Tag: state tournament

INSTANT REPLAY: Group 4 Final – Ridgewood 4, Old Bridge 0

The Old Bridge Knights fell to the Ridgewood Maroons in their first ever trip to the state finals, losing 4-0 in the statewide Group 4 title game on June 10, 2023.

Click below to hear Korbid Thompson call all the play-by-play from Bob DeMeo Field at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton:

Old Bridge falls short in Group 4 final; Knights fall 4-0 to Ridgewood

by Korbid Thompson

The two teams on a collision course to Bob DeMeo Field in Hamilton took very different paths to get there. In the end, Ridgewood came out as a champion.

The championship season of Old Bridge – they won Central Jersey Group 4 – would have come to an end one way or the other on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Knights, they would end up on the short end of a 4-0 final at the hands of North Jersey, Section 1 champ Ridgewood (24-7) in the NJSIAA Group 4 finals at Veterans’ Park.

It was a scoreless game until the bottom of the third inning, when Old Bridge starting pitcher Justin Hascup would hit a bump in the road. Bobby Kuensler of Ridgewood started the inning with a leadoff single. Two batters later, senior third baseman Lucas Barker hit a line drive to left center field that cleared the fence for a two-run home run.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hascup looked to be in the clear, as the inning started with two out and nobody on base, but Jay Wittmaack would the first walk of the day for the Maroons, and leadoff man J.T. Luther delivered an RBI single to bring home Wittmaack for a 3-0 Ridgewood lead. 

Old Bridge’s best chance to score some runs off Ridgewood starter Vincent Luther would come in the top of the sixth inning, when the top two guys in the Knights’ batting order would reach base to start the inning. John Smith singled, followed by a Thomas Papeo single. Two batters later, Mike Villani single to load the bases. With one out, designated hitter Frank Papeo would step to the plate. On a 1-2 pitch from Luther, Papeo would ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat for the Knights.

Ridgewood would tack on one more run in the bottom of the sixth with a first and third double steal, as pinch runner Zach Kranz would score from third base after pinch runner Calder Warden would steal second, drawing the throw from Old Bridge catcher Kyle McSorley. 

That was all Vincent Luther would need. Luther would pitch 6 2/3 innings, having to exit from the mound after throwing 113 pitches on the day. Senior righty Brendan Chanley would come in to get J.T. Meyer to pop out to first base for the final out, and give Ridgewood their second state championship in five years.

As for Old Bridge, the Knights finish their season at 21-9 under fifth year head coach Matt Donaghue with a Central Jersey, Group 4 title in their trophy case.

Click below for postgame reaction from Korbid Thompson with Old Bridge head coach Matt Donaghue:

Old Bridge seeks historic title in state Group 4 final against Ridgewood Saturday

Very rarely does a team play a game it knows is it’s last of the season, especially a winning team.

But that’s the case for Old Bridge Saturday, when the Central Jersey Group 4 champion Knights (21-8, 7-5 GMC Red, 2nd place) travel down to Veterans’ Park in Hamilton to take on Ridgewood (23-7, 8-0 Big North Freedom champs) at Bob DeMeo Field, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Scroll through for a complete preview of the game:

Group 4 Finals: Old Bridge (21-8) vs. Ridgewood (23-7)
When: Saturday, 4 pm (pregame 3:45)
Where: Bob DeMeo Field, Veterans’ Park – Hamilton, NJ
Coverage: Korbid Thompson on play-by-play (click here to listen)
First Pitch Forecast: 79, partly sunny, WNW wind 8 mph (out to left field)

Old Bridge: Justin Hascup (9-1, 1.47) OR Frank Papeo (6-2, 1.56 ERA)
Ridgewood: Vincent Luthor (8-2, 1.47) OR Brendan Chanley (3-1, 1.30)


Old Bridge: Matt Donaghue, 5th season (82-62)
Ridgewood: Kurt Hommen, 10th season

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Old Bridge head coach Matt Donaghue about the Knights’ run this season, and the Group 4 title game:


Old Bridge (No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group 4)

