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NJSIAA Baseball Tournament

Public Sectional Championships

Friday, June 2, 2023

Central Jersey Group III

No. 4 Lawrence (21-6) at No. 3 Middletown North (16-8), 4 p.m.

Lawrence at a Glance

Head Coach: Jim Maher

Last Sectional Championship: 1974

Probable Starting Pitcher

Connor Crowley, So., RHP (5-0. 27.2 IP, 1.77 ERA, 21 H, 11 BB, 42 K)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

Robert Kelly, Sr., RHP (110)

Aiden Poot, Fr., RHP (110)

Ineligible Pitchers

Kellen Moore, Jr., RHP

Key Hitters

Teak Toko, So., RF (.424, 4 2B, 3 3B, 19 R, 32 RBI)

Robert Kelly, Jr., SS (.290, 2 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 23 R, 15 RBI)

Riley Rivera, Jr., 2B (.368, 3 2B, 3 3B, 13 R, 13 RBI)

Kellen Moore, Jr., 1B/C (.312, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 16 R, 22 RBI)

Deacon Moore, Fr., DH/OF (.429, 4 2B, 18 R, 14 RBI)

Giovanni Brogle, Sr., CF (.317, 2 2B, 25 R, 9 RBI, 9 SB)

Road to the Final

First Round: Kellen Moore pitched the first of his two complete-game gems in the state tournament, this time tossing a three-hit shutout with five strikeouts and no walks in a 5-0 win over No. 13 Colts Neck. Sophomore Teak Toko led the offense by going 2-for-3 with a double, run scored and two RBI.

Quarterfinal: After falling in a 3-0 hole to No. 12 Robbinsville in the top of the first inning, Lawrence came right back with three in the bottom of the inning and took the lead in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk by Toto. After adding one more in the fifth on a wild pitch, the Cardinals closed out a 5-3 win, with Toto going 2-for-2 with two more RBI.

Semifinal: Moore was sharp again, although this time, No. 9 Matawan pounced for two runs in the third inning to go up 2-0. Moore shut down the Huskies the rest of the way to finish off a five-hitter and the Cardinals offense – and the Matawan defense – gave him just enough help. Junior shortstop Robert Kelly hit a big ground-rule double to set up a two-run sixth inning that gave Lawrence the lead for good in a 3-2 victory.

Middletown North sophomore Zach Hampton. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Middletown North sophomore Zach Hampton. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Middletown North at a Glance

Head Coach: Ryan McCabe

Last Sectional Championship: 2022

Probable Starting Pitcher

Zach Hampton, So., RHP (4-3, 39.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 42 H, 13 BB, 17 K, 2 Saves)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

Alipio Figueroa, So., RHP (110)

Eddie Patrick, Sr., RHP (110)

Ineligible Pitchers

Gabe Ahlemeyer, So., LHP

Key Hitters

Ryan Frontera, Sr., SS (.356, 9 2B, 2 HR)

R.J. Kernan, Sr., 1B (.442, 4 2B, 2 HR)

Dylan Briggs, Jr., CF (.452, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR)

Zach Hampton, So., P/3B (.403, 5 2B, 1 HR)

Ian McGoldrick, So., DH (.382, 4 2B, 1 3B)

Colby McMahon, Sr., 2B (.283, 4 2B)

Jason Quardt, Jr., LF (.293, 4 2B)

Mike Hallard, So., C (.286, 4 2B)

Gabe Ahlemeyer, So., RF (.293, 4 2B)

Road to the Final

First Round: Gabe Ahlemeyer took a shutout into the seventh inning pitched within an out of completing the game before fellow sophomore Zach Hampton came on to record the final out in a tight, 3-2 win over No. 14 Hamilton West. Ahlemeyer also went 1-for-2 with an RBI

Quarterfinal: Middletown North faced two different one-run deficits against No. 6 Allentown and erased both, finishing it off with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a 4-3 win. Senior shortstop Ryan Frontera hit a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the fifth and scored the winning run on a two-out RBI single by junior centerfielder Dylan Briggs. Hampton pitched six innings and sophomore Alipio Figueroa earned the win with a scoreless seventh inning.

