By Jimmy Allinder
In one day — 18 hours to be exact — the Monroe Township High School baseball season went from promising to over.
The ninth-seeded Falcons were edged by top-seeded Montgomery High School, 4-3, May 26 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV quarterfinals. The following day, Monroe (sixth seed) lost to Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, 1-0, in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) championship game.
The Falcons end with a 14-10 overall record and 9-5 mark in the Red Division behind champion St. Joe’s and second-place East Brunswick High School. The third-seeded Bears (20-6 overall, 12-2 Red Division) were also eliminated in the Central Jersey, Group IV quarterfinals May 26 by third-seeded Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 6-1.
Spotswood High School and South River High School also concluded this spring with losses in the state tournament. The third-seeded Chargers (20-5 overall, 11-1 Blue Division, including the title) dropped a 6-2 decision to sixth-seeded Voorhees High School May 26, while the ninth-seeded Rams (8-16 overall, 1-11, Blue Division) lost to eighth-seed Point Pleasant Beach High School, 7-1, three days earlier.
The season ended too soon for each team but especially for Spotswood, which was building toward another one of those special seasons the Chargers have had in the past.
“The next couple of weeks will tell how this team stacks up against those from previous teams,” head coach Glenn Fredricks recently said.
In 2007, Spotswood also won the Blue Division and went on to capture the GMC Tournament and the state Group II championship. In 2009, the Chargers won the Central Jersey, Group II title.
This spring was also special because of a number of players who enjoyed outstanding seasons.
Junior outfielder Nick Vincelli played at an all-state level, hitting .487 with a team-leading 39 hits, 26 runs batted in and five home runs. Senior J.T. Vento, who is headed to Coastal Carolina University and already proved he was one of the state’s best all-around players last year, followed this spring with another outstanding season, hitting .403 with 29 hits, 24 RBIs and 16 walks, as opponents often pitched around him.
Pitching turned out to be one the Chargers’ strengths, and they were led by senior Matt Ciaccio, closer Chris Auciello and sophomore righty Matt Vento. Ciaccio has been the unquestioned ace for the last three seasons, and Auciello was credited with a school-record five saves.
“What made this team special was its camaraderie,” Fredricks said. “The kids were close, which you don’t always see in youth sports today. They cared for one another like brothers, and it was real. In a sport like baseball when teammates are able to lean on each other, especially when players are struggling, and take part in celebrating successes, that makes the season more enjoyable.”
Fredricks has won over 200 games in his coaching career — an accomplishment he has not taken for granted.
“To have that many wins, you have to be blessed not only with great players, but [also] great assistant coaches,” he said. “For me, it’s more of a program benchmark rather than a personal achievement.”