  • def. (16) West Windsor-Plainsboro North 3-0 in CJ4 1st round
  • def. (9) West Windsor-Plainsboro South 10-0 in CJ4 quarterfinals
  • def. (5) East Brunswick 8-0 in CJ4 semifinals
  • def. (2) North Brunswick 2-1 in CJ4 finals
  • def. South champion Eastern 8-6 in Group 4 semifinals

Ridgewood (No. 4 seed in North 1, Group 4)

  • def. (13) Morristown 10-0 in N1-4 1st round
  • def. (12) Paterson Eastside 14-4 in N1-4 quarterfinals
  • def. (1) Passaic Tech 8-1 in N1-4 semifinals
  • def. (2) Bloomfield 12-11 in N1-4 finals
  • def. North 2 champion Bayonne 14-13 in Group 4 semifinals

Game Preview

Old Bridge allowed just a single run – to North Brunswick in the sectional final – in four Central Jersey Group 4 playoff games, but found themselves in a tough battle with Eastern. They found a way, with timely hitting, good pitching when they needed it, and an aggressive style that caused Eastern to make mistakes they shouldn’t have. But that’s what the Knights do: put pressure on other teams. Expect them to do more of the same.

Pitch counts reset with four days in between games, so both coaches have their whole compliment available. JT Meyer was a surprise start in the Group 4 semis, and pitched well overall, the big blow a three-run home run by Sam Winsett. Justin Hascup got the win in relief, and is the more likely starter for Saturday’s game.

This is the first-ever trip to the state finals for the Knights, whose longtime skipper – and head coach Matt Donaghue’s former coach – Fred Cole brought Madison Central here in 1988, a year before they won the GMC Tournament. Their CJ4 title is their first since 2015, but they lost to Williamstown that year in the state semifinals.

Old Bridge is a veteran group. Thomas Papeo is the top hitter at .404, driving in 18 runs, while Kyle McSorley has a team-leading 27 RBIs and six home runs; both are seniors. Fellow senior Mike Villani is hitting .391 with 17 runs batted in, third on the team, and no bigger three RBIs than the ones he drove in with a bases-clearing double to left-center that tied his team with Eastern at 6-6 on Monday back at Fred Cole Field.

Ridgewood got knocked out of the Bergen County Tournament in its first game, in the Round of 16, with a 5-1 loss to Pascack Valley. But the Maroons have won nine straight since then, including their last two in their final at bat. They came from behind and scored two in the top of the seventh at Bloomfield in the North 1, Group 4 final to win 12-11, then won a back-and-forth game with a walk-off single against Bayonne to take a 14-13 decision in the group semifinals.

Ridgewood is a solid-hitting team, about 60 points higher than Old Bridge, which was right about even with Eastern. They have four regulars hitting .400 or better, led by senior JT Luther, hitting .442 with 29 runs batted in and three home runs. No one has hit more than four, but they have 18 on the year as a team. Jack Foerch hits .435 with a team-leading 35 RBI.

Pitching-wise, they don’t give up much, with an ERA of 1.73 on the season.

Can Old Bridge continue to rep CJ4?

The winner of Central Jersey Group 4 has won four of the last seven statewide Group 4 titles. That includes Hunterdon Central in 2016 and 2018, Middletown South in 2021, and Howell last season.


Spotswood skipper Fredricks knew Donaghue would have an impact at Old Bridge, where Knights play for first-ever state title this weekend

Old Bridge baseball coach Matt Donaghue played for one of the best, and now leads his own Knights into a state title game this Saturday for the first time ever, just like his high school coach, the late Fred Cole, did for Madison Central in 1988.

And one longtime GMC coach who knew Donaghue from his playing days says he knew he’d be destined for something special the first time he saw him play.

Spotswood coach Glenny Fredricks – who, himself, has been the Chargers’ coach for close to two decades now – says Donaghue made a great impression on him, when – in 2005 – he had a key hit to knock his very first Spotswood team out of the GMC Tournament.

After Donaghue played collegiately at Kean and was looking to get into coaching after graduation, Fredricks said he never forgot the name, and brought him on as an assistant. Now, he sees Donaghue’s Old Bridge team in the same mold as he sees his own: gritty, aggressive, and tight-knit.

All of that, Fredricks says, has been key to the success of Old Bridge baseball this year, and will continue to be when the Knights (21-8) take on Ridgewood (23-7) on Saturday at 4 pm for the state Group 4 title, in a game you can hear live on Central Jersey Sports Radio from Bob DeMeo Field at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton. (Click here to listen live.)

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk about Old Bridge coach Matt Donaghue’s Knights and their key to success:

NJSIAA moves baseball, track-and-field championships due to poor air quality from Canadian wildfires

The smokey, hazy conditions that have caused unhealthy air conditions across the Northeast has forced the NJSIAA to postpone and combine some of its championship events this weekend.

The Non-Public baseball finals scheduled for 4 and 7 pm at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton were moved from Thursday to Friday at the same time. The Group B final will be St. Mary-Rutherford against Gloucester Catholic at 4 pm at Bob DeMeo Field, followed by the Group A final – Don Bosco Prep against Red Bank Catholic – at 7 pm.

Meanwhile, the two-day NJSIAA group track meets were combined into a one-day event. They were supposed to take place at Delsea and Franklin High Schools Friday and Saturday, but now will be combined into events at both schools on Saturday only.

As of 1 pm, a revised meet schedule had not been put together, but running and field events will begin at 9:30 am at both locations.

The NJSIAA has been monitoring air quality since yesterday, in a story first reported by Central Jersey Sports Radio Wednesday morning. While forecasters expect conditions to get better Friday, and possibly into Saturday, many say it’s difficult to predict the weather patterns that could bring more smoky haze into the area as several wildfires continue to burn in Quebec.

The NJSIAA had said it would make decisions on a daily basis about games, so it’s unclear whether the Friday events, or even Saturday’s public baseball state finals would be moved further if unhealthy air quality persists.

Air quality levels were reported “hazardous” in most areas of the state on Wednesday, but by Thursday, many areas had improved to “unhealthy.”

NJSIAA monitoring air quality, but no changes yet to HS slate due to smoke from Canadian wildfires

As air quality continues to suffer around the entire Northeast, into the Midwest and down South due to lingering smoke from massive Canadian wildfires, the NJSIAA is monitoring the situation as it relates to high school sports, with several championships still to be contested through the weekend.

The Non-Public Group Finals for baseball are scheduled for Thursday afternoon and evening at Bob DeMeo Field in Hamilton’s Veteran’s Park, with the Public Group Finals set for Saturday, with games scheduled for 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm.

Old Bridge will play in its first-ever state final Saturday at 4:00 when the Knights take on Ridgewood, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with pregame set for 3:45 pm. Click here to listen.

According to the US Air Quality Index, the air quality in Lawrenceville, just a few miles away from Veterans’ Park in Hamilton, is deemed “unhealthy” with an AQI of 180, meaning “Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

Improvement could come Thursday at the earliest, according to some media reports, which also have said New York City currently has the worst air quality in the world. ABC7 reports that New York City schools are open, but “students will not be doing any outdoor activities during their school day.”

Additionally, some high school sports events have been cancelled or postponed in upstate New York, while a Yahoo! News report also cited the cancellation of outdoor school activities as far south as Washington, D.C.

The NJSIAA told Central Jersey Sports Radio in a statement today that it “is closely monitoring air quality data across New Jersey and local/state health advisories.  As start times for athletic events draw near, we will make decisions for each venue and sport based on currently available information.  Schools should monitor official NJSIAA communications only for updates and understand that all schedules are subject to change.”

The NJSIAA has numerous other outdoor sports in the midst of championships at the moment.

