ousted 5-seed Old Bridge – by a 1-0 score in 12 innings Saturday in the semifinals.

Pingry dropped a spot this week after the addition of the Raiders and Bears, with No. 9 Old Bridge dropping out, along with South River, which had a 0-4 week. But the Big Blue are the first tournament champion in the area, after they won the Prep A Tournament Sunday with a 5-3 victory over Hun.

Below are the full Week 8 rankings:

Three upsets, top seed advances, and a controversial call: all in a night at the GMCT quarterfinal

Top-seed St. Joseph of Metuchen was the only higher seed to advance to the GMC Tournament semifinals, as Woodbridge, North Brunswick and East Brunswick all knocked off higher seeded teams Wednesday in the quarterfinals at North Brunswick Community Park.

It sets up a Saturday semifinal doubleheader featuring 7-seed East Brunswick and 6-seed North Brunswick in the opener at noon, and top-seed St. Joe’s against 5th-seed Woodbridge in the second game.

Both games can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio from Ray Cipperly Field at East Brunswick Tech, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action, with pregame for Game One beginning approximately 11:45 am. Click here to listen to both games live, and for free, thanks to presenting sponsor Dayton Toyota Service on Route 130 in South Brunswick.

The first team to advance Wednesday afternoon was the Barrons, over on Field Two, as they knocked off fourth-seed Old Bridge (14-11) by a 3-1 score behind another solid starting effort from Eddie Nunez.

Known as a strikeout pitcher, that wasn’t his M.O. in the game, but after giving up a run in the second, Woodbridge plated two in the third on back-to-back singles by Josh Vazquez and Ty Kobylakiewicz, the latter of which turned out to be the difference. Kobylakiewicz added an RBI double in the 5th to make it 3-1 Barrons.

Nunez went the distance, striking out four and scattering five hits in seven solid innings for Woodbridge (18-4).

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Woodbridge head coach Mike Monaco:

The Barrons will play St. Joe’s of Metuchen, the defending GMC Tournament Champions. In one of the two nightcaps, the top-seeded Falcons cruised past 9th-seed South Brunswick 14-4 by the ten-run rule in six innings. And it was one of the most undramatic walk-offs you’ll ever see: a grand-slam by Mark Gialluisi.

St. Joe’s (19-6) scored early and often, and built a 9-1 lead going into the top of the sixth. But South Brunswick (10-11) scored three times to make it 9-4. St. Joe’s got a run in the bottom of the inning before loading the bases for Mark Gialluisi, who hit a walk-off grand slam to end it. He finished with five runs batted in.

Falcons starter Andrew Goldan only pitched four-and-a-third innings, allowing a run on two hits, striking out seven to get the win. With a comfortable lead, head coach Mike Murray pulled him, with the intent of keeping his pitch count down – he only threw 66 pitches – to save him for a potential closer role Saturday.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from St. Joseph head coach Mike Murray:

The other opening game saw 6th-seed North Brunswick rally to beat 3rd-seed Middlesex, 14-13. It was a see-saw game that saw a pair of seventh-inning rallies, and ended with a controversial play at the plate.

Both teams were hitting the cover off the ball, with Middlesex holding a 2-1 lead after one inning. North Brunswick tied it at two in the third, but the Jays grabbed a run to make it 3-2. The Raiders got three in the fourth to make it 5-3, but Middlesex tied it up at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning. North Brunswick went ahead 7-5 in the top of the fifth, but the Blue Jays got three in their at bat to make it 8-7, then added two more in the sixth to make it 10-7.

And that’s where it got interesting, if not downright unfathomable.

North Brunswick exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh – including a two-run homer by Frandy Martinez – to take a 14-10 lead.

And they almost gave it all back.

Middlesex got two on for AJ West, who cranked a three-run homer to pull the Blue Jays within one.

Middlesex senior AJ West cranks a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh of the GMC Tournament Quarterfinals at North Brunswick Community Park on May 18, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Ty Nicolay then got aboard, stole second, and made it to third on a fly ball to right, bringing up Bobby Ulmer, the walk-off grand-slam hero of last year’s Group 1 semifinal game.

Down 0-2 in the count after fouling off a tough pitch for strike two, the next pitch sailed over the catcher’s head. Nicolay broke from the third, and the play at the plate was close one, the throw low to the ground to the pitcher covering, and it appeared to beat him to the plate.

The home plate umpire called Nicolay out on the tag, ending the game and sending North Brunswick (16-8) to the semifinals, knocking out the Blue Jays (18-5).

Middlesex – including Nicolay and Ulmer – pleaded that the ball was loose on the ground and that the tag was never applied, but to no avail. Fan photos of the play show the ball out of the pitcher’s glove and on the ground, but after Nicolay had passed the plate.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from North Brunswick head coach Mark Blevins, and senior Frandy Martinez, via his cousin Gabriel Perez:

North Brunswick senior Frandy Martinez (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

And so the Raiders are on to face 7th-seed East Brunswick, which avenged a pair of regular season losses to Monroe with a 4-2 win over the second-seeded Falcons in the other nightcap.

Monroe (14-7) got to Bears starter Dustin McGuinness in the bottom of the first for a pair of runs, but East Brunswick (12-10) got them right back in the top of the second on an RBI double by Romeo Diaz and and RBI single by Christian Bermudez.

They then took a 3-2 lead in the third on a throwing error on a ball hit to the left side of the infield by Jack Gerould, and added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI double to the right field wall by Ryan Basham. They could have had more, but they left the bases loaded, with Gerould grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

But it didn’t matter the way McGuinness settled down after spotting Monroe a pair of runs. He only allowed one more hit the entire way, a tough ball hit by Ryan Syvertson to short that Michael Marchese threw in the dirt, but it wouldn’t have gotten the speedy Syvertson anyway.

After a walk to the next batter, McGuiness didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the way, retiring eleven straight, closing the game with a three-hit, 10-strikeout performance to get the win.

Click below for postgame reaction from East Brunswick’s quarterfinal win:

East Brunswick starting pitcher Dustin McGuinness
East Brunswick head coach Chris Kenney

Blue Jays make big jump, Old Bridge debuts, St. Joe’s stays atop new Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten

With two wins over Woodbridge to break a first-place tie and claim the GMC White Division title, earning the third-seed in the GMC Tournament, Middlesex made a big lead from 8th to 5th in the Week 7 Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten rankings.

St. Joseph and Ridge remained Nos. 1 and 2, while Rutgers Prep – which claimed a berth in the Somerset County Tournament finals next Monday with a semifinal win last week – rose from fifth to third. Monroe climbed two spots to third after gaining the second-seed in the GMC Tournament.

Woodbridge fell to sixth, while Somerville dropped out. And Old Bridge made its first appearance in the Bellamy rankings this season, finishing 3rd in the tough GMC Red, and earning the fourth seed in the county tournament.

Below are the full Week 7 rankings:

St. Joe’s is the favorite, but here’s how all 16 teams can win the GMC Tournament

No team worth its weight in stirrups and rawhide enters the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament bemoaning its seed and wishing they were someone else.

If you’re picked as one of the top 16 teams in the league and make the “big dance,” there’s reason to think you have a shot, or else why get up in the morning?

The way the tournament is laid out, with enough time for every team’s No. 1 starter to pitch three games – that is, if Mother Nature cooperates on Monday – just about everyone has a shot, since there are so many good No. 1s in the county.

So why should 16th-seed South River have hope like top-seed St. Joe’s or third-seed Middlesex has hope that they can win it all?

Click below to listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko break down all 16 teams: