Tag: Ridge

Here’s what should have happened in Ridge-Westfield game, per NJSIAA rules. But did it?

There’s a lot that’s still unknown about exactly how things went down in the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinal game between top-seed Ridge and 8th-seed Westfield, which results in the Red Devils being disqualified from the state tournament due to a pitch count violation.

In a statement the NJSIAA provided via email to Central Jersey Sports Radio Saturday afternoon: “During Thursday’s quarterfinal game of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 baseball tournament, Ridge High School violated pitch count rules. As a result, its pitcher was declared ineligible and, per rule, Ridge was required to forfeit. Westfield High School will now advance to face Bayonne High School on Tuesday (5/30).”

According to an NJ Advance Media report by Luis Torres, Ridge ace Connor Byrne was taken out of the game after throwing 82 pitches. This, after having thrown 69 in Monday’s opening round playoff game against Piscataway. That would have given Byrne 151 pitches thrown, one over the NJSIAA “hard limit” of 150 pitches per five calendar days.

That “hard limit” is in contrast to the single day pitch limit of 110 pitches, which is a “soft limit,” wherein a pitcher may stay in the game to finish the batter, whether the batter is out, reaches base, or that batter ends the inning or game. The hard limit means the pitcher must be removed even in the middle of an at bat.


That’s what we know. What we don’t know is why Byrne wasn’t removed at 150 pitches, or 81 on the day. Was Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell unaware of the hard limit, which is a new addition to the rules this year? Where was the official pitch counter in all this?

Per NJSIAA rules, here is what should have happened, before the first pitch of the game was even thrown:

  1. “During these state tournament rounds (State Tournament Rounds 1, 2, 3 & Sectional Finals), each school shall designate a pitch counter for their team. In addition, the home team must supply an “Official Adult Pitch Counter” who shall not be part of the coaching staff or team manager. The official pitch counter should be dressed in apparel that is considered neutral during the state tournament. The official pitch counter shall be situated in an area near the backstop and equally accessible to both teams. The official pitch counter will count pitches for both schools.” This means both Ridge and Westfield should have their own pitch counters, which is something that’s required all season long. The NJ Advance story says Westfield AD Sandra Mammary told Torres that both teams checked in with the official pitch counter after each inning.
  2. Before every game, both Head Coaches shall exchange their pitching logs as part of the pre-game conference with umpires. This shall include names, numbers and pitches thrown by each pitcher. We don’t know yet whether or not the official pitch counter, which was on site, according to Mamary, was provided this information. This would also tell the pitch counter how many pitches each pitcher was allowed to throw in the game.
  3. Pitch counts must be verified with representatives of both teams after each half-inning. If both teams agree on a pitch number, that number shall be recorded as the official pitch count. If one team disagrees on a pitch count, the official pitch counter’s number shall be recorded. Once the first pitch is thrown for the next half inning, there can be no protests or appeals to the pitch count. Again, from the comments by the Westfield Athletic Director, this appears to have taken place. At this point, the pitch counter and both head coaches should have been aware of the pitch limit on Byrne, since both head coaches would have received pitching logs as part of their pre-game conference with the umpires.
  4. The official pitch counter shall inform both coaches and the plate umpire when a pitcher reaches their maximum pitch count threshold. Coaches are responsible for their pitcher’s pitch count at all times. Here’s where the questions come in. The pitch counter should have informed both coaches and the plate umpire when the Byrne reached 81 pitches, the maximum he was allowed for the day. By all accounts in numerous media reports, that never happened. Byrne was removed after 82 pitches. As a backup, the Ridge coach also should have been aware of the rule and removed Byrne, which did not happen. Was there a discrepancy as to the pitch count when Byrne was removed? An update to the Torres story with a quote from Mamary says, “When that kid pitched his 82nd pitch, we stopped the game, we asked how many pitches they had because they are the home team and they confirmed that they had 82 pitches. The umpire said, ‘Yes, we have 82 pitches.’ (He) said back to my coach, ‘Yeah, there’s 82 pitches’. And we said, ‘OK. Now it’s kind of out of hands.'” So it also appears Westfield knew Byrne had thrown 81, and stopped the game only after the violation occurred, rather than when Byrne was at his limit.

Unless there’s a further discrepancy in the pitch count for Byrne, the only thing that’s clear is that the rule was violated, and per the rules, Westfield has the right to protest, which they did, and Ridge is disqualified from the tournament.

Rules are rules, whether they’re fair and intended to ensure the safety of student-athletes or not. Clearly, the rule was violated.

But it seems like there’s more than enough blame to go around.

