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Manasquan's representative team in the New Jersey Last Dance World Series, presented by RWJ Barnabas Health, has withdrawn from the event, Manasquan High School coach Brenan Gordon confirmed on Saturday.

Gordon said he informed tournament director Mike Murray on Friday that his team, which he would have coached once eligible by NJSIAA rules on July 13, could not participate.

Multiple sources echoed that the withdrawal was related to COVID-19, specifically due to the presence of multiple players from the team at a graduation party or parties in which the virus spread. There is no official confirmation that any players on Manasquan's team actually tested positive for the virus, only that several attended an event where others were confirmed to be infected.

Gordon did not confirm the reason why his team withdrew from the tournament, but did say it was not related to concerns about the tournament's safety measures. The event - which is being run through the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) and just picked up a sponsorship from RWJ Barnabas Health this past week - will have on-site trainers at every host field and will run symptom checks of all players, coaches and umpires.

"It wasn't anything with the tournament," Gordon said. "Mike (Murray) has done a great job making sure it's going to be as safe as possible and I think everyone is on board with the precautions being taken."

Manasquan was originally assigned to the Lincroft Regional within the South Jersey Section of the Tournament, which will take place at Christian Brothers Academy. Manasquan would have played the team from East Brunswick on Tuesday and the winner of that game would play Wednesday against the winner of the other day-one pool-play game between the squads representing CBA and Mater Dei Prep.

From a competitive perspective, Manasquan's team was already set to be facing a difficult task in advancing within the tournament due to the absence of on-field standout Alex Galvan. Galvan is signed to play at the University of Louisville and, according to Gordon, will be preparing on campus. Manasquan was ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Rankings and Galvan would have been the team's ace on the mound and one of its top hitters during the spring.

There is not currently an official replacement for Manasquan as of Saturday afternoon, but Murray said the most likely contingency plan will be a team of players from Wall, which itself pulled out of the tournament after showing early interest. Murray said that could be confirmed as early as Saturday evening.

The Last Dance World Series will open up on Tuesday with pool play being played throughout the state. The 220-plus teams are not officially affiliated with the high-school teams they will represent, but by the time the World Series reaches the knockout stage on July 21, it will be a close approximation of the NJSIAA's version of the state tournament - which was cancelled this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without Wall confirmed as an entrant, there are currently 35 teams from Monmouth and Ocean Counties participating in the event.


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