  • Softball non-public state finals are Friday, with publics on Saturday, both at Kean University in Union.
  • Boys’ lacrosse has public state finals at Hopewell Valley and Bridgewater-Raritan High Schools Friday, with non-publics at East Brunswick on Saturday.
  • Girls’ lacrosse has Non-public and public state finals on Friday and Saturday, respectively, Saturday at Hunterdon Central in Flemington.
  • Track-and-field has Groups 1, 4 and Non-Public A at Franklin High School, with Groups 2, 3 and Non-Public B at Delsea High School on Friday and Saturday. The Meet of Champions at Franklin isn’t until next Wednesday, June 14th.
  • The boys’ tennis singles and doubles tournament runs Saturday through next Thursday, June 15 at Veterans’ Park in Hamilton and Mercer County Park for the first two rounds, and at Mercer from the quarterfinals on.

Championship Week in Old Bridge as baseball and boys’ volleyball look to finish off historic seasons, bring home state titles

The Old Bridge baseball team isn’t the only squad looking to bring home state championship hardware in the coming days.

Before the Knights’ nine play Ridgewood for the Group 4 title at Bob DeMeo Field in Hamilton’s Veteran’s Park this Saturday (4 pm, CJSR – click here to listen), the boys’ volleyball team will look to bring home some a trophy when the second-seeded Knights travel to top-seed Southern this afternoon for the South Jersey Group 4 title at 5 pm.

Old Bridge volleyball is in the midst of a historic undefeated season, with head coach Andrew Hopman taking the team to another level, following four straight state championships dating back to 2018.

The squad is 123-16 in that period, but 29-0 this year. In fact, the Knights have only lost two sets all year: one to Kingsway in the regular season, and one to Monroe in the semifinals of the GMC Tournament. Overall, Old Bridge volleyball has won 35 straight.

Should they beat Southern, the state Group 4 final would be at 2 pm in South Brunswick this Saturday against the North Jersey Group 4 winner, either fifth-seed Bridgewater-Raritan or third-seed Bloomfield.

As for baseball, they’re already in the Group 4 final. It’ll be their first time there in school history, with Matt Donaghue in his fifth year as head coach. Donaghue is an OBHS alum, and played for the late Fred Cole, who previously had brought Madison Central to the Group 4 final in 1988, a year before winning its only GMC Tournament title in 1989. That ’88 team lost to Memorial (West New York) in the Group 4 title game.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Old Bridge Athletic Director Dan DiMino about the Knights’ success in baseball and volleyball this Spring:

INSTANT REPLAY: Group 4 Semifinals – Old Bridge 8, Eastern 6

The Old Bridge Knights clinched a berth in their first-ever state final with an 8-6 win over Eastern in the Group 4 semifinals. The go-ahead run broke a 6-6 tie in the sixth inning when Justin Hascup scored from third on a balk, while an insurance run scored on a pitch in the dirt that went to the backstop.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko and Dylan Allen call all the action from Fred Cole Field on June 5, 2023:

Old Bridge carrying GMC flag as lone sectional champ into Group 4 semifinal battle with Eastern

With all the great baseball that was played by the Greater Middlesex Conference this season, particularly in the Red Division, one team remains: Old Bridge.

The Knights (20-8, 7-5 in the GMC Red) didn’t even make the county tournament semifinals, showing how everybody could beat anybody, but here they are, Central Jersey Group 4 champions for the first time since 2015, and now in the Group 4 semifinals, where they will take on the Eastern Vikings (17-10-1), the South Jersey Group 4 champions, out of the Olympic Conference.

Scroll through for a complete preview of the game, which can be heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio:

Group 4 Semifinals: Old Bridge (20-8) vs. Eastern (17-10-1)
When: Monday, 5 pm
Where: Fred Cole Field, campus of Carl Sandburg Middle School in Old Bridge, NJ
Coverage: Mike Pavlichko, Dylan Allen on play-by-play (click here to listen)
First Pitch Forecast: 76, partly sunny, NNW wind 10 mph (out to centerfield)

Old Bridge: Frank Papeo (6-2, 1.56 ERA)
Eastern: Logan Dawson (3-1, 2.36 ERA)


Old Bridge: Matt Donaghue, 5th season (81-62)

Rob Christ: Rob Christ, 19th season (447-205-1)


Old Bridge (No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group 4)