Top-seed Ridge DQ’d from state tournament by NJSIAA after pitch count violation

As first reported by NJ Advance Media’s Luis Torres, the Ridge baseball team – the top seed in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs – has been disqualified from the rest of the state tournament after a pitch count violation.

The report says the violation came in the Red Devils’ 8-1 quarterfinal win over eighth-seed Westfield on Thursday, when ace Connor Byrne threw 82 pitches, following a 69-pitch outing Monday against Piscataway. That would have given him 151 pitches thrown in a period of four calendar days, one over the NJSIAA pitch limit for a five-day calendar period.

According to the NJSIAA pitch count rules, the five-day rule is a hard limit of 150 pitches. The rule says: “Once the 150-pitch limit in five calendar days is reached, the pitcher may not continue with the current batter.”

That’s different from the single-day rule, which says once the 110-pitch limit is reached, a pitcher may continue until the batter reaches base, is retired, or the third out is recorded to complete that half-inning or game.

The rule did not always include the caveat that a pitcher who reaches 150 in a five-day period must be removed immediately.

The report by NJ Advance Media said the game was protested by Westfield, to determine whether or not Byrne exceeded the limit.

The NJSIAA provided the following statement in an email to Central Jersey Sports Radio Saturday afternoon: “During Thursday’s quarterfinal game of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 baseball tournament, Ridge High School violated pitch count rules. As a result, its pitcher was declared ineligible and, per rule, Ridge was required to forfeit. Westfield High School will now advance to face Bayonne High School on Tuesday (5/30).”

The NJSIAA rules state: “Failure to remove a pitcher when he has reached the maximum number of pitches thrown is the basis for protest by the opposing coach. If the protest is upheld, the penalty shall be forfeiture of the game.”

Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell, when reached via text message, said he was speaking to his team on a Zoom call. This story will be updated with additional comments, if available.

The result means Ridge – one of the favorites to win not only the section, but maybe even a statewide Group 4 title – is out, and Westfield is back in. The Blue Devils will now play at fifth-seed Bayonne Tuesday in one semifinal game, while third-seed Woodbridge and two-seed Bridgewater-Raritan square off in the other semifinal, for a trip to the North 2, Group 4 championship game.

It also means whichever CJSR-area team wins the Woodbridge-Bridgewater game would now be guaranteed to host the finals, since the teams in the other semi would both be lower seeds.

From pitchers to bunts, Santowasso makes all the right calls in Rutgers Prep’s title win over Ridge

To paraphrase the dating cliche, Larry Santowasso told Zach Fronio, “It’s not you, it’s him.”

That was the gist of the Rutgers Prep veteran skipper’s decision to go with Max Treonze in Tuesday night’s Somerset County Tournament final over Zach Fronio, the uber-talented sophomore who’s already committed to go to Maryland.

And boy, did it pay off.

Treonze pitched a complete game shutout, giving up six hits, no walks, while striking out eleven, the last of which gave Prep the county crown.

He came into the game with a 0.25 ERA, and lowered it to 0.20. He’d given up one earned run all year, a number that still stands. As wonderful as Zach Fronio may be, how could you ignore those numbers?

Well, that was only the first good call of the day by Santowasso, a decision he made no later than early this morning. And his decisions just kept getting better.

Like in the first inning, after Ethan Nepomuceno led off with a second-pitch double, Santowasso had his number-two hitter, Evan Laub, bunt. That might be a head-scratcher against any other opposing pitcher who shows signs of being a mortal, but as it turned out, it made perfect sense against Byrne.

Add to that the fact Ridge wasn’t expecting it. Luke Somelofske wasn’t too far in at third. So, when Laub pulled a bunt right out of the textbook, laying it on the grass down the line, Somelofske – who had a long way to go to get to it – had no play at first, and none at third.

So now it was first and third and nobody out, and Andrew Parisi singled to drive in the first – and only – run of the game, for either team.

Good thing, because Rutgers Prep didn’t get another runner past second base the entire game.

Oh, and back to the decision to go with Treonze over Fronio?

Well, Zach didn’t throw a pitch in the game, but he did throw a perfect strike. He was the cutoff man in the bottom of the seventh with one out on a bloop single to right by Connor Byrne. James Jackman fielded on a hop, threw to Fronio, the cutoff, who fired his only strike of the game – just not from the mound – to catcher Andrew Parisi, who turned, waited and applied the tag to the tying run for the second out of the inning, stealing the momentum from Ridge, and grabbing the trophy away from the defending champs.

Just call it a routine Win No. 321 for Larry Santowasso.