Semifinal: Ahlemeyer was solid again on the mound, this time pitching into the seventh to earn the win over crosstown rival and No. 7 seed Middletown South. Hampton came on to work out of danger in the seventh, backed by some flashy defense by sophomore third baseman Aldo Casale. The Lions posted four runs in the third inning with RBI singles by Hampton and junior Jason Quardt and added some emphatic insurance in the fifth in the form of a long solo home run by Briggs.

Middletown North celebrates the safe call at home plate that clinched Thursday's win over Allentown. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Middletown North celebrates the safe call at home plate that clinched a sectional quarterfinal win over Allentown. (Photo: Tom Smith |

The Verdict

Last year, Middletown North won its first ever NJSIAA group championship and its Central Jersey Group III title was its first since 1989. This year, the Lions find themselves playing the role of battle-tested defending champion and it is suiting them so far during a spirited title defense to this point.

Middletown North’s offense has not been as dominant as last year’s lineup was during the push toward the state championship, but the one-through-nine batting order remains a major strength – perhaps the foremost strength – of the Lions team in 2023. R.J. Kernan, Zach Hampton and Dylan Briggs enter Friday each hitting above .400 and comprising the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots in the order. Senior shortstop and Seton Hall commit Ryan Frontera sets the table for those three in the No. 2 spot and he is the all-around leader of the team as a four-year starter.

On the mound, Hampton will get the ball in what will be his fourth appearance on the mound in four games this tournament. He started the sectional quarterfinal walk-off win over Allentown and closed out both the first-round win over Hamilton West and the semifinal win over rival Middletown South, so he is in search of his first win during these playoffs.

Lawrence is not seeking the program’s first championship, but the last time the Cardinals won was long before any of the players on the field (or the guy writing this post) were around. Lawrence’s last run to both a sectional and group final was in 1974, when the Cardinals lost in the Group II championship.

Coming off a 5-15 season in 2022 and without a winning season since 1998, Lawrence benefitted from the hiring of Jim Maher as head coach prior to 2023. Maher was previously the head coach at Florence, Hamilton West and Nottingham, leading Hamilton West to a Group III championship in 2000 and Nottingham to a Central Jersey Group III title in 2016. In year one under Maher, the Cardinals have completely turned things around, winning 15 more games than they did a year ago and heading into Friday one win shy of their first sectional title in nearly a half-century.

Neither team will have their hottest pitcher available, which would appear to bode well for a Middletown North team that packs more punch 1-through-9 in the order. Lawrence’s defense will also be tested, as the Cardinals play their home games on turf and are likely to face a lot of balls in play from the dangerous Lions lineup.

Hampton has given up his share of baserunners and he pitches to contact, so Lawrence’s feisty lineup will return the favor when it comes to applying pressure. Both teams are relatively young and could be in the mix for the next several years, but Middletown North’s youth has been through this run before. Lawrence has the makings of a championship team, but to become one, the Cardinals will have to beat an actual championship team on its home field.

Prediction: Middletown North, 6-3


Central Jersey Group II

No. 3 Spotswood (21-7) at No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven (20-5), 4 p.m.

Spotswood at a Glance

Head Coach: Glenn Fredricks

Last Sectional Championship: 2007

Probable Starting Pitcher

Jackson Walsh, Sr., RHP (8-1, 43.1 IP, 0.97 ERA, 27 H, 11 BB, 71 K)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

Casey Cuminskey, Sr., RHP (110)

Breckyn DeAngelis, Jr., RHP (110)

Ineligible Pitchers

Carter Cuminskey, So., LHP

Key Hitters

Casey Cuminskey, Sr., SS (.548, 15 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 34 R, 32 RBI, 12 SB)

Carter Cuminskey, So., 1B (.382, 5 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 17 R, 31 RBI)

Breckyn DeAngelis, Jr., CF (.302, 3 2B, 31 R, 10 RBI)

Road to the Final

First Round: Spotswood has performed a high-wire act during the state tournament and it started in round one vs. No. 14 Monmouth. Carter Cuminskey pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings, but Falcons ace Christian Zito matched him and took his start into the eighth inning. Spotswood won it on a throwing error with two out in the eighth and dodged the first-round upset, with Jackson Walsh earning the win in relief.

Quarterfinal: After he came out of the bullpen to win in round one, Walsh pitched an eight-inning complete game with 12 strikeouts as the Chargers outlasted No. 11 Wall in another extra-inning barnburner. Wall tied the game, 3-3, in the top of the sixth inning and Spotswood eventually won it on a walk-off RBI single by Dylan Kartelias.

