PRINCETON: Team effort carries Babe Ruth team to state title


Pictured are members of the West Windsor-Plainsboro 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The West Windsor-Plainsboro Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars have not relied on just one or two players this summer.
The team has seemingly received contributions from different players every night, with each player making an impact at some point as WW-P finished third in the District One tournament and went on to win the Southern New Jersey State Tournament (SNJ).
With the victory in the state tournament, WW-P advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which is being played this week in Niskayuna, N.Y. The tournament opened on Wednesday for WW-P when it posted a 5-3 victory win over Sorensco, N.Y.
“That has been one of the big keys to our success, different kids every night come through for us,” WW-P manager Sean Bluni said. “Each game we have a different couple kids contribute. Every player has done something to help us win a game this summer. It is a true balanced team effort. We have some really good players. But this year there has not been just one or two to carry us. We get contributions from the whole roster.”
The WW-P team includes Princeton residents Ted Durbin and Judd Petrone, Plainsboro residents Justin Lockwood and Andrew SantaMaria, and West Windsor residents Will Raeter, Austin Hodges, Chris Bluni, Nate Millinger, Josh Eisenberg, Jack Dileo, Ian Muni, Luke Potts, Jake Naddelman and Eli Foster. Bluni’s coaches are Tom Dileo and Mike Potts.
The squad swept through the SNJ tournament at Veterans Park in Hamilton, recording victories over Millville, Jersey Shore and Hamilton, before clinching the title with another victory over Hamilton.
In a 7-4 triumph over Hamilton that gave WW-P the championship, Durbin picked up the decision on the mound with relief help from Hodges. Eisenberg, Raeter and Dileo, who was named the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award winner.
Eisenberg drove in three runs and produced two hits while Hodges, Rater and Dileo each delivered two hits in the title-clinching victory.
In the 3-1 victory over Hamilton, which came earlier in the tournament during the winners’ bracket final, Muni was sharp on the mound en route to gaining the victory.
“We were fortunate that the kids played great,” Bluni said. “They were really ready to go and wanted it. There were four teams from districts that made it to the state tournament and we were third in districts. It was a great effort by all the kids.
“We have kids from West Windsor, Plainsboro and Princeton. We have been able to pick up kids from different towns and that has helped with the growth of the league.”
The title was the first for this group of players in any tournament since the majority started playing together in the Little League days.
“This was the first time we had advanced to states,” Bluni said. “I think we were third last year and the year before. It was a great experience and the kids rose to the occasion. We played some very close games in districts. We had a tough extra inning game that spent a lot of our pitchers. But we were ready to go for the states.
“It’s a great mix and the kids have meshed well together.”
The title comes at a good time for WW-P as the program looks to build momentum for baseball in its towns as well as Princeton and Cranbury, which are also part of the league.
“The Little League numbers are down and Babe Ruth numbers are down, but we tried hard to get the kids into the program,” Bluni said. “We got a lot of kids in and we are glad they decided to play this summer. There are a lot of options with school ball and travel. To mix in the Babe Ruth is tough.”
But this group came together and played its best in the state tournament to earn a berth in the regional, which began with pool play on Tuesday. Bluni hopes other players in the area see how well this year’s team has played and it works as a springboard to having more players on the field.
“The Babe Ruth program is a great program,” Bluni said. “Local kids play locally and they get to keep playing against their friends in a nice community environment.  Hopefully by doing well in the post season that will help our program next year and in years to come. They had a great experience in the state tournament. It was close so a lot of family and neighbors and friends came out. That was good and hopefully we will have a good experience at the regional and that will create even more excitement.”