Click below to hear Rutgers Prep head coach Larry Santowasso recap and breakdown some of the key plays in the Argonauts’ 1-0 win in over Ridge in the Somerset County title game.

CHAMPS! Rutgers Prep wins pitchers’ duel, 1-0 over Ridge to claim Argos’ second Somerset County title

A leadoff double, a bunt and a single.

That’s all Rutgers Prep would need – oh, and a masterful pitching performance from junior Max Treonze – to win its second Somerset County title, and exact revenge for a loss to Ridge in the title tilt last year.

In a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio – presented by Zoned Sports Academy of Bridgewater – 12th-seed Rutgers Prep topped 2nd-seed and defending champion Ridge 1-0. In the process, they broke their own record to become the lowest seeded team ever to win an SCT title; their 2017 victory came as the 10-seed.

In the first inning, Ethan Nepomuceno led off with a double on the second pitch of the game. Planning to play small ball to try and get to Ridge ace Connor Byrne early, Evan Laub dropped a bunt down the third base line that Ridge wasn’t prepared for. Third baseman Luke Somelofske fielded it cleanly, but had no play at first or third.

Andrew Parisi singled home Nepomuceno to give Prep a 1-0 lead, but that was all they’d get, as Byrne got a strikeout and two groundouts to end the inning.

Good thing they got to Byrne early for as little as they did, because Prep wouldn’t get another hit until the sixth inning as Byrne really settled in. But Treonze was hot, too, and after giving up two hits in the first and one in the second, also didn’t allow another until the sixth.

Meanwhile, both pitchers were mowing guys down.

Fast forward to the bottom of the seventh, still 1-0 Rutgers Prep, and Ridge got a two-out double by Ezra Sadowski, putting Treonze in a bit of a spot with Connor Byrne coming up, who already had a double back in the second inning. With Jack Latourette coming in to pinch run at second, Byrne blooped a single into right. James Jackman fielded it on a hop, threw to first baseman Zach Fronio, the cutoff man, who fired a perfect strike to home plate to nail Latourette by a mile.

That left Steve Dresner – Byrne’s courtesy runner – on first for DH Andrew Reynolds, who struck out to end the ballgame.

The win got Rutgers Prep back to .500, at 9-9 on the season. Ridge had a 14-game win streak snapped, as the Red Devils fall to 17-3.

Click below for postgame reaction presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Rutgers Prep pitcher Max Treonze
Rutgers Prep second baseman Evan Laub

Rematch! Ridge, Rutgers Prep will do it again tonight for Somerset County Tournament title

The same two teams as last year will battle it out Tuesday night at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater as 2nd-seed Ridge and 12-seed Rutgers Prep rematch for the Somerset County Tournament title.

You can hear the game on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with all our tournament coverage presented by Zoned Sports Academy in Bridgewater. Game time is 7:00.

The Red Devils topped the Argonauts in last year’s title game, 6-0, behind a gem from Connor Byrne, and is looking for its eighth title overall. Rutgers Prep is seeking its second, with the first title coming in 2017.

Click the logo above to learn more about baseball training and more at Zoned Sports Academy in Bridgewater!

Pregame coverage on Central Jersey Sports Radio Tuesday night begins at 6:40 pm. First pitch is set for 7:00 with Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action. Click here to listen live and for free.

Scroll through this story for links to coverage of both teams this season, the finals at-a-glance, how they got here, team record in the finals, and other notes and stats:


(2) Ridge (17-2 UPDATE, 8-2 Skyland Conference Delaware Division) CLICK FOR PREVIEW
(12) Rutgers Prep (8-9, 1-7 Skyland Conference Raritan Division) CLICK FOR PREVIEW

Date and Time: Tuesday, May 9 at 7 pm
Location: TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater
Weather: 66 degrees, partly sunny, wind ENE 5 mph (in from left field)
Listen on: Central Jersey Sports Radio (click here)
Announcers: Mike Pavlichko, Chris Tsakonas

Starting Pitchers:
Ridge: Connor Byrne (3-0, 0.59 ERA)
Rutgers Prep: Zach Fronio (0-1, 2.06 ERA) or Max Treonze (4-0, 0.25 ERA)

Head Coaches:
Ridge: Tom Blackwell, 182-138 (18th season)
Rutgers Prep: Larry Santowasso, 320-262 (27th season)


First and Second Round bye
Quarterfinals: def. (10) Bernards, 1-0 (Connor Byrne pitched a perfect game)
Semifinals: def. (6) Pingry, 6-2

Rutgers Prep:
First Round: def. (13) Watchung Hills, 8-0
Second Round: def. (5) Franklin, 5-4
Quarterfinals: def. (4) Somerville, 3-2
Semifinals: def. (1) Bridgewater-Raritan, 4-3


Ridge has won 14 straight, with the last loss coming almost a month ago, on April 11th, to Bridgewater-Raritan, their only defeat at the hands of a Somerset County opponent all year.

Rutgers Prep has only two winning streaks all year, a two-gamer with wins on April 18th and 19th against Phillipsburg and Watchung Hills, with the game against the Warriors their opener in the Somerset County Tournament. They then dropped one, and won their next four, the first three of which were one-run games in the SCT, over Franklin, Somerville and Bridgewater-Raritan.


Read and listen to more about Ridge:

Read and listen to more about Rutgers Prep:


Ridge (7-8): The Red Devils are the defending champs, and before last season, had been to the finals twice since their last title in 2011, when they beat Hillsborough 4-3 in eight innings. They lost in the 2014 finals to the Raiders 4-3 in nine innings, and lost in 2019 to Immaculata, 6-5 in 12 innings, matching the longest game in SCT finals history. Technically, this is a third straight SCT finals appearance for the Red Devils, since there was no tournament in 2020 or 2021. Current head coach Tom Blackwell won his first of three SCT rings as a player, in the Red Devils’ 1989 win over Bridgewater-Raritan West.

1976: Ridge 4, Watchung Hills 3 (10)
1979: Hillsborough 2, Ridge 0
1980: Ridge 7, Franklin 1
1984: Ridge 2, Immaculata 0
1985: Ridge 5, Immaculata 0
1987: Somerville 2, Ridge 1
1988: Bridgewater-Raritan West 3, Ridge 1
1989: Ridge 5, Bridgewater-Raritan West 4
1995: Somerville 7, Ridge 6
2000: Immaculata 2, Ridge 0
2002: Immaculata 10, Ridge 0
2011: Ridge 4, Hillsborough 3 (8)
2014: Hillsborough 4, Ridge 3 (9)
2019: Immaculata 6, Ridge 5 (12)
2022: Ridge 6, Rutgers Prep 0

Rutgers Prep (1-1): The Argonauts had won their only trip to the finals in 2017 before last year’s defeat to Ridge. In ’17, they beat top-seed and defending champion Montgomery 7-2. They were the 10-seed that year, and won a huge game over 2nd-seeded Watchung Hills in the quarterfinals. In the title game, starting pitcher Sam Beck went the distance, allowing just five hits. That’s believed to be the lowest seed to win a Somerset County Tournament title, but if they do it this year – as a 12-seed – they’ll break their own record.

2017: Rutgers Prep 7, Montgomery 2
2022: Ridge 6, Rutgers Prep 0


Click the logo above to learn more about baseball training and more at Zoned Sports Academy in Bridgewater!


Ridge and Rutgers Prep were supposed to meet last year in the regular season, the game – the Friday before the Monday final – was cancelled as warmups were wrapping up, with heavy thunderstorms passing through. So, last year’s final was their first since 2015.

They got their regular season meeting in this year, with Ridge winning 7-3 in basking Ridge on April 8th, the first week of the season. Luke Somelofske got the win in relief as the Red Devils scored twice in the fifth and four times in the sixth after falling into an early 2-0 hole.

In the last five meetings, the Red Devils have won the last four (this year’s regular season meeting, last year’s final, plus 7-5 in 2015, 4-3 in 2014) and the Argonauts have won once (3-2 in 2012).


While Connor Byrne’s perfect game came against Bernards in the semifinals of the tournament, there has been one no-hitter thrown in the Somerset County finals. It came in 1997, when Immaculata’s Scott Allan shut down Bridgewater-Raritan for a 2-0 win. He struck out nine and walked four in his third no-hitter of the season. He was so good, he had allowed only two earned runs all year to that point.

Long Games, Short Game…

In the last ten Somerset County Tournaments, four of the finals have gone to extra innings, including Ridge’s loss to Immaculata, 6-5 in 11 innings, in 2019.

Before 2019, the 2014 title game saw Hillsborough beat Ridge 4-3 in nine, the Raiders beat Bridgewater-Raritan 4-3 in 12 innings in the 2012 title game, and Ridge beat Hillsborough the year prior 4-3 in eight innings.

That means last year’s final was the first Ridge coach Tom Blackwell has been to that did not take extra innings to decide.

Since 2010, there’s only been one mercy-rule-shortened final, and that came in 2010 when Montgomery stunned Immaculata with a five-run first-inning and an eight-run fourth en route to a 13-3 victory. There have been three ten-run rule wins in the SCT finals all-time. In addition to the 2010 final, Ridge lost 10-0 to Immaculata in 2002, and Watchung Hills beat Bridgewater-Raritan West in 1982 by a 15-0 score.

Byrne could join rare company…

With a win, Connor Byrne could be among the few pitchers to win two SCT title games in his high school career.

The last time a starting pitcher won two SCT finals was in 1999 and 2000, when Casey Cahill did it for Immaculata during the Spartans’ run of six straight titles and ten in 12 seasons.

But two wins came more recently for Dylan Finer of Hillsborough, who got the win in both the 2014 and 2015 title games. However, in 2014’s win, he was the starter. He got the victory in 2015 in a relief effort.

Many rematches…

There have been six rematches in Somerset County Tournament finals, but this will be the first since 2007 and 2008, when Immaculata beat Hillsborough twice in a row. They also faced off in 2004 and 2005, with the Spartans winning the first, but the Raiders returning the favor in ’05.

Immaculata at Bridgewater-Raritan met for three straight years from 1996 to 1998, with the Panthers winning the first of the meetings, and the Spartans winning the next two.

In 1993 and ’94, Watchung Hills and Immaculata met back-to-back years, with the Warriors winning the first, and the Spartans winning the second. It was also the first time the tournament featured the same starting pitchers in back to back finals – Ben Matsil for Hills and Jason Ryan for ‘Lata.

The 1988 and ’89 finals featured Ridge and Bridgewater-Raritan, with the Panthers winning the first, and the Red Devils taking the second; that was the team that featured current Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell, who scored a run in the victory in 1989.

And the first rematch in the SCT final came in 1985, when Ridge won its second straight title – and fourth overall – blanking Immaculata 5-0.

Overall, there have been seven rematch games, with repeat wins coming in three of them: Ridge in 1985 and Immaculata in 1998 and 2008.

Ready for the Postseason?

Since baseball returned from COVID in the 2021 season, Ridge is 11-2 in its last 13 postseason games. There was no county tournament in 2021, but the Red Devils won four games to claim the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title over Franklin, but fell to Montclair in the Group 4 semifinals. In 2022, they won all three games they played in the SCT to take home the championship, then won their first two in the states before falling to Woodbridge in 11 innings in the North 2, Group 4 semis. This year, they are 2-0.

As for Rutgers Prep, they are just 8-9 this season, but it breaks down to 3-9 in regular season play, and a perfect 5-0 in playoff games. They won four SCT contests to get to Tuesday’s final, and also beat Princeton Day 13-2 last Thursday in the Prep B Tournament quarterfinals.

Ridge seeking second straight title as Red Devils, ace Byrne, take on Rutgers Prep

Nobody’s perfect all of the time, but even if Connor Byrne isn’t tonight, he still has a chance to be.

Byrne pitched a perfect game against exactly two weeks ago, a 1-0 win in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals against Bernards. But if he doesn’t duplicate the effort tonight in the SCT title game against Rutgers Prep – presented by Zoned Sports Academy on Central Jersey Sports Radio – he still may be unblemished.

That is: 2-0 in county finals, a rare feat.

You can hear the game Tuesday night as second-seed and defending champion Ridge takes on 12th-seed Rutgers Prep live from TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas call all the action. Pregame starts at 6:40; click here to listen.

The Red Devils started the season 3-2, with the losses coming to Hunterdon Central and Bridgewater-Raritan. But that defeat to the Panthers – the SCT’s top-seed, who got knocked out in the semis by Prep – was on April 11th, their last loss, coming nearly a month ago. That means Ridge is riding a 14-game winning streak, their latest victory a 5-3 road win just yesterday afternoon at Seton Hall Prep, a game in which they took the lead down to their final out in the top of the seventh.

Back to that rare feat: the last time a starting pitcher won two SCT finals was in 1999 and 2000, when Casey Cahill did it for Immaculata during the Spartans’ run of six straight titles and ten in 12 seasons.

Click below to hear Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell talk about the Red Devils’ quest for a second straight Somerset County title:

Ridge and Rutgers Prep: A look back at eight championships, and last year’s title tilt

No, Phil Connors, it’s not Groundhog Day.

When top-seed Ridge and 12-seed Rutgers Prep meet Tuesday night for the Somerset County Tournament title, it will be a rematch of last year’s meeting, which Ridge won 6-0 for its first title in eleven years.

Ridge has won more seven SCT crowns over the years, the Argonauts just one.

The Red Devils won in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1989, 2011 in addition to last year, while Rutgers Prep won it in 2017.

And some of those games were pretty wild, so we thought we’d refresh your memory.