Semifinal: Carter Cuminskey delivered on the mound and at the plate, pitching 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and going 2-for-4 with two RBI on offense to lead the Chargers to a 5-3 win over No. 10 Delran.

Rumson sophomore Owen O'Toole. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)
Rumson sophomore Owen O'Toole. (Photo: Thomas Pantaleo)

Rumson-Fair Haven at a Glance

Head Coach: Owen Stewart

Last Sectional Championship: 2022

Probable Starting Pitcher

John Goodes, Sr., RHP (4-0, 35.2 IP, 2.55 ERA, 20 H, 24 BB, 29 K)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

Jackson Hinchcliffe, Sr., RHP (83)

Owen O’Toole, So., RHP (110)

Cal Champeau, Sr., RHP (110)

Matt Bruno, Sr., RHP (110)

Jackson Gallagher, Jr., LHP

Ineligible Pitchers


Key Hitters

Reece Moroney, Sr., SS (.373, 5 2B, 3 HR, 23 R, 13 RBI, 8 SB)

Jack Riva, Jr., LF (.386, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 18 R, 18 RBI)

Owen Kenney, Sr., C (.278, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 7 R, 16 RBI, 8 SB)

Parker Shenman, So., CF (.286, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 R, 16 RBI)

Cade LaGrassa, Sr., RF (.250, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 R, 16 RBI)

Brayden Dill, Sr., DH (.209, 6 2B, 11 R, 13 RBI, 6 SB)

Spencer Hobson, Sr., 1B (.180, 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 R, 11 RBI)

Aaron Del Tin, Jr., 3B (.231, 4 2B, 11 R, 3 RBI)

Griffin Shenman, Sr., 2B (.222, 1 2B, 12 R, 2 RBI)

Rumson-Fair Haven senior John Goodes. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Rumson-Fair Haven senior John Goodes. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Road to the Final

First Round: Senior and Richmond-bound right-hander Jackson Hinchliffe pitched a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts and one walk in a 1-0 Rumson win over No. 16 Nottingham. Jack Riva took care of the game’s lone run with an RBI single in the third inning.

Quarterfinal: The Bulldogs bats got the job done in a 7-2 win over No. 8 Bordentown, with Riva going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI and senior Owen Kenney driving in three in a 2-for-3 game at the plate. Senior starter John Goodes lasted three innings, but the bullpen picked him up, with Owen O’Toole, Cal Champeau and Matt Bruno covering the final four innings.

Semifinal: Owen Kenney and Spencer Hobson roped first-inning RBI doubles and Hinchcliffe combined with O’Toole and Bruno to quiet a hot-hitting No. 12 seed in Ocean, with the Bulldogs holding on for a 2-1 win. Hinchcliffe struck out five in five innings while throwing only 67 pitches, keeping him eligible for up to 83 pitches in the sectional final on Friday.

Rumson-Fair Haven senior Reece Moroney. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Reece Moroney. (Photo: Tom Smith |

The Verdict

Both teams in the Central Jersey Group II final have made it this far with their pitching and in Rumson’s case, it is a deep staff backed by stellar defense. The Bulldogs have had to manage some inconsistency from senior standout and Rutgers commit John Goodes, but have done so successfully thanks to a trio of relief arms that have been sure things out of the bullpen.

It is Goodes’s turn to take the ball on Friday, but coach Owen Stewart will have the option to use Richmond commit Jackson Hinchcliffe after he threw only 67 pitches in Tuesday’s win over Ocean. Beyond the two starters, Stewart will have sophomore Owen O’Toole, senior Cal Champeau and senior Matt Bruno ready to turn loose in the late innings. Those three have made Rumson a team opponents want to keep off the board early because leads are generally safe in the hands of the Bulldogs bullpen.

Spotswood, meanwhile, has been leaning on just two pitchers during this state tournament, but does have a third arm that the Chargers would gladly use in a key spot. One of those arms – sophomore left-hander and Seton Hall commit Carter Cuminskey – is not eligible to pitch, so the task of pitching Spotswood to its first title in 16 years falls on senior Jackson Walsh, with senior shortstop and Seton Hall commit Casey Cuminskey backing him up. Walsh showed off his stuff in striking out 12 in eight innings vs. Wall in the sectional quarterfinals.

