By Jimmy Allinder
If there ever was a time pitching depth was important, it’s now.
The Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) regular season is complete, with East Brunswick High School (13-4 overall, 10-2 division) and Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen (17-9, 10-2) sharing the Red Division title.
However, with the GMC and New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) tournament championships still to be determined, Monroe Township High School (13-8, 9-3) is now in the driver’s seat.
The Falcons were the ninth seed and were scheduled to visit eighth-seeded Sayreville War Memorial High School in the first round of the Central Jersey, Group IV bracket May 22. The winner meets the survivor of the game between top-seeded Montgomery High School and 16th-seeded North Brunswick Township High School May 25.
Monroe also plays for the GMC championship May 27 at East Brunswick Vocational Technical High School and will face top-seeded St. Joe’s.
Despite finishing a game behind East Brunswick and St. Joe’s in the Red Division standings, Monroe possesses the tools to go far in the states and win the GMC title. The Falcons’ only other conference championship was two years ago when it edged Sayreville, 1-0.
Senior Eric Heatter, who is headed to Rutgers University, is 4-3 but leads the team in strikes with 65 and has a dominant 0.28 earned run average. Junior Nick Payero, who committed to Seton Hall University, is 4-1 with a 2.42 ERA and 55 strikeouts, while senior Chris Perdoni (3-0, 0.81 ERA) and junior Matt Zurawiecki (1-0, 1.80 ERA) have provided effective relief.
East Brunswick hopes to rebound from a loss in the quarterfinals of the GMC Tournament to Monroe, 7-2, and is also deep in pitching. The sixth-seeded Bears hosted 11th-seed Marlboro High School May 22 in another Central Jersey, Group IV contest.
“We’re not too concerned with the rotation,” coach Chris Kenney said. “Tyler [Burnham] is our No. 1 but after that, we have confidence in four other guys — [senior Ryan] Flynn, [junior Mike] Falco, [junior Scott] Dessel and [sophomore Joe] Petrocelli.”
Burnham (4-1, 1.85 ERA, 51 strikeouts), suffered his first loss of the season May 17 against Monroe in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals. However, as Kenney said, the senior will be his first choice to start important games.
Flynn has been effective when called on. Falco (7-1, 3.18 ERA, 36 strikeouts) has had solid run support. Dessel is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA. And Petrocelli has recorded a 3-0 mark with a sparkling 0.34 ERA.
The pitchers have also contributed at the plate. Flynn, who also plays center field, leads the team in batting average (.489), hits (45), runs scored (24) and runs batted in (21). Falco, who plays third base, is hitting .324 with 24 hits, and Burnham has a .307 average with 23 hits.
Shortstop David Bermudez is at .321 with 27 hits, right fielder Brad Edwards has a .347 average with 26 hits and designated hitter Brandon Rosenthal is hitting .333 with 15 hits.
“Ryan [Flynn] is having a tremendous year, both at the plate and on the mound,” Kenney said. “He has especially carried us offensively.”
Spotswood High School (19-4 overall, 11-1 Blue Division) was the third seed in Central Jersey, Group II and hosted 14th-seeded Essex County Technical High School-Newark May 22 in the first round. The winner faces the survivor of sixth-seeded Voorhees High School and 11th-seeded Delaware Valley Regional High School May 25.
South River High School (8-15 overall, 1-11 Blue Division) was the ninth seed in Central Jersey, Group I and visited eighth-seeded Point Pleasant Beach High School May 22. The winner played the survivor of top-seeded Middlesex High School and 16th-seeded Palmyra High School May 25.
In state tournament softball, South River is the only area team that has not been eliminated.
The Rams (21-4 overall, 16-0 Gold Division) finished unbeaten to win the division and were the third seed in Central Jersey, Group I when they hosted sixth-seeded Point Pleasant Beach May 22. The winner moves on to face the survivor of the game between second-seeded New Egypt High School and 10th-seed Keansburg High School May 25.