Under legendary coach Al Kunzman and with future major leaguers Jeff Musselman and Mark Leiter it was probably not a surprise that Central Regional won the first-ever Shore Conference Baseball Tournament in 1980 when they beat Toms River South 7-6 in the championship.
What might be a surprise to some is it took nearly four decades for the Golden Eagles to return to the finals and they’ve done that with a team that was seeded 11th when the tournament began a couple of weeks ago.
Central outlasted 2nd seeded Wall 1-0 in a 9-inning nail bitter Wednesday largely behind the efforts of A.J. Smith and Tyler Aires, two of the seven senior starters in Coach Mike Casale’s lineup. Aires homered in the top of the 9th and Smith protected the lead in the bottom of the inning to finish a complete game four-hitter gem as the Golden Eagles advanced into the title game where they will face Toms River North in Monday night’s championship game at FirstEnergy Park.
The defending champion and 8th Mariners blanked Monmouth Regional 6-0 as seniors Jared Bellissimo and Brendan Mullins combined on a six-hitter and North scored three runs in both the 2nd & 3rd innings. Led by a group of seniors the Mariners are looking to win back-to-back SCT and Ocean County Tournament championships.
All season long the softball teams from Donovan Catholic and St. John Vianney have been on a collision course and the top two teams in the state will face one another twice in the next five days with championships on the line.
Today the Griffins and Lancers meet for the Non-Public South “A” title at Rowan College of Gloucester County with Vianney looking to avenge last year’s loss to Donovan in the final. Then on Monday the two will battle for the Shore Conference Tournament crown as both won their semifinal games yesterday…the top-seeded Griffins blitzing Howell 13-0 while the 2nd seeded Lancers knocked off Middletown North 5-0.
The two undefeated powerhouses are a combined 54-0 with 32 shutouts this spring and the next few days will decide championships and legacies.