Rumson-Fair Haven junior Owen Kenney. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Owen Kenney. (Photo: Tom Smith |

In addition to good pitching, both teams have not posted big numbers on offense, so this championship game has the makings of a pitchers’ duel. Both Cuminskey’s have had big seasons at the plate, but the Rumson staff can stay out of trouble by keeping the basepaths clear when they come up. Carter Cominskey could be particularly dangerous as a left-handed hitter with four home runs this season and a chance to take aim at the short porch in right field.

Rumson has a little more balance and versatility to its offense and it is a group that has shown time and again that it can deliver the big hit. It has been different players at different times during the season, with sophomore Parker Shenman opening up the season on a tear, senior newcomer Brayden Dill coming up with some big hits, junior Jack Riva catching fire lately, and catcher Owen Kenney – who hit four homers during last year’s run to the Central Group II title – heating up recently.

Shortstop Reece Moroney makes it all go and in a game like this, with the Bulldogs looking to win their first Group II championship, look for him to make a major impact. Stewart will have to be judicious about how he deploys his pitching what will likely be a low-scoring game, but whatever the circumstances, Rumson is positioned to find its way to another sectional title -- as the Bulldogs showed in last year's thrilling sectional-final comeback.

Prediction: Rumson, 4-3


Central Jersey Group I

No. 3 Middlesex (17-8) at No. 1 Point Pleasant Beach (22-5), 4 p.m. at Antrim Middle School

Middlesex at a Glance

Head Coach: Justin Nastasi

Last Sectional Championship: 2021

Probable Starting Pitcher

Alfonso Esposito, Sr., RHP (2-3, 37 IP, 3.22 ERA, 44 H, 13 BB, 31 K)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

Aidan Kozack, Sr., LHP (110)

Adam Groel, Sr., RHP (110)

Chris Kozack, Fr., RHP (110)

Ineligible Pitchers

Michael Canavesio, Sr., RHP

Key Hitters

Aidan Kozak, Sr. (.431, 7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 21 R, 15 RBI)

Tomas Lavornia, Sr. (.370, 5 2B, 4 HR, 21 R, 19 RBI, 7 SB)

Justin Gordon, Sr. (.400, 4 2B, 2 3B, 24 R, 7 RBI, 11 SB)

Dom Parenti, So. (.390, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 15 R, 17 RBI, 10 SB)

Alfonso Esposito, Sr. (.246, 4 2B, 1 HR, 13 R, 12 RBI)

Road to the Final

First Round: Adam Groel spun a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and Aidan Kozak went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBI to key an 8-1 win over No. 14 Burlington City.

Quarterfinal: Starter Aidan Kozak did not record an out in the first inning, but Michael Canavesio came on to steady the game and pitch seven two-hit innings with 10 strikeouts to lead the Blue Jays over No. 6 Palmyra. Justin Gordon (2-for-2), Dom Parenti (3-for-3) and Chris Kozak (2-for-2) all had perfect days at the plate, with Gordon hitting a double and driving in two.

Semifinal: Canavesio delivered again with seven strong innings while Aidan Kozak and Justin Gordon stayed hot at the plate in a 7-2 road win over No. 2 Shore. Kozak went 2-for-4 with three RBI and Gordon was 4-for-4 with two runs scored to lead the offense, while Canavesio struck out seven in the win.

Point Beach junior Colin Reinhard. Photo: Tom Smith |
Point Beach senior Colin Reinhard. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Point Beach at a Glance

Head Coach: Angelo Fiore

Last Sectional Championship: 2022

Probable Starting Pitcher

Kyle Kolans, Sr., RHP (8-1, 43.1 IP, 1.78 ERA, 31 H, 14 BB, 52 K)

Notable Available Pitchers (With available pitch count)

James Larsen, Sr., RHP (102)

Ryan Doyle, Jr., RHP (110)

Bryan Matuschat, Jr., RHP (110)

Ineligible Pitchers


Key Hitters

Bryan Matuschat, Jr., SS (.400, 14 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 26 R, 21 RBI, 8 SB)

Danny Lubach, Fr., DH (.492, 5 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 25 R, 31 RBI, 8 SB)

Colin Reinhard, Sr., 2B (.462, 10 2B, 29 RBI, 30 RBI, 7 SB)

Nate Clayton, Jr., C (.406, 5 2B, 2 HR, 17 R, 28 RBI)

Tommy Conroy, Fr., LF (.516, 5 2B, 36 R, 18 RBI, 20 SB)

John Coakley, Jr., RF (.453, 5 2B, 2 3B, 18 R, 23 RBI)

Noah Banick, So., 1B (.404, 2 2B, 1 3B, 18 R, 14 RBI)

James Larsen, Sr., 3B (.366, 3 2B, 12 R, 18 RBI)

Kyle Kolans, Sr., P/3B (.358, 2 2B, 15 R, 15 RBI)

Point Beach senior Kyle Kolans. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Point Beach senior Kyle Kolans. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Road to the Final

First Round: James Larsen, Kyle Kolans and Ryan Doyle combined on a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts as the Garnet Gulls handled No. 16 Perth Amboy Magnet, 14-0, in five innings. Freshman Tommy Conroy and junior Bryan Matuschat combined to go 5-for-7 with five runs and five RBI out of the top two spots in the lineup, while Kolans was 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Quarterfinal: Kolans, Larsen and Doyle were at it again, this time combining for a one-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in a 10-0 win over No. 9 Riverside in five innings. Colin Reinhard (3-for-4) and catcher Nate Clayton (2-for-3) each doubled and drove in three runs and Matuschat was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI to lead the lineup.

Semifinal: Larsen handled the pitching on his own this time, tossing a five-inning, one-hit shutout on just 48 pitches as the Garnet Gulls won their third straight playoff game via the mercy rule in the form of a 10-0 victory over No. 5 Manville. The bottom of the order stood out in the semifinal win, with the Nos. 5 through 9 hitters going a combined 8-for-11 with two doubles and seven RBI, led by Danny Lubach (2-for-3, double, three RBI)

Point Beach junior Bryan Matuschat. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Point Beach junior Bryan Matuschat. (Photo: Tom Smith |

The Verdict

Could it have ended any other way in Central Jersey Group I? Shore Regional had its sights set on breaking up the Point Beach-Middlesex rivalry this year, but Middlesex showed Tuesday it is still a major championship threat by taking out the Blue Devils on the road, 7-2. Now, Middlesex will be fired up to avenge last year’s 6-4 loss to Point Beach – a result that clinched Point Beach its first ever sectional championship while ending a four-year title reign by the Blue Jays.

This will mark the sixth straight season these two teams meet in the state tournament, the last four of which have come in the sectional final. This one, however, will be different in one very significant way: the venue. Point Beach has never had the privilege of hosting Middlesex and will finally have the advantage of playing a championship game on its home field at Antrim Middle School.

By earning the No. 1 seed this year, Point Beach also had a very smooth ride to the final, with none of its first three games lasting more than five innings. That has allowed the Garnet Gulls to set up their pitching, with its three top arms – Kyle Kolans, James Larsen and Ryan Doyle all eligible to throw more than 100 pitches. Kolans’s turn is up next and that is a good thing for the Garnet Gulls after he pitched four innings of relief to win last year’s championship game at Middlesex.

Point Beach junior James Larsen. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Point Beach senior James Larsen. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Middlesex burned its hottest pitcher, Michael Canavesio, to get past Shore and will be choosing between Alfonso Esposito and left-hander Aidan Kozak to pitch the Blue Jays back to the top of Central Group I. Kozak was the losing pitcher in last year’s championship game and did not record an out when he started the sectional quarterfinal, so Esposito will be the likely play – especially given his last outing was a shutout against North Jersey 2 Group III finalist North Hunterdon in a regular-season game.

Point Beach’s bats have been hot up-and-down the lineup over the last week-and-a-half, but that was against weak competition. When Point Beach has stepped up in competition, the Garnet Gulls are still a quality offense, but they have to be more resourceful. On the plus side, the pitching should continue to play, with all three available state-tournament pitchers capable to quieting a good lineup.

Middlesex will undoubtedly be motivated to pay back Point Beach for last year’s result and that could carry the Blue Jays to another sectional title. Point Beach’s pitching, however, has really taken shape and it will be hard to crack whichever of the three pitchers is on the mound – and there is a good chance all three get the ball at some point. The key will be the defense holding up when Middlesex tries to put the game in motion – which they are likely to do. If the Garnet Gulls can play a relatively clean game, they have the horses to get it done again.

Prediction: Point Beach, 2-1

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