By Wayne Witkowski
Allentown High School’s baseball team played its New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group III tournament opener May 22 against Hamilton High School West at Robert DeMeo Field in Hamilton’s Veterans Park with something it never had before: it entered the state tournament as the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) champion for the first time in the 38-year history of the tournament.
Jordan Winston, the MCT Most Valuable Player, and Colton Johnson shared in the pitching, and Aydon Chavis belted a solo home run in the third inning for the only scoring needed, as the Redbirds (20-2 coming into the state tournament) beat Hopewell Valley Central High School, 2-0, for the coveted crown. Giuseppe Arcuri drove in the insurance run in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly.
It marked the first time the tournament champion is a team from outside the county — Allentown is in Monmouth County on the border of Mercer County.
Winston, who quarterbacked the football team to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV title in December, has a chance to annex another state championship before embarking on a college baseball career at Oklahoma State University. The Redbirds won their only state title in 2008 as a Group II school at the time.
Winston, who threw 91 pitches in five innings of work to reach his max allowed under state rules, escaped danger in the third inning. He walked the bases loaded and then got the next two batters to strike out and ground into a double play.
“It was huge there to get out of that,” said Winston, who is 7-0 on the mound. “My teammates picked me up. I believe in them as well. They helped me all night when I was struggling. We have so many winners in this program. That football mentality that [football coach] Jay Graber taught us helps us get through these tough games.”
Winston parted with four hits, striking out five and walking three. Johnson closed out with one-hit relief, striking out two and walking one as Hopewell Valley slipped to 16-6. Matt Coiante and Frank DelGuercio each had two of Allentown’s six hits.
Two days earlier, DelGuercio drove in the winning run with a double in the eighth inning when Allentown advanced to the county finals with a 3-2 victory over Nottingham High School (20-7). Ryan Huth pitched a one-hitter over five innings with four strikeouts and five walks, and Winston closed out with one-hit relief.
Allentown still has a regular-season game with Nottingham to decide the Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division title May 26. Both teams share first place at 4-1.
The close wins were an ongoing trend this season that coach Brian Nice called a dangerous formula.
“We hit just enough, we pitch well and play great defense,” he said. “We get that key hit we needed. They are a scrappy group. We could have, and probably should have, been bounced in round one and maybe round two. These guys just play a whole game and compete like crazy.”
The Redbirds also split two regular-season games after winning the county title, losing to Robbinsville High School, 7-6, in eight innings May 19 and beating Lawrence High School, 9-0, May 20.
Tanner Moran had three hits and two RBIs against Robbinsville. Jack Nitti went the distance with a four-hitter against Lawrence, while Arcuri, Jackson Fogarty and Chris Reeder each batted in two runs.
Danielle Sullivan and Brianna Samuels each scored twice and has one assist when No. 1-seed Allentown (12-1) rolled to an 11-0 victory over Steinert High School (7-6) May 18 to advance to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III tournament.
On May 22, the Redbirds hosted Ocean Township High School (14-7), which won four of its last five games, in the semifinals.
Julianna Golden finished with one goal and three assists against Steinert. Marin Hartshorn, Kylie Reed, Kaitlyn Bergen, Alyssa Sloane, Morgan Vaccaro and Kennedy Munster scored.
“The key for us to do well in states is to play like a true team,” coach Jen Garavente said. “We have to believe in each other and keep our heads up high after the obstacle we faced in the Mercer County Tournament (an 8-6 loss May 9). We weren’t finding the back of the net like we typically do, and I think at the end we were forcing it a bit instead of taking that extra second to see the field and the goal. We can take the positive aspects of a loss and use it for motivation. I think there is a lot that can be taken from a loss, and it will help us evaluate ourselves even more so that we can continue to prepare for the state tournament.
“The Steinert victory was a very solid team win. We really flowed together, and each member had a significant role. It was definitely uplifting for our team to have so many girls step up and become part of the scoring.”
Hartshorn has 46 goals and 28 assists for the Colonial Valley Conference Colonial Division champions.
Outdoor track and field
Jumper Kassidy Mulryne earned three gold medals and distance runner Devon Hoernlein won two more when Allentown’s girls had their best team finish in the Mercer County championship at second place. Allentown had 76 points behind West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South’s 94.33 points.
Mulryne won the 100-meter hurdles (15.28), 400 hurdles (1:05.30) and high jump (5-2) where, she tied Notre Dame High School’s Kathleen Clarke but won on fewer misses.
Hoernlein won the 1,600 in 5:07.28 and 3,200 in 11:16.16.
Lorna Drexler won a silver medal in the discus with a throw of 107-10 and just missed scoring in the javelin with a seventh-place throw of 87-5. Sara Gutter was third in the 800 in 2:23.58, and Carly Roche was third in the pole vault, clearing 10-0.
Angelica Crespo was fifth in the javelin with a throw of 95-0. Allentown’s 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams had sixth-place finishes.
Pole vaulter Daniel Hulit led the boys’ team, clearing 12-0.
Ethan Irizarry score four goals to lead third-seeded Mainland Regional High School to a 12-7 victory over sixth-seeded Allentown May 20 in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group III tournament in Linwood. Jared Jordan and Clayton Moench each had three goals apiece, and Connor Provost added a goal for Allentown (7-10).
Allentown beat Toms River High School East, 14-4, in its tournament opener May 17. Provost scored four goals and logged two assists, and James Neebling scored two goals and had four assists. Dan Drew scored twice, and Mike Surace scored a goal and chipped in three assists.
Hopewell Valley rallied for the tying run in the home seventh and the winning run an inning later off run-scoring singles to knock Allentown out of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III tournament in opening-round action May 17.
Allentown, which finished its season 11-11, struck first in the sixth inning when Grace Dawson beat out a bunt single and scored on back-to-back singles by Alyssa Notarianni and Madison Storey. Sam Einstein allowed two hits over the first five innings, and Heather Devine gave up six hits over the final four innings of relief.
Athletic Hall of Fame
Nominations will be accepted until June 1 by contacting Brian Irwin at email@example.com or 609-208-4969.
Student-athletes are eligible 10 years after graduating. Teams are eligible 10 years after a team accomplishment. Coaches must be retired at the time of induction.
Visit www.ufrsd.net for details.