High school baseball players gearing up for ‘Last Dance World Series’

Middletown High School South shortstop Jack Sheridan fields and throws out the runner at first base during a game played last season. Middletown South will compete in this summer's Last Dance World Series.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South shortstop Jack Sheridan fields and throws out the runner at first base during a game played last season. Middletown South will compete in this summer's Last Dance World Series.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The thrills associated with America’s pastime will be on display this summer when an event that has been dubbed the “Last Dance World Series” takes center stage for high school baseball players from throughout New Jersey.

Saint Joseph High School, Metuchen, athletic director and baseball coach Mike Murray has put together the 222-team tournament. The players who will be competing lost out on the 2020 season that was cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pool play in the tournament is scheduled to begin on July 14.

Teams representing Middletown South High School and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, received the No. 1 seed in their respective regions of the South Jersey bracket and have high hopes of making a strong run in the tournament.

“Our team has a competitive mindset and wants to win and go as far as they can in the tournament,” CBA coach Marty Kenney Jr. said.

CBA will host the 2A-Lincroft Regional that also features Manasquan, East Brunswick and Mater Dei Prep of Middletown.

The team will play under the name CBA Colts. Kenney said the 25-man roster will include all 12 seniors who would have played during the 2020 high school campaign.

Seniors Pat Reilly and Braedin Hunt give CBA an edge in the pitching department. Both right-handers are NCAA Division I commits who should keep the Colts in every game when they are on the mound.

They will be joined by classmates Ben Settino, Jason Arnott, Mason Wolf and Declan Hoverter, who all will provide CBA with experience on the field and in the lineup.

The players had high expectations for 2020, but their hopes were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic that cancelled all spring sports in New Jersey.

Kenney admits it was disappointing not to be able to spend a full season with the senior class and to see what these young men could have accomplished in their final year together.

“The seniors are a fun group to be around,” he said. “They are a mature group of kids who love playing baseball. I’m extremely excited to coach them in the tournament.”

Middletown South is another senior-driven squad that was looking to build on a 17-7 campaign in 2019 that saw the Eagles soar to a Shore Conference A North Division title.

Seton Hall University commit Chris Lotito leads a pitching rotation that will also feature senior righthander Mike Keenan.

Lotito will be in the middle of a powerful batting order that will feature seniors Danny Minze, Chris O’Connor, Anthony Esposito and Jack Sheridan.

The players have been practicing together five days a week since June 22 and are ready to make some noise in the tournament.

“We thought we had a team good team this year and winning this tournament would prove we could have had a great season,” O’Connor said. “The seniors want to fit in as much as we can in these two to three weeks from what we missed out on during the season. Everyone has been working hard in practice and we are ready to go for the tournament.”

The Eagles will be coached by Chris LeMore, who was entering his first year at the helm for Middletown South this spring.

Middletown South is the No. 1 seed in the 15A-Wall Regional. All pool play games are scheduled to be played at the North Wall Little League Complex.

Teams from Colts Neck, Holmdel and Shore Regional high schools will also compete in the 15A-Wall Regional.

The other side of the bracket in the 15B-Ocean Township Regional will consist of No. 1 Ocean Township, No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven, No. 3 Raritan and No. 4 Matawan.

The team representing Raritan High School of Hazlet will play under the name Hazlet Renegades.

A familiar face will be at the helm of the team from Matawan Regional High School – Mike Pallitto, who played for the Huskies during his high school career.

Pallitto calls it an honor to coach the team and said he has enjoyed his time with the players during practice.

“They are all great kids and excited to play in the tournament,” he said. “The practices have been just as much fun as playing a game. This tournament is extra special to the seniors. Everyone is happy to be back on the field playing baseball.”

Matawan will be led by seniors Jay Kalieta and Griffin Falcon, who are both committed to playing NCAA Division I baseball in 2021.

They will be joined in the lineup by classmates Ryan Anderson, Christian Rivera, Ben Porricelli, Matt Silva and R.J. Clifton.

Juniors Tim Egan and Mike Caldon give Matawan a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

Pallitto said the team’s goal is to advance past pool play into the single elimination round.

Middletown North High School has been awarded the No. 4 seed in what is being called the 2B-TBD Regional.

The pool portion of the event will consist of three games. The two teams from each region that are 2-0 after the first two games will play each other, with the winner advancing to a single-elimination round.

The remaining teams may advance depending on their pool play record and how it compares to the other teams in the South Jersey bracket.