Tag: New Providence

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.


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


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.


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)


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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:

It was a big year for Barth, and he’s looking for an encore – and then some

Not many people came close to what Somerville’s Cookie Desiderio – the Central Jersey Sports Radio Offensive Player of the Year – did on the football field in 2020.

Of the few who did, Charlie Barth was one of them. And as CJSR’s Two-Way Player of the Year, the New Providence standout showed he could excel on both sides of the football.

READ MORE: When does he rest? Charlie Barth of New Providence is Two-Way Player of the Year

Plenty of football players come onto the field for offense and defense, but usually excel at one side more than the other. Not so with Barth, who led the Big Central, and was 4th in the state in rushing with 1,702 yards in a shortened seven-game regular season that included two weeks of “postseason.” He notched a touchdown every 7.4 carries, second in the league to Desiderio, and reached the goal line 25 times. On defense, he led the Big Central with 115 tackles, the tenth best total in the Garden State.

We caught up with Barth as we presented him a commemorative football for his efforts, while his former lacrosse teammates practiced behind him. Barth played lacrosse as a freshman, and didn’t have a season last year due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but is sitting out this year to spend more time in the weight room getting ready for what hen hopes will be a big senior season on the gridiron.

New Providence standout Charlie Barth and his head coach Chet Parlavecchio talk about Barth’s excellent 2020 season, and look ahead to 2021.

Cookie Monster! Somerville’s Desiderio named Big Central Offensive Player of the Year

In the end, there was no debate, little surprise: Cookie Desiderio was the top offensive player in the Big Central Conference.

The 6-1, 215-pound senior runningback was a dominant force on offense, right from the get-go.

In the Pioneers’ opener, Desiderio touched the ball only six times, four of them resulting in touchdowns. He had two rushing touchdowns on two carries, totaling 113 yards. Desiderio also had four catches, “only” two of them resulting in touchdowns, and a total 98 receiving yards.

LISTEN: Whitaker and Desiderio postgame reaction after Somerville knocks off Woodbridge

Of course, it could only go “downhill” from there, and it did. All the “Cookie Monster” did the rest of the season was score a touchdown every 5.8 carries, the best rate in the state of New Jersey. And he led the entire Garden State scholastic scene with 26 rushing touchdowns, adding four more TD grabs.

Click below to hear Cookie Desiderio and Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Pena of Somerville talk together about their undefeated 7-0 season:

Three others earned Honorable Mention status on offense: New Providence runningback Charlie Barth, Monroe quarterback Aidan McLaughlin, and North Brunswick signal caller Frankie Garbolino.

McLaughlin is the only senior of the bunch. He threw for 1,433 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, with only 5 INTs. That was good for an average of 238.8 yards per game, and he tossed for over 300 yards three times. In a Week 2 win over Perth Amboy where the Falcons scored a school record 63 points, McLaughlin was not to be outdone: he tossed for an all-time program best 315 yards on 14-of-23 passing, with three touchdowns. He eclipsed his own mark later in the season in a win over a solid South Brunswick team, tossing for a cool 370 yards.

LISTEN: Monroe senior QB Aidan McLaughlin credits his teammates for his record-setting performance

Barth is just a junior, so the Central Jersey Sports Radio Two-Way Player of the Year will be back for another year to defend his title. He rushed for 1,702 yards and 25 touchdowns on 186 carries, and was the closest of anyone in the Big Central – even the state – to Desiderio’s pace: scoring on every 7.4 carries. He scored 25 of the team’s 34 rushing touchdowns, and had multiple scores in all but one game, notching four TDs in a game twice.

Garbolino is the youngest of the bunch, a sophomore thrust into a starting role who came up roses. He went 124-for-215 for 1,685 yards, tossing 17 touchdowns and only 6 picks. The only game where he didn’t throw for at least 100 yards was his varsity debut, a 93-yard passing effort in an 18-9 win at Sayreville. And he spent his best offensive output on one of the Raiders’ toughest opponents, in a 32-7 home win over state-ranked Passaic Tech.

LISTEN: Garbolino appears on “Tuesday Night Quarterback” to talk about being one of the rising sophomore QBs in the Big Central

A disruptive force, Somerville’s Pena named Defensive Player of the Year

He was a force to be reckoned with, even though not all of the stats exist to back it up.

Somerville senior A.J. Pena has been named Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Checking in at 6-3, 240 pounds, Pena is a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. Pioneers’ coach Dallas Whitaker calls him “the most dominant player I have seen in six years of coaching high school.”

WATCH: A.J. Pena’s senior year highlights

Whatever you call him, the big number you need to know is 12. That’s how many sacks Pena had this year.

But you also need to know that he got to opposing quarterbacks and runningbacks much more. It’s just that no one can say how much. Whitaker says they don’t keep track of QB hurries or pass breakups. But you can be sure he got his mitts on more than a few.

Click below to listen to Pena and teammate Cookie Desiderio talk about Somerville’s 7-0 season:

Honorable mentions for Defensive Player of the Year included New Providence’s Charlie Barth and North Plainfield’s Adam Elsais.

Barth – CJSR’s Two-Way Player of the Year – led the Big Central in tackles in its inaugural season, registering 115 of them, 16.5 percent of the entire defense. He also added two sacks for the 8-1 Pioneers.

The Canucks’ Elsais registered 109 tackles to lead the team, 10 TFLs and a sack in a 7-1 campaign, the best in North Plainfield in a decade since they went 9-1 with a playoff loss to Carteret. He also ranks third in his class in GPA, according to head coach Jimmy DiPaolo. Elsias will finish his scholastic career with 323 tackles in 3 seasons as a starting linebacker.

LISTEN: Elsias, Canucks cruising to best start since 2010