Baseball – NJSIAA Sectional Final Preview
Sectional championship Friday is upon us and four Shore Conference programs will be playing for a championship – all on the road. Below is a quick glance at each of the four sectional finals involving Shore Conference public school teams.
Central Jersey Group IV
No. 4 Freehold Boro (18-8) at No. 3 Hunterdon Central (22-5), 4 p.m.
Road to the Final
Freehold Boro: Defeated No. 13 Hightstown, 8-1; No. 5 Freehold Twp., 5-2; No. 1 Montgomery, 1-0
Hunterdon Central: Defeated No. 14 Hillsborough, 11-1; No. 6 East Brunswick, 6-1; No. 2 Manalapan, 6-1
Freehold Boro is seeking its first sectional championship since reaching the Group III final in 2012 and just like that team, this Colonials club has a pair of standouts on the mound. Senior Tom Holdorf fired a one-hitter in a 1-0 win over top-seeded Montgomery on Tuesday, which means Friday will be fellow senior left-hander Dan Chiusano’s turn to take the ball. Chiusano pitched a complete game with nine strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Freehold Township in the sectional quarterfinals and carries a 6-2 record into the game.
Joey DeChiaro will likely be the Hunterdon Central counter to Chiusano after DiChiaro pitched the Red Raiders past East Brunswick in the quarterfinal round. The offense also comes in hot, averaging 7.7 runs per game in the tournament and led by Pete Cosentino – who is 3-for-10 with two homers and four RBI in three tournament games.
Central Jersey Group III
No. 14 Neptune (10-12) at No. 4 Allentown (23-2), 4 p.m.
Road to the Final
Neptune: Defeated No. 3 Wall, 4-2; No. 6 Northern Burlington, 4-3; No. 7 Jackson Liberty, 8-7.
Allentown: Defeated No. 13 Hamilton West, 11-0; No. 5 Nottingham, 7-6; No. 1 Toms River South, 4-3.
Few sectional finals feature a greater disparity in overall record than the Central Jersey Group III championship features. Neptune will look to win its first sectional championship in ages as a sub-.500 team taking on a 23-2 Redbird team that entered the season with both internal and external expectations to win a state title.
Not only is Neptune facing a battle-tested team with its top pitcher available to throw 95 pitches, but the Fliers will have to do so with a shorter pitching staff than they’ve had during the first three games of the run. Sophomore Ron Cole closed out each of Neptune’s first three wins in relief, but his 80 pitches on Tuesday make him ineligible to pitch at all on Friday. With senior left-hander Justin Tucker also ineligible after throwing 87 pitches in his start on Tuesday, senior Dylan Taliaferro is left to take the ball and run with it as far into the start as possible. Taliaferro lasted five innings in the quarterfinals while earning the win over Northern Burlington and has also swung a dangerous bat during the tournament (6-for-10, two doubles, five runs scored).
Jordan Winston pitched three innings of relief on 45 pitches to earn the win Wednesday against Toms River South and will be available for 95 on Friday. Winston is committed to Oklahoma State and is 8-0 on the season with a 1.35 ERA. His three scoreless innings against Toms River South on Wednesday gave his team a chance to rally from a 3-0 deficit, which it did by scoring four runs in the sixth inning. Allentown is seeking its first sectional title since 2008, when the Redbirds won the overall Group II championship.
South Jersey Group IV
No. 11 Southern (17-8) vs. No. 8 Lenape (20-6), 4 p.m.
Road to the Final
Southern: Defeated No. 6 Vineland, 5-3; No. 14 Jackson Memorial, 4-2; No. 2 Egg Harbor, 3-2
Lenape: Defeated No. 9 Toms River North, 8-2; No. 1 Eastern, 2-1; No. 4 Rancocas Valley, 8-1
Southern is one win away from its first sectional championship since winning Central Jersey Group II in 1967 and in order to bring home the trophy, the Rams will have to defeat a Lenape team that has had one of the more impressive tournament performances of any team in the state. Meeting that goal will rest on the right arm of senior right-hander Nick Simone, who has found his touch over the last three weeks. In his only NJSIAA tournament start, Simone allowed a run in five innings against Jackson Memorial but he also won the state tournament opener over Vineland by pitching 1 1/3 innings of relief.
Southern also has Zach Fillmore available for 77 pitches after the senior left-hander threw 63 on Tuesday. Fillmore closed out the win over Jackson and picked up the win on Tuesday with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief work. Fillmore started Southern’s other championship appearance this year, which was a 13-4 loss to Toms River North in the Ocean County Tournament final.
Senior Mike Audet will get the start for Lenape after quieting a loaded Eastern team in his last start. On their way to the championship game, the Indians took down Ocean County champion and Shore Conference Tournament finalist Toms River North, an Eastern team ranked in the top five in the state to open the year and No. 1 in the section, and a 18-win Rancocas Valley team – all by an aggregate score of 18-4. Jake Topolski leads the offense, hitting .420 with six doubles, two triples and three home runs and is 3-for-9 in the tournament.
South Jersey Group II
No. 4 Manasquan (13-10) at No. 3 West Deptford (15-11), 4 p.m.
Road to the Final
Manasquan: Defeated No. 13 Sterling, 6-0; No. 5 Bordentown, 3-2; No. 8 Cedar Creek, 7-1.
West Deptford: Defeated No. 14 Middle, 6-2; No. 11 Barnegat, 6-5; No. 7 Cinnaminson, 11-5.
In order to win its first sectional championship since 1986, Manasquan will have to beat defending Group II champion West Deptford. The Warriors have made it this far thanks to its two-headed monster at the top of the rotation. After Notre-Dame-bound left-hander Tommy Sheehan pitched Manasquan in the championship by striking out 14 in a two-hitter vs. Cedar Creek on Tuesday, Old Dominion commit and senior right-hander Connor Muly will try to finish the job.
While Sheehan entered the season with more fanfare given his First-team All-Shore season as a junior and commitment to Notre Dame, Muly has had every bit the senior season as his classmate. He is 4-3 with a 1.53 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 55 innings and will have the honor of trying to bring the Warriors a sectional title. He defeated Bordentown in the sectional quarterfinals by pitching a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 3-2 Manasquan win.
West Deptford will counter with Jack Murphy, who worked six innings in a 6-5 win over Barnegat in the sectional quarterfinals, in which he gave up one earned run. The Eagles’ run to the final has been more about their offense, which has posted 23 runs in three games. Kyle Garrison and Peter Orio each launched a home run in an 11-5 win over Cinnaminson on Tuesday and Darren McKeown was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two stolen bases.