  • def. (16) West Windsor-Plainsboro North 3-0 in 1st round
  • def. (9) West Windsor-Plainsboro South 10-0 in quarterfinals
  • def. (5) East Brunswick 8-0 in semifinals
  • def. (2) North Brunswick 2-1 in finals

Eastern (No. 11 seed in South Jersey Group 4)

  • def. (6) Millville 12-0 in 1st round
  • def. (3) Egg Harbor 2-0 in quarterfinals
  • def. (7) Southern 11-2 in semifinals
  • def. (5) Rancocas Valley 2-0 in finals

WHAT’S NEXT? The winner of today’s game goes to the statewide Group 4 finals, set for 4 pm Saturday at Bob DeMeo Field at Veterans Park in Hamilton, against the winner or the North 1 vs. North 2 game, featuring North 1 winner Ridgewood (22-7) hosting North 2 winner Bayonne (25-6). That game is a 4 pm first pitch Monday.

Game Preview

Old Bridge finished second in the GMC Red Division to North Brunswick, despite having beaten the Raiders twice in the regular season, once in 10 innings. But they were bounced by South Plainfield – another Red Division team they’d beaten in the regular season – in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals. En route to the Central Jersey Group 4 final, they pitched three shutouts, and only allowed one run to North Brunswick in the title game, beating the Raiders for a third time this season, this time 2-1 for the Knights’ first sectional title since 2015. That year, they lost to Williamstown in the semifinals.

Old Bridge is a veteran group. Thomas Papeo is the top hitter at .407, driving in 18 runs, while Kyle McSorley has a team-leading 27 RBIs and six home runs; both are seniors. Fellow senior Mike Villani is hitting .382 with 14 runs batted in, third on the team.

And if you did the easy math earlier, Old Bridge has allowed a grand total of one run in four playoff games, as the pitching duo of Justin Hascup and Frank Papeo has been lights out, and nearly unhittable. They’ve split the starts, and along with reliever Justin “J.T.” Meyer, they have allowed a combined nine hits in those four games.

Eastern is the surprise 11-seed out of South Jersey Group 4, on their longest winning streak of the season, at six games, having entered the state playoffs at just 12-10-1. (They had a regular season win between their first round and quarterfinal games over Camden Catholic.) They’ve also had three shutouts in these playoffs, only allowing two runs to Southern in the sectional semifinals. Their win over Rancocas Valley – the fifth seed – in the final came after a pair of regular season losses, 7-0 on April 24th and 8-7 on May 16th.

The Vikings are led offensively by Jack Bauer, who’s hitting .450 with four runs batted in, but he won’t be in the starting lineup against Old Bridge; he could see time as a pinch hitter or late-game substitution. Next up is senior catcher Bill Bentliff, hitting .354 with 10 RBI, and freshman Vinny Mellilo, hitting .328 on the year.

Is it 2019 all over again?

After two off years following COVID – at 14-9 in 2021 and 12-13 last season – the Vikings are back where they left off prior to the pandemic year shutdown. In 2019, they were 23-9, won South Jersey Group 4, and beat Manalapan in the Group 4 semis, before losing 2-1 in the Group 4 final to Ridgewood. Eastern had won 20 or more games every year from 2015 through 2019, and though this is the longest they’ve gone in the state tournament since, they can’t get to 20 this year. They’re at 17 wins now, with only a maximum two more games remaining.

That 2019 season was the last year Old Bridge had made a sectional final; they lost to Manalapan. And Ridgewood is in the other Group 4 final, with first pitch set for 4 pm today in Bayonne.

Is Central 4 the real deal?

The winner of Central Jersey Group 4 has won four of the last seven statewide Group 4 titles. That includes Hunterdon Central in 2016 and 2018, Middletown South in 2021, and Howell last season.


INSTANT REPLAY: Non-Public South A Final – (1) Red Bank Catholic 4, (2) St. Joseph-Metuchen 1

The top-seeded Red Bank Catholic Caseys rallied for four runs in the final two innings to come back from a 1-0 first-inning deficit, to beat second-seed St. Joseph-Metuchen 4-1 in the Non-Public South A title game.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call all the action from Count Basie Park in Red Bank on June 3, 2023: