Senior bats help Jackson Memorial advance in ‘Last Dance World Series’

Jackson Memorial High School pitcher Nick Beetel is fired up after getting out of the second inning unscathed during the team's pool play championship against Manalapan on July 16. Jackson Memorial defeated Manalapan 7-2 to advance to the single elimination round of 16 in the Last Dance World Series.

It finally arrived this week – high school baseball players from across New Jersey had the chance to compete after a lost spring season when they took part in a summer event that was dubbed the “Last Dance World Series.”

Players representing Jackson Memorial High School and Manalapan High School enjoyed three straight days of playing alongside their teammates once again.

In a game on July 16 at FirstEnergy Park, Lakewood, those two teams were playing for the right to advance to the tournament’s single-elimination round following three games of pool play.

Tied at 1-1 tie in the bottom of the second inning, Jackson Memorial’s senior bats helped the Jaguars take control of the contest with six runs and they rolled to a 7-2 victory over Manalapan in the South Jersey 1-Regional final.

Taking pride in stepping up in big moments like he did during his high school career, Ryan Lasko relished his opportunity with runners on first and second and one out.

The senior blasted a booming two-run triple to deep center off Joe Mazza that gave Jackson Memorial its first lead.

Lasko finished 2-2 with two RBI and two runs scored and said, “I’m just enjoying myself. It’s a blessing to be a part of this tournament. Having the opportunity to compete with my teammates again is surreal.”

Two batters later Tom Cartnick came up with two runners on base. He jumped on Mazza’s first pitch and cleared the bases with a double to right center to extend the lead to 5-1.

Cartnick had two hits and scored a run to help the Jaguars advance to the single-elimination round.

“We have a group of guys and we all have each other’s back,” he said. “We have been playing together since we were 7 years old. Once we heard this tournament was an idea in May, we all hit the field right away to get ready and we’re so happy to have this opportunity.”

Seniors Carmine Petosa and Jake Wendell each added an RBI-single to complete the six-run second inning for the Jaguars.

Jackson Memorial senior starter Nick Beetel tossed four innings of one-run ball and had six strikeouts to earn the win.

Senior Joe Santoriello closed out the victory for the Jaguars with three strong innings on the hill that included two strikeouts.

“The goal coming into these first three games was to get everyone involved and the guys really stepped up,” Jackson Memorial Coach Frank Malta said. “I’m really happy and proud of them. The more we win, the more we stay together and make something from what we missed out on. That is kind of the rallying cry right now. We want to win to stay together.”

In its first two pool play games, Jackson Memorial defeated a team representing Brick Township High School, 15-1, and a team representing Brick Memorial High School, 4-0.

With the victory over Manalapan, Jackson Memorial will play Middlesex in an elimination game on July 21 at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton.

The loss on July 16 ended Manalapan’s run in the tournament, but did not take away from the great time the players had of getting back on the field together.

Manalapan defeated Robbinsville, 3-2, and Allentown, 8-2, in the first two games of pool play.

Senior Nick DiPietrantonio, who knocked in both runs against Jackson Memorial, said he will never forget the experience of playing in the “Last Dance World Series” with his teammates.

“It’s truly something we will never forget,” DiPietrantonio said. “We are always going to remember the times we had playing on the field together. It was definitely something to remember.”

More than 200 teams participated in three pool games at multiple sites on July 14, 15 and 16. The “Last Dance World Series” championship game is scheduled for July 31 at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton.

The 2020 scholastic baseball season was cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic and the summer tournament was a way to give student-athletes who would have competed in the spring a chance to shine on the diamond.