By Jimmy Allinder
It had been over a decade since the East Brunswick High School baseball team won the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship, but the Bears finally ended that streak.
In front of a large gathering May 27 at TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots, East Brunswick scored the only run in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge John P. Stevens High School, 1-0.
The victory was credited to junior pitcher Tyler Burnham, who pitched a two-hitter and was also responsible for driving in the winning run to secure the victory. It appeared the Bears had scored the clinching run earlier in the inning; however, the baserunner was called for running outside the third base line and causing interference, which disallowed the run. Burnham came to rescue shortly thereafter when he laced a single to the outfield, allowing the decisive run to cross the plate.
East Brunswick finishes with a 20-3 record and the most wins in school history. Seeded first in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, the Bears were upset by 16th-seeded North Brunswick Township High School, 2-0, in a first-round game to account for one of those losses.
“We’ve had teams in recent years with more talent,” head coach Chris Kenney said. “But we developed chemistry as the season progressed, and that enabled us to win more come-from-behind games.”
It was also a season when multiple members were named to the GMC All-Conference and All-Red Division teams. Burnham, senior pitcher Nick Clemente and senior outfielder Juan Ganzaroli were chosen All-Conference and All-Red Division, and senior shortstop Danny Iannarone was named All-Red Division. Kenney was chosen All-Red Division coach of the year.
The top-seeded South River High School baseball team met fourth-seeded Middlesex High School May 31 in the Central Jersey, Group I semifinals.
On paper, the game was a tossup. The Rams and Blue Jays played twice in GMC Blue Division back-to-back, regular-season games May 4 and 5, with South River (17-7-1) winning the first encounter, 7-5, and Middlesex (14-11) prevailing in the second contest, 7-4.
If victorious, the Rams will host the winner of second-seeded Keyport High School and third-seeded South Amboy High School June 3. Among the South River players to earn berths on the GMC All-Conference team are senior pitcher Tyler Higgins and senior catcher Matt Leviton. Senior infielder Brandon Szerszen, senior pitcher/infielder Dalton Dougherty and senior outfielder Khaliyl Everett were named All-Blue Division.
Veteran head coach Mike Lepore Jr. was honored as both GMC and Blue Division coach of the year.
It would seem like the 15-6 record for the Monroe Township High School baseball team meant the Falcons had another successful season. However, this was a team with high expectations but fell short on a number of fronts.
The top-seeded Falcons were eliminated by J.P. Stevens, 1-0, in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals May 17 and dropped a 7-6 decision to Edison High School in the Central Jersey, Group IV quarterfinals May 26.
An array of Monroe players were named to the GMC All-Conference and All-Red Division teams and will continue their baseball careers in college.
Junior pitcher Eric Heatter was named All-GMC and has already made a verbal commitment to Rutgers University when he graduates. He is joined on the All-Conference team by senior outfielder Rico Viani, who will head to Wagner College upon graduation.
Heatter and senior pitcher Mike Peto were named All-White Division. Peto will play at the University of North Carolina following graduation. Viani, junior shortstop Chris Perdoni and senior catcher Anthony Tagliaferro were also named All-White Division.
The state softball tournament is also underway, and East Brunswick (20-6) tried to keep its season alive when the fourth-seeded Bears traveled to top-seeded Hunterdon Central Regional High School May 31 in the Central Jersey, Group IV semifinals. East Brunswick (fifth seed) was eliminated in the GMC Tournament by top-seeded South Plainfield High School May 28 by a 4-3 score.
Monroe Township (19-5) was the sixth-seeded team in the same bracket and hosted seventh-seeded Hightstown High School in the other semifinal May 31. The second-seeded Falcons were eliminated by sixth-seeded South Brunswick High School in the GMC Tournament May 28 by a 9-2 margin.
South River (14-10) concluded its season May 25 when the fourth-seeded Rams were defeated by fifth-seeded Henry Hudson Regional High School in the quarterfinals of Central Jersey, Group I.