Patriots, Colonials battle to move on in state baseball tourney


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By Jeff Appelblatt

Because of the rain, Freehold High School’s baseball team found itself practicing between two of the school’s gyms rather than playing in the second round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV tournament.

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There was nothing Jon Block, the team’s coach the last 27 years, could do. And because no other teams were able to play May 25 because of the same weather, he wasn’t going to complain.

“Every team in the area’s in the same situation. Nobody’s playing today,” Block said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

The team from Freehold Township High School — the one Freehold’s coach had planned to go against that day, was also in a do or die situation — lose again and the season was over. The Patriots defeated Monmouth Regional High School in the Shore Conference Tournament’s (SCT) opening round, but they lost to Toms River High School North May 24, ending their run in the tournament.

Freehold, meanwhile, lost in the first round of the SCT to a familiar foe from Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), 5-1. It was the third time this year CBA beat the Colonials.

From there, all of Freehold’s attention moved to Freehold Township.

“Now they’re in the same situation as us. There’s one tournament left, and all of us want to continue our season,” Block said the day after Freehold Township was knocked out of the SCT. “If we lose this game, the season’s over for us.”

Freehold Township coach Todd Smith and his team prepared for Freehold with the same thought in mind.

“Win or [the] season [is] over,” the coach said.

Each team hoped to get to the championship game June 2, but neither was able to think that far ahead May 25. It would take wins May 26 and May 30.

“We approach it one game at a time,” Freehold’s coach said. “We don’t want our season to end.”

“That’s enough motivation,” Freehold Township’s coach said, agreeing he didn’t want the season to end early.

Votes for the All-Division A North baseball team may have made it look like Freehold should have handled its crosstown rival. Seven Colonials made the team: pitchers Dan Chiusano and Dane Della Valle, catcher Phil Marcantonio, pitcher and first baseman Tom Holdorf, infielders Mark Costanzo and Chris Cassandra and outfielder Nick Aiello.

Pitcher Mike Pirrotta was the only Patriot voted in.

Block was selected as the coach of the year in the A North, something the coach refused to take sole responsibility for.

“That’s because I had seven kids on the team,” the coach said. “Usually [coach of the year] goes to the guy that won the division. We won the division.

“They did it all,” Block said while pointing to his pitchers and catchers in the gym. “And my assistants. I take it as an award for myself and my assistants and the players. Without the seven players that made it, we’re not doing anything this year.”

At this point, Freehold’s coach just hopes his team is one of the final two left. Freehold Township’s coach hopes his team is the one still playing.

At most, only one of the two may still be playing this season.

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