Click the logo above to learn more about baseball training and more at Zoned Sports Academy in Bridgewater!


1976: Ridge 4, Watchung Hills 3 (10) – It was the last game of the year for the Red Devils, who’d already been eliminated from the state tournament, falling in the state Group 3 final to Lakewood. So this was it. Ridge jumped out to a 3-0 lead with the help of some Watchung Hills errors, but the Warriors got back into it with two in the fourth and one in the sixth to tie it. In the eighth, Lane Hobby slapped an 0-2 pitch down the left field line for a single. On a steal attempt, he was called out at second, but the umpire changed his call after he saw the ball had been dropped. Glenn Harris was intentionally walked, and with runners on first and second, Steve DeToro lined a shot back up the middle into center. Coach Pete Hall decided to send Hobby home, even though he told the media “the center fielder had the ball before Lane reached third base.” Figuring they might not get another chance to score – and it would still be tied if he were called out – he sent Hobby, who dove under the tag to win in walk-off fashion, before the term “walk-off” was fashionable. (This was 1976, after all.) Ridge finished what – at the time – was it’s longest baseball season ever: 25-6.

1980: Ridge 7, Franklin 1 – Less than 24 hours after losing to South Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game, the Red Devils had to get back out there and put it all behind them, to try and end the season on a high note. The defeat at the hands of the Vikings – in which Ridge played uncharacteristically poor defense – was just their second of the year against 23 wins, and had left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. In fact, still “shell-shocked,” as writer John Belis put it in the Courier News, the Red Devils found themselves down 2-1 in the top of the fourth before the skies opened up. The game was called, wiped from the scorebook, and started anew five days later, which allowed the Red Devils some time to realize “this was our championship game now,” according to pitcher Brad Powell. And Powell – their star pitcher – by then had enough days’ rest he could start. As usual, he mowed just about everyone down, even retiring 14 straight at one point en route to a 7-1 victory, and a 24-2 finish to the season. Ridge also was the Mountain Valley Conference champion.

1984: Ridge 2, Immaculata 0 – Ridge got on the board with a two-run home run by Bob Saraceno in the top of the first inning, and the Red Devils took that 2-0 lead into the seventh with starter Dave Kern having not allowed a single hit to the Spartans. He and Immaculata’s Steve Jasinski were locked in an epic pitcher’s duel, that two-run homer notwithstanding. But the Spartans nearly took the lead in the top of the seventh. With one out, Pete Anderson reached on an infield error, and after another out, Angelo Parenti singled up the middle. Then, the unthinkable nearly happened: Andy Castin hit a high fly deep to left, but nearly at the wall, left fielder Dan Pace reeled it in for the last out. Ridge had the title, and denied Immaculata its first ever SCT championship, in just its second finals appearance ever. Ridge finished the year 20-4, winning its third title in eight seasons.

1985: Ridge 5, Immaculata 0 – The two would meet again in the 1985 SCT final, with Ridge trying to become just the second team in the event’s 13-year history to win back-to-back titles, after Watchung Hills did it in 1982 and 1983. This one would be a little more comfortable for Ridge, which saw left fielder Steve Alexander knock in all all five runs in the victory, on a three-run smash in the second inning, and a two-run crush in the fourth, in a game played in front of a standing room only crowd at Somerset County College in North Branch, two years before it would be renamed Raritan Valley Community College.

1989: Ridge 5, Bridgewater-Raritan West 4 – While Ridge head coach Tom Blackwell has been the Red Devils’ skipper in three Somerset County Tournament Championship games – winning it it in 2011 – he also won a title as a player, in 1989. And for a while, he had scored the go-ahead run, as he and Rich Swift scored on a triple into the gap in right field by Jason Hipsher to make it 5-3 Ridge over the Golden Falcons. In the top of the seventh, though, West made it interesting. Mike Winchock hit a screaming line drive to third that would have been extra bases, but Eric Schneideman leapt into the air to grab it for the out. Bob Collins then hit a double that would have driven him in and made it 5-4. Collins eventually came in to score on a single, and had Winchock reached, it would have been 5-5. But it wasn’t, and Ridge ended a two-game skid in the county final – having lost in 1987 and 1988 – and avenged the previous year’s 3-1 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan West in the process. But it also was the last in a stretch of 14 years in which the Red Devils had made eight Somerset County finals in 14 seasons, winning five of them. They would go 0-for-their-next-3 SCT title games – in 1995, 2000 and 2002, before Blackwell would return, taking over as head coach for the 2006 season.

2011: Ridge 4, Hillsborough 3 (8) Ridge was the eighth seed in the Somerset County Tournament in 2011, and rode senior right-handed pitcher J.B. Kole all the way to the county championship. With an 0-2 mark heading into the tournament, he was the winning pitcher in the opening round against Gill St. Bernard’s, in the quarterfinals against top-seed Immaculata, and in the semifinals against 4-seed Watchung Hills. Now, at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater, they faced third-seed Hillsborough, and fell behind early. But no matter; they had come back before. They erased a 3-0 deficit against the Warriors in the semis, and would have to do it again, allowing the Raiders two runs in the first and one more in the second. But he would keep his team in it as they chipped back. Ridge got a run in the fourth. Another in the sixth cut the lead in to 3-2. They tied it in the top of the seventh when Dan Volpacchio singled, moved to second on a balk, and came into score on Dan Curcio’s two-out single into right field, coming on a 3-2 pitch with two out. Then, Kole put his team ahead with one out in the eighth, driving in Greg Fazio, who’d reached on an infield error. All he had to do now was set Hillsborough aside in the eighth, and he did: 1-2-3 for a complete game, eight inning effort, scattering five Raider hits. The win put Ridge over the .500 mark at 11-10; they finished 15-13, going 3-1 in regular season play the rest of the way, and getting knocked out in the second round of the North 2 Group 4 playoff section by Hunterdon Central, 5-3, a team they’d beaten 3-2 in a regular season game just two days prior.

2022: Ridge 6, Rutgers Prep 0 – Connor Byrne was lights out for the Red Devils, and the bats did the rest. The junior allowed only four baserunners all night, allowing just two hits, one walk and notching ten strikeouts. But Rutgers Prep freshman Zach Fronio was battling him step-for-step until the fourth, when – thanks to a throwing error that prolonged the inning – Ridge got to him for three unearned runs. They picked up an insurance run in the fifth and two more in the sixth, as Byrne won his ninth game of the season against just one loss. The county championship was the first in eleven years for Ridge – since 2011 – and snapped a two-game finals’ skid for the Red Devils, who had lost in 2014 and 2019, the last SCT before 2022, with COVID wiping out the entire high school season in 2020, and the shortened season in 2021 making an SCT impossible with not enough time to play enough games to seed the tourney in time to play the finals before the states. Check out the full game recap with postgame audio here.


2017: Rutgers Prep 7, Montgomery 2 – If you make a tournament final, of any kind, in any sport, you’re playing well. Call it luck, call it skill, you’re playing well. And many had discounted 10-seed Rutgers Prep five years ago, but nobody in an Argonaut uniform believed it. After all, they had beaten 2nd-seed Watchung Hills in the quarterfinals, 2-1 in 11 innings. Then they exploded against 3-seed Bridgewater-Raritan for a 12-2 semifinal win. But to all outside observers, no one imagined they’d beat top-seeded defending champion Montgomery. And yet, they did. Starter Sam Beck had the Cougar hitters off balance all night. The defense was crisp. And the bats came out to play. All that led to the first county title in program history. Beck threw 6 and 1/3 innings, alloweing just two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out six. The win also was career victory number 250 for head coach Larry Santowasso, who this year eclipsed the 300 mark, and now sits at 311 and counting heading into the 2022 SCT final, in this, his 26th season.

Rutgers Prep looks to keep late-season momentum building in pursuit of SCT crown

Sitting among his fellow coaches in the Somerset County seeding meeting just two weeks into the regular season, Larry Santowasso – a veteran coach in his 27th season – knew his Rutgers Prep team was better than its 1-6 record would indicate.

The Argonauts, loaded with talent, had gotten off to (nearly) the worst start possible. With significant parts back from their run to the title game last year, they found themselves playing on the opening weekend of the tournament as the 12th-seed, with a 2-6 record heading into their first-round game at Watchung Hills.

Put that down as an 8-0 win over the 13th-seed, a mild first-round upset.

Good enough, but then Rutgers Prep would go on – after a regular season 11-10 loss at Montgomery – to win three straight in the county tournament.

They picked up revenge wins over 5th-seed Franklin, 5-4 in the second round, and over 4th-seed Somerville, 3-2 in the quarterfinals, both on the road.

Then, at TD Bank Ballpark, in the semifinals, against top-seed Bridgewater-Raritan, the Argonauts jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and hung on to win 4-3, thanks in large part to a solid pitching performance by Zach Fronio, who got in some late trouble, but made like Houdini in the end.

Now, here they are in the county final again, set to take on 2nd-seed Ridge Tuesday night for the second year in a row in the Somerset County Tournament Championship Game presented by Zoned Sports Academy of Bridgewater.

Game time is 7:00; pregame is 6:40 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio with Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action. Click here to listen.

Click below for a preview with Rutgers Prep head coach Larry Santowasso:

Ridge remains No. 1 in Week 5 Bellamy Top Ten after red-hot 5-0 week

On the strength of a five-win week, Ridge – winners of 13 straight – is the No. 1 team again this week in the Bellamy & Son Paving Week Five rankings.

The Red Devils are 16-2 and travel to Seton Hall Prep Monday ahead of Tuesday’s Somerset County Tournament Final against 12-seed Rutgers Prep, which you can hear right here on Central Jersey Sports Radio at 7 pm. Ridge is going for its second straight title.

Old Bridge (13-6) holds at No. 2 after going 2-1 last week, and opens play in the GMC Tournament second round tomorrow at 4 pm against 15th-seed Carteret.

Bridgewater-Raritan (13-3) went 2-0 last week, with wins over Hunterdon Central and Immaculata, the latter a 19-4 slugfest.

North Brunswick (11-5) moves up to No. 4 after a 3-1 week. The Raiders earned the top-seed in the GMC Tournament, finishing just ahead of Old Bridge, despite being swept two games by them in the regular season.

Checking in at No. 5 is Monroe (8-6), which went 2-2 in the past week, splitting a two-game set with Old Bridge, losing at Woodbridge, but beating Sayreville (12-5) – which drops to sixth – by an 11-1 score.

In seventh is Woodbridge (13-4), which went 4-0 last week, right ahead of Spotswood (13-4), which had a 2-2 week. The Chargers visit the Barrons Monday night in a GMC Tournament second round game, the opener for both schools.

Moving up one place to No. 9 is Rutgers Prep (8-9), which was 2-2 in the week gone by, including a win in the Preb B Tournament quarterfinals over Princeton Day, 13-2. The Argonauts take on 6-seed Doane Academy on Wendesday in the semifinals, but before that have that date with Ridge in the SCT Finals Tuesday night.

Rejoining the rankings this week is Bernards (10-5) in the ten spot, following a 3-1 week.

Edison dropped out after going 0-4 in the week gone by, with losses to Woodbridge, Old Bridge, East Brunswick and North Brunswick.

Below are the full Week 5 Bellamy & Son Paving Week 5 Rankings:

There’s a new, old team atop the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten in Week Four

The Ridge Red Devils were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten, and lasted two weeks there until they became one of two high profile victims of Bridgewater-Raritan, whose takeover of the top spot also was aided by a big win over Hunterdon Central.

But a win by Ridge this weekend in the rematch – and the Panthers’ upset loss to Rutgers Prep in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals (Bridgewater was the top seed) – has put them back at No. 1, With a 4-0 week, Ridge is now 11-2 on the season.

Old Bridge also move sup to third, despite a 2-2 week, now 11-5 on the season, picking up wins over South Brunswick and South Plainfield; they split with the Tigers. Last Sunday, the Knights knocked off statewide No. 1 Red Bank Catholic in their Autism Awareness Challenge game.

Bridgewater-Raritan (11-3) drops to third after a 2-2 week. In addition to the loss to the Argonauts in the county tournament and Ridge in regular season play, they had wins over Immaculata in the SCT, as well as West Morris.

Teams four through eight saw no movement this week.

In fourth is Sayreville (10-3) after a 2-0 week that saw wins over Colonia and Metuchen, while North Brunswick (8-4) also went 2-0, with victories over JFK and East Brunswick.

Woodbridge (9-4) is in sixth after a 2-1 week that saw a win at South Plainfield and a home win over Rahway, as well as a loss to Edison, with the second of the home-and-home at the Eagles’ home field Monday afternoon. Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the Barrons’ Tuesday evening home game against Perth Amboy at 7:00. Click here to listen.

Monroe (6-4) only had one game this week, a 4-3 win over South Plainfield, and remains in seventh.

Spotswood (11-2) won both its games this week, sweeping a home-and-home with arch-rival South River, 6-1 and 1-0.

New to the poll this week are Edison (11-3) and Rutgers Prep (6-7).

The Eagles had a 3-0 week, with wins over Middlesex at home, and against Piscataway and Woodbridge on the road; again, they finish their series in Edison Monday.

The Argonauts won both their games this week, both in the Somerset County Tournament. They topped Somerville 3-2 on Tuesday, then knocked off top-seed and statewide No. 5 Bridgewater-Raritan 4-3 in the semifinals on Thursday.

Dropping out were No. 9 East Brunswick (5-8) and #10 Pingry (6-5).

Below are the full Week 4 Bellamy & Son Paving High School Baseball rankings: