With the national championships approaching (June 21-23 at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.), track and field athletes will be looking to use tonight’s 16th Annual Holmdel International Track and Field Meet at Holmdel High School as a way to prepare. The International has attracted world-class athletes from all over the United State and the world during its first 15 years. Olympic or world championship gold medalists who have competed in Holmdel include Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan of Ireland, Paul Ereng of Kenya and Americans such as Roger Kingdom, Charles Austin, Butch Reynolds and Andrew Valmon. Unlike many track and field meets, the javelin takes center stage at the International. The meet began as the Bob Roggy Memorial, and the men’s javelin remains a featured event. The late Bob Roggy was a Holmdel High School graduate who went on to international fame throwing the javelin. He was an NCAA champion at Southern Illinois and went on to rank No. 1 in the world. Another featured event is the Eamonn Coghlan Men’s Mile Run where a sub-4:00 mile is always the goal. The meet record is 3:59.5 by Jim Norris in 1990. The mile goes off at 9:35 p.m. Other events include the Lester Wright Men’s Masters 400 meters (6:45), Andy Stanfield men’s and women’s 200-meter dash (6:55), Dr. Matt Brown master’s 100-meter dash (7:25), Wilma Rudolph women’s 100-meter dash (7:35), Frank Budd men’s 100-meter dash (7:45), Harrison Dillard men’s 110-meter high hurdles (7:55), Joetta Clark women’s 800-meter run (8:25), Johnny Gibson men’s 400-meter dash (8:30), John Woodruff men’s 800 meters (8:40) and the Horace Ashenfelter men’s 3,000 meter run (9). Field events include the Don Bragg pole vault (6 p.m.), men’s and women’s triple jump (6), Barbara Friedrich women’s javelin (6:30), Mike Pascuzzo men’s and women’s high jump (7), Art Swart’s men’s and women’s discus throw, and Charlie May’s men’s and women’s long jump (7). There is something for the high school runners with the Vince Cartier High School Boy’s Mile Run (7:05) and the Casie Kerr Memorial High School Girl’s Mile Run (7:15). The meet will get under way at 5:30 p.m. with open events on the track that include the Abel Kiviat Memorial Two-Mile Run (6:00) and the Elliott Denman Open Handicap One-Mile Walk (6:20).
For the first time ever, Brookdale Community College (BCC) has placed two players on the NJCAA Division III Women’s’ Soccer First Team All-American Team. Freshman Kendal Krzan and sophomore Kerry O’Mara were the duo who made BCC history. Krzan, a Middletown South High School graduate, followed in the footsteps of her sister Lauren Krzan, who was a two-time All-American for BCC in 2001 and again in 2002. Krzan, a forward, led the Jersey Blues in scoring this year. O’Mara moved up one rung on the All-American Team having earned Second Team honors in 2003. O’Mara, a graduate of Middletown North, is a midfielder Krzan and O’Mara were finished one-two in the voting for the Region XIX Player of the Year, with Krzan getting the nod. They were the only players from Region XIX to be named to the All-American First Team. Brookdale was a trichampion of the Garden State Athletic Conference.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer The St. John Vianney High School boys soccer team owns a fine 9-3 record heading into the Shore Conference Tournament, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon. SJV’s opponent was not known at press time, since the seeding meeting for the tourney was set to occur last night. Meanwhile, the Lancers have already clinched a berth in the NJSIAA Parochial A playoffs. Balanced scoring and a solid defensive unit anchored by four-year veteran David Goodman, who has recorded three shutouts, are the hallmarks of Vianney’s team. “Our opponents haven’t been able to focus on one or even two guys, and that’s really helped us,” coach Brian Grimm said. “We’re fortunate to have plenty of guys who can put the ball into the net.” The coach’s son, center midfielder Brian Grimm, also a four-year veteran, leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and seven assists. Fellow midfielder Steve Fernicola, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, has returned to record six goals. Forwards Andrew Scollo and junior Rhyan Nelson have six goals apiece, and sweeper Alain Ball has contributed a goal and seven assists. Colin Cecere and Chris Hackman are solid two-way midfielders, while Chris Dominick and Kyle Manning, who usually marks the opposition’s top scorer, are the fullbacks, and junior Tom Serpico is the sweeper. Coach Grimm has a strong depth chart as well. Frank Burroughs and Dan Wilday provide relief up front, with junior Michael Swisher and sophomores Jess Moeller, Sean Gilpin and Eric Van Schaack coming off the bench to shore up the middle. Joe Schneider and sophomore Tony Ganter are the reserve fullbacks. Andrew Fensham backs up Goodman in goal. The coach cited come-from-behind wins against Raritan and Matawan among the season’s highlights, as well as a victory at Manasquan. Like most area teams, SJV had to postpone three games due to last week’s inclement weather. All three — Manalapan, Howell and Marlboro — are non-divisional games, but Grimm is hoping to make them up before the state tourney begins. “Right now our main focus is the conference tournament,” said coach Grimm, whose team was scheduled to meet Holmdel on Monday. “We want to make a strong showing there and build some momentum for the states.” Postseason looming for local teams The Shore Conference Tournament selection committees met on Monday night to create the brackets for the upcoming tournament. That meant that teams needed to be .500 or better by the end of play Monday to qualify for that tournament. On the boys side, the Christian Brothers Academy team was the only local team that could rest easy over the weekend, since the Colts entered the week at 7-3-1. The Colts will benefit from playing in a very competitive A North division, which was won by Manalapan (9-1-3), and are also a lock for the Parochial A South tournament. The deadline for the state tournament is Friday. Among the local boys teams on the bubble are the Holmdel Hornets, the Raritan Rockets and the Matawan Huskies. Holmdel is in the SCT, as they entered Monday’s game with SJV at 7-6, and are assured of a .500 record. However, they need to have a solid week to secure their state playoff berth. Meanwhile, Raritan entered Monday’s game with Middletown South at 7-7 and in need of a win to secure its SCT berth. This is a big week for the Rockets as it is for Matawan, who entered the week at 6-7. Mater Dei needs some wins as well, as the Seraphs entered the week at 5-7. On the girls side of play, the two-time A North champion Middletown North Lions (9-0-2), fresh off their division-clinching 3-2 win over Ocean Township last week, are expected to be the second seed in the SCT, behind Brick Memorial, the No. 5-ranked team in the nation. They could also be the second seed behind the Mustangs in the Central Jersey Group IV tournament, though East Brunswick, who has lost to Memorial in the last three sectional finals, could take that spot, pushing the Lions back to the third seed. Middletown South is also postseason bound, as the Eagles entered Monday’s game at Raritan at 7-4-1. St. John Vianney (7-3-1) and Holmdel (6-4-2) were set to square off on Monday in a game that probably meant more for the Hornets, who entered the game needing at least one win this week to secure a state tournament berth.
BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer All that any coach can ask of his/her team is that is better at the end of the season than it was at the beginning. Brookdale Community College women’s coach Frank Lawrence has no problem saying that about the 2005 Jersey Blues. The season ended with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Camden in the Region XIX championship game, but en route to the Region final, the Jersey Blues improved every game and became a nationally ranked squad. “When I look at where we were at the end of August I thought it would be a stretch to get to this point [Region final],” said Lawrence. “The girls did an amazing job. “We had a great group that had chemistry,” he added. “We had the right mix of great defenders and enough scoring to win.” The Blues won their fourth straight Garden State Athletic Conference title during the campaign and made school history by completing the GSAC season undefeated. They had a nine-game winning streak during the season and finished 10-4 ranked No. 7 in the country. Brookdale had one foot in the door on the way to the District playoffs, leading Camden 1-0. But they surrendered two late goals and fell short of extending their season (Camden won the District playoff and is off to the national tournament). “It’s always disappointing not to win when you’re winning with eight minutes to go,” said Lawrence. “We had beaten them during the regular season and controlled the game. But we gave up two late goals. It was not a lack of effort. They worked extremely hard for 90 minutes. “It’s disappointing, but when I look back on the season, from where we were when we started, it was a great achievement,” he added. “We excelled as a team.” It was the way that the Blues jelled as a team that made the 2005 season such a rewarding one for Lawrence. “It was a easy team to coach,” he said. “The girls worked hard and understood the team concept.” If there was anything that held the Blues back this year, it may have been depth. The team was not particularly deep and injuries that cropped up during the season and late may have led to the team running out of gas late in the championship final against Camden. That aside, the Blues can look upon 2005 as highly rewarding. Postseason awards are always a gauge for how successful a team was and the all-star honors won by Brookdale is an indicator of what the other coaches thought of the Blues. Six players made postseason teams and two, Laura Fiorentino, a defender, and forward Lauren Lovallo, were nominated for All-American honors. Lovallo, Fiorentino and defender Katelyn Miller were selected to the All-Region First Team and goalie Kim Mergner, to the Second Team. Mergner, Fiorentino, defender Erika Thompsen and midfielder Kirsten Difenderfer were selected to the All-Garden State Athletic Conference team. With Fiorentino and Miller among the players coming back next year, Lawrence can see his team returning to the championship game. “We have a good corps of kids returning, including our two defenders, who are terrific players,” he said. BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer
Add Region XIX title, national championships are next BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer Brookdale Community College’s women have captured the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) championships before, three times to be exact. But the 2006-07 title will hold a special place for coaches Joanne Cobb and Marianne Campacci. First, the Blues were coming off an injury-jinxed 2005-06 season in which just getting five healthy players on the court was a victory in itself. Add the misfortunes of the previous season to the overall competitiveness in the GSAC this winter, and you have a special championship. “The league this year was very tight,” said Cobb. “That made it [championships] very enjoyable. Anyone could beat anyone on any given night. “This was special,” she added. “This is possibly the most talented, friendly, upbeat team we’ve ever had.” They will be taking the talent and camaraderie all the way to the junior college national championships, thanks to their win last weekend at the Region XIX Tournament at the County College of Morris. The Blues beat Bergen 77-67, to earn their second trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) tourney. It all gets under way on March 15 and runs through the 18th at SUNY in Delhi, N.Y. The Jersey Blues, 18-8 overall, were 12-2 in the GSAC and won the regular season via a tiebreaker over Gloucester, which also went 12-2. But the Blues swept the season series 2-0, thereby winning the championship. Injuries did pop up very early in the season when BCC lost starting point guard Tiara Gaines. It could have been a big problem for a team that was looking to run at every opportunity and would need a point. But Katie Miller and Kwiatkowski filled in more than admirably. Without their contributions, the Blues would not have been able to win the conference title. “They went from shooting guard to the point, which says something about them,” said Cobb. “I would say we exceeded expectations without a point guard.” What stood out the most about the BCC women this winter was the team’s flexibility and depth. Cobb and Campacci could go big or small with the lineup depending on what matchup was best, and, they could go deep on the bench. A typical game saw the Blues going 10-12, which allowed them to keep fresh legs on the court and press teams for the entire game. “We had so many versatile players,” noted Cobb, adding that during the regular season, the Blues’ scoring balance produced an average of 70 points a game, despite not having a single player scoring more than 12 points a contest. Fabrizio (Brick Township) just edged Keishia Taylor (Point Pleasant) for the scoring leadership with an 11.565 average to Taylor’s 11.500. Jamie Biddle (Howell) was the third BCC player in double-figures, averaging 10.750 a game. Brie Kwiatkowski (Marlboro via Monsignor Donovan) and Lisa James (Manchester) made significant contributions, averaging 8.417 and 7.625 respectively. The 5-11 Fabrizio gave the Blues a double-double each night, averaging a team-high 10.348 rebounds a game. Biddle, who is also 5-11, pulled down 5.250 caroms a game. Kwiatkowski was the team’s play-maker, with 106 assists during the season (4.417 apg). Defensively, Brookdale held teams to an average of just 56 points a game. The team’s full-court pressure defense came up with 280 steals, with Fabrizio (54) and Taylor (50) the top thieves. Easy to forget in Brookdale’s success was just how young the team is. There are only four sophomores on the team. Despite the overall record and GSAC title, the Blues did play like a young team. “We did make some really big freshman mistakes,” said Cobb. That the Blues could overcome the mistakes speaks volumes for their talent. They also grew out of those mistakes as the season progressed. They will begin next year as the team to beat. But 2006-07 still has another chapter to be written, the upcoming NJCAA tournament. The Blues beat Middlesex, 76-65, Saturday in their semifinal and then topped Bergen, 77-67, in Sunday’s final to capture their second region title in the last three years. Biddle was the MVP of the tournament after scoring 22 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking six shots against Bergen. The former Rebel sparked a second-half comeback with her three-point shooting. Brookdale was 0-12 from behind the arc in the first half Sunday and trailed Bergen by six, 32-26. But as cold as the Blues were in the first 20 minutes, they were just as hot in the second half, connecting on seven of their nine shots. Bergen led from the start to the 10:00 mark of the second half when a Hoffman free throw put the Blues up 53-52. On Bergen’s next possession, Brookdale came up with a steal and Taylor hit a three. Biddle then hit two straight threes and the Blues were off and running with the 10-0 run. Taylor also scored 22 for the new region champions. James added 13 and Fabrizio had 10 rebounds, nine in the second half.
BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer Above, Monmouth University’s Nick Meyers slides safely around the tag at home plate during the first game of a recent doubleheader against Central Connecticut State in West Long Branch. Below, freshman pitcher Ryan Buch, one of the pleasant surprises on this year’s Hawks’ staff, stares in at the plate as he takes the sign from his catcher. With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, the Monmouth University men’s baseball team finds itself in position to qualify for the Northeast Conference Tournament. Despite losing three of four games over the weekend to Quinnipiac, the Hawks remain in fourth place in the conference with a 11-8 mark in NEC play. That puts them just a half game ahead of Central Connecticut State, and one game back of defending NEC champion Sacred Heart (12-7). With just eight conference games left in the regular season, the Hawks need to finish strong to assure themselves of a spot in the four-team NEC Tournament. “It gets a little dicey, but we control our own destiny,” said head coach Dean Ehehalt. “We don’t need to worry about other teams knocking each other off. We just need to take care of business.” PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff The Hawks will take on fourth-place Sacred Heart this week (May 10-12) and Wagner (May 17-20) at home to end the regular season. With the NEC Tournament set to begin May 24 in New Britain, Conn., head coach Dean Ehehalt’s squad is concentrating on the games ahead rather than worrying about the tournament. “We need to get there first,” he said. “We’ve set some high standards for ourselves in the past, and I think in 2006 we kind of put the cart before the horse. We had a very talented team and just didn’t play well down the stretch. “This year we’re very focused on playing good baseball, and getting team contributions. I’m very pleased with the make-up of this team.” Over the weekend, the Hawks struggled a bit against Quinnipiac, losing the opener, 9-8, on Friday, before splitting a doubleheader on Saturday, taking game one, 6-3, before losing in the nightcap, 9-2. The Bobcats then won the series on Sunday with a 6-0 win. Prior to the weekend’s games, Ehehalt said he was pleased with the way his team is competing, as the Hawks have been able to strike the balance between a strong offense and quality pitching of late. “We’re playing well. I think we’re feeling good about the way we’re getting contributions from throughout the line-up,” the coach said. Most of Monmouth’s success this year has been led by its offense, as the Hawks are the top hitting team in the conference, with a team batting average of .312. “We came out of the blocks hitting well down south, and I think it’s just carried over for us,” Ehehalt said. “All of the stats are a little skewed, because we’ve been getting hits from everyone. It’s not like it’s been one guy who’s been red hot throughout.” The attack is led by junior first baseman Andy Meyers (of Stafford), who is hitting .40 (66-for-165) with seven home runs and 50 RBIs, to go along with 27 walks. “Andy is just having a phenomenal year,” Ehehalt said. Meyers is second in the conference in hitting, while teammate Kyle Messineo (of Cedar Grove) and Kyle Higgins (Green Brook) are also in the top 10. Messineo, a senior outfielder, is hitting ..353 (53-for-150)), while Higgins is batting at a ..362 clip (67-for-185). In fact, the Hawks’ three offensive leaders are among the league leaders in several offensive categories, with Higgins having the most hits (67, followed by Meyers at 66), Messineo scoring the most runs (54, followed by Higgins’ 48), and Meyers trailing only Mount St. Mary’s Eric Smith in RBIs, 52 to 50. Meyers is also the league leader in total bases with 99 and on-base percentage (.490), while Messineo is the NEC’s top base stealer, going 33-for-36 thus far, the league leader in walks with 30 and is second in on-base percentage (.482) and in the top 10 in slugging percentage (.573). “Messineo has surprised a little bit with his power numbers,” Ehehalt said. “He’s really more of a speed guy, but he changed his swing around a little bit and now he has seven home runs. Monmouth has also gotten solid offensive production out of sophomore Rick Niederhaus, of Hunterdon Central, who is hitting .321 (51-for-159) with three home runs and 29 RBIs, junior Shawn Teters, of Springdale, Ark., who is hitting .316 (42-for-133) and sophomore Chris Collazo, of Wall, who is hitting .307 (51-for-166). Ehehalt also credits junior catcher John Dennis (of Union) for anchoring the bottom of the line-up. “John hits down near the bottom of the line-up, and is a good indicator of the balance of the line-up. He’s had several big hits for us this year. He’s a clutch player.” The Hawks’ pitching is led by Brad Brach, of Freehold, who was named the Akadema/Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Week, for a second time in three weeks, last Monday. Brach, who has thrown four straight complete-game victories, including a nine-inning no-hitter, fell to 6-2 after taking the loss on Friday. That loss came after the junior right-hander tossed a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Central Connecticut State in a game in which Brach struck out seven and walked just one, while helping the Hawks win three-of-four from the Blue Devils. Brach, who now ranks third in all-time victories at Monmouth with 18, ranks second in the conference in victories, fifth in strikeouts (57) and near the top in ERA (3.59). He also ranks third in MU history with 177 career strikeouts. “He’s right where we thought he’d be,” Ehehalt said of Brach. “We’re pretty pleased to see that he’s getting better and better as the year goes on. He loves a challenge, and refuses to lose. “The thing is, if you come watch him, he’s not one of those guys who wows you. He doesn’t throw overly hard, he just works meticulously to get batters out. He gets guys to hit his pitches.” Also throwing well for Monmouth is freshman Ryan Buch, from Yardley, Pa., who is 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 55 innings of work. Freshman Brett Brach has looked good at times for the Hawks, while junior Justin Esposito, a Middletown North graduate, has looked sharp, pitching to a 3-1 mark, with a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings of work. “The freshmen are really throwing well,” Ehehalt said, also crediting the work of freshmen Matt Frazier and Kyle Breese. “We had some injuries to some of our front-line guys early on, and these guys really stepped up for us.” As a team, the Hawks are pitching to a 4.90 ERA, which ranks fourth in the conference. If Monmouth is to make a run at the NEC championship, they will need some strong relief work down the stretch from a number of hurlers, including Frazier (of Whippany), Breese (of South Brunswick), senior Matt Coulson (of Freehold Boro and Brookdale) and freshman Nick Vallilo (of Old Tappan), among others. “Coulson has been solid,” Ehehalt said. “He really gives us some strong options because he’s so stable.” With a potent offensive attack and what Ehehalt believes to be a deep, capable pitching staff, Monmouth is poised to put to bed the memories of last year’s late-season collapse. Following a game later today against Rutgers University, the Hawks have eight regular season games left to prove they belong in the NEC Tournament. Once again, Monmouth is as talented as any team in the NEC. This year, however, they hope that talent leads them to a conference championship. Hawks holding on to final spot by half a game
Hornets looking to win sectional BYWARREN RAPPLEYEA Correspondent A fter winning its third successive Shore Conference Tournament championship, the Holmdel High School boys tennis team is looking to make its mark in the NJSIAA Central Group III tourney.The Hornets, 23-2, reached the finals in the state sectional last spring before falling toWestWindsor-Plainsboro North.On Tuesday (May 24) the Hornets had another opportunity to win the sectional title as they took on third seed Hopewell Valley at Freehold High School.Holmdel has been perfect in state play thus far having beaten Burlington Township and Princeton by identical 5-0 scores in its quarterfinal and semi-final matches.Coach Chuck Chelednick’s team stormed through the Shore event just as easily downing Pinelands, Ocean and Toms River North before defeating Marlboro, 5-0, in the title match played May 11 at Shore Regional High School in West Long Branch.Holmdel also sits atop of the Shore’s A Central Division with a perfect 9-0 mark with matches remaining against Red Bank Regional, set for Monday, St. John Vianney, scheduled for yesterday, and Raritan on Friday.The Hornets have scored non-conference wins against some of the top teams in the state, including Delbarton (21-3), Moorestown (19-8) and St. Augustine (13- 3), as well as Toms River East and Lenape. Holmdel’s only two losses came against West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Morris Knolls, the latter in the semifinal of the Delbarton Tournament.“Winning the county and the division are always part of our goals,” Chelednick said. “We also have high expectations for the state tournament. We were pretty disappointed when we lost to West Windsor- Plainsboro North last year. We really want to win the sectional this time.” As always, Holmdel features a deep and talented lineup. Derek Liu holds down the top singles spot, where he is 22-6. The 5-11 sophomore reached the final of the Monmouth County Tournament, where he lost to undefeated Michael Lippens of Shore Regional, the reigning state champion. Liu is equally adept on the forehand or backhand, and also owns a strong kick serve.Charlie Seifer, who played doubles a year ago, is in the second spot. The aggressive senior also reached the second singles final at the county tournament and owns a 24-6 record. The two-handed backhand that Seifer developed in doubles has served him well in singles.Junior Daway Chou-Ren is 22-3 at third singles. Patient and consistent, Chou-Ren wears opponents down with his ability to keep the ball in play and win lengthy points.Holmdel’s doubles teams are another strength. Chelednick put seniors David Lyu and NeeveNikoo together early in the year, and the duo clicked instantly. Currently 24-0, Lyu’s big forehand meshes well with the 6-2 Nikoo’s solid service and strong backhand. They combined to win at first doubles in the Monmouth County Tournament. Michael Li and Ganeesh Natarajan, a pair of aggressive players, have posted a 23-1 record in the second doubles spot and also won at the Monmouth County tourney.Off the bench, the coach can call on Jacob Yang, who is a combined 11-0 in doubles and singles play; freshman Sam Joynson, 13-2; or juniors Dan Tu and Ken Hua, both 5-1. Yang and Joynson entered the Monmouth County Tournament’s third singles division, where they ended up downing Tu and Hua in the final. Seniors Jay Cheng, Jonathan Wu and George Xu provide additional depth.“We’re very fortunate to have so many talented players,” Chelednick said. “The kids who are not in our regular lineup would probably be starting for a lot of other teams.”
Tim Cleary (Shrewsbury/Christian Brothers Academy), a junior on The University of Scranton men’s lacrosse team, was named Honorable Mention All- American by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA).A first-team All-Landmark Conference selection in each of the last two seasons, Cleary is honored for his play at long pole midfield.“The coaching staff and I are incredibly proud of Tim and his accomplishments,” said second-year head coach Jim Rogalski in a university press release. “He continues to represent his family, his university, the program and its alums in a first-class manner.” This past season, Cleary led the Royals in caused turnovers (22), was second in ground balls (54), and was a key component on a defensive unit that held 10 of 16 opponents to 10-or-fewer goals. Scranton ended the 2012 season with a 9-7 record and qualified for the Landmark Conference tournament for second straight year and for the fourth time in the five-year history of the league.In 2011, Cleary was a mainstay on a defensive unit as the Royals won the Landmark Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division III championships for the first time in school history.Overall, Cleary has appeared in 46 games in his career and has 51 caused turnovers and 108 ground balls. He enters his senior year in 2013 14th on the Royals’ all-time list for ground balls.The Royals are coming off back-to-back winning seasons under Rogalski’s leadership.
By MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent Atlantic City aspirations are on the line as local grapplers gear up for the NJSIAA District 22 wrestling tournament.Raritan High School and Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) fell just shy of sectional titles in the state tournament, which wrapped last week. Long Branch High School also had a strong showing with a first-round win.The Rockets, who earned a No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group II bracket, advanced to the sectional championship after defeating sixth-seeded Middlesex High School, 39-25. Delaware Valley Regional High School, the top seed, edged Raritan in a 31-30 final to secure the title.A critical moment came in the 138-pound match between Raritan senior Dylan Seidenberg and Delaware Valley sophomore Connor Mills. Seidenberg, who is 26-1 on the season, came away with the win. But Mills was able to keep it to a three-point decision, preventing Raritan from adding bonus points.CBA ran into a familiar roadblock in the South Jersey Non-Public A finals. St. Augustine Preparatory School defeated the Colts, 33-27, thanks to back-to-back wins in the final two bouts. St. Augustine’s James Brady posted a 3-0 win over William Oxley at 220 pounds. Wrestling at 285 pounds, CBA’s Alex Petrocelli lost to Thomas Lynd, 6-2.Rich Koehler (106), Sebastian Rivera (113), Dylan VanSickell (126) and Liam Gallagher (138) had early pins for CBA.The Colts were the top seed in their section. Following a first-round bye, CBA handily beat Bishop George Ahr High School, 55-6, in the semifinals.Long Branch’s run in the NJSIAA competition ended in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals against Cranford High School. Three pins and a win in the penultimate bout propelled Cranford to a 34-28 victory.The Green Wave kept things close, as Joey Jasio (220) and John Tomlinson (285) each registered late pins. Cranford’s Anthony Capece (106) stopped the bleeding. He won a 6-1 decision over Justin Farnsworth.In the title round, South Plainfield High School slipped past Cranford with a 25-24 win.Raritan, CBA and Long Branch will likely find themselves fighting for the top spots at districts this week. CBA earned the most points in last year’s tournament. Long Branch and Raritan followed in second and third places, respectively.The District 22 tournament is scheduled for Feb. 20-21 at Red Bank Regional High School. District 22 is comprised of Red Bank Regional, Red Bank Catholic High School, CBA, Long Branch, Raritan, Middletown High School South, Middletown High School North, Ocean Township High School, Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School, Keansburg High School and Keyport High School.The grapplers will battle for a spot in the Region 6 tournament, where the top three finishers in each weight class advance to the NJSIAA individual championships in Atlantic City.CBA has a returning District 22 champion, Sebastian Rivera. The 113-pound junior, who holds an undefeated record of 28-0, is a possible favorite to win again after moving up a weight class this year. Expect Ocean Township’s Dave Tieto and Long Branch’s Jason Hernandez, the defending champion, to factor in as well.At 106 pounds, CBA’s Koehler and Long Branch’s Farnsworth are two grapplers to watch.Ocean Township freshman Jake Benner is having a strong first year, going 24-3 on the season. He is a top competitor at 120 pounds, alongside fellow freshman Russell Benson of Raritan.CBA’s VanSickell looks to keep his undefeated season intact. The junior is expected to make a run for gold, but also keep an eye on Long Branch senior Andy Hernandez.The competition at 132 pounds will be fierce. Rumson-Fair Haven standout Marcus Iwama is 26-1 in his senior season, matching the record of Raritan’s Seidenberg. The two grapplers could easily meet in the finals.Eric Drake, a Raritan senior, and CBA’s Gallagher, also a senior, are positioned to compete for first place at 138 pounds.Middletown North has a strong chance of seeing a winner at 145 pounds, given that senior Paul Capaldo has a 25-3 record and plenty of experience. The class also includes Raritan senior Mike Chadwick and juniors Thomas Hinz of Red Bank Regional and Danny Mullan of Long Branch.Crosstown rival Middletown South may be represented in the winners’ column as well. Senior Matt Best, who has gone 21-4 this year, is the top wrestler to watch at 152 pounds. Ocean Township junior T.J. Saldutti holds good odds, too.CBA junior Chris Koutzen, Middletown North sophomore Thomas Anderson and Raritan junior Nick Bohal could battle for the top position at 160 pounds. The top competitors in the 170-pound class include Ocean Township senior Zach Hertling and Middletown North junior Fred Svenson.At 182 pounds, Middletown North’s Anthony Vetrano, a junior, is 25-3 on the season. Also in line for a medal are CBA junior Jack LaCorte, Keansburg senior Dylan Alt and Keyport junior Ken Harrigan, whose season record is 17-6. Red Bank Catholic will bring a senior in Andrew Sita.Keansburg also has a potential favorite at 195 pounds. Senior Tyree Sutton has yet to post a loss after 28 bouts. Middletown North junior Chad Freshnock is in the mix as well.CBA’s Oxley and Long Branch’s Jasio, both juniors, have the edge against their competing 220-pound wrestlers in District 22. Among the heavyweights, look for Long Branch junior Tomlinson and Raritan senior Malcolm Daniels to bring home medals.
Middletown High School South shortstop Johnny Zega backhands a grounder during the Eagles’ Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals game against Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) May 20 in Lincroft. CBA outlasted the Eagles, 6-5, to continue in the tournament. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR It was hard for Zach deRocco and the Middletown High School South baseball team to think about division championship and tournament glory when it lost its first four games of the season.But things turned around quickly from there for the Eagles, who regrouped to win the Shore Conference A North Division outright and advance to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals for the third time in four years May 21 when they beat Hightstown High School, 9-3. A four-run first-inning outburst against Hightstown ensured the No. 4-seeded Eagles (21-8) a state tournament advance to the May 25 game at top-seeded Northern Burlington County Regional High School, which is 24-4.“It’s guys giving 100 percent every day, and the chemistry really helped out,” de- Rocco said. “We started slow because we didn’t know each other.”DeRocco, likewise, has come on strong in a 5-3 season that earned him an All-A North selection by the coaches, along with center fielder Nolan Pereless and pitchers Austin Markmann as a utility player and Johnny Zega as an infielder. Markmann also was selected to the Shore’s Carpenter Cup team.“I feel great. It’s an honor, but all the props go to my teammates,” deRocco said. “If not for them playing behind me like they do, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”DeRocco said he made some small adjustments on his mechanics and intensified his focus. His curveball is his out pitch, but he’s been making greater use of his changeup.“He’s pitching with confidence,” Middletown South coach Ryan Spillane said. “He’s getting better and stronger as he goes along.”Spillane said Pereless has picked up his production.Pereless is batting .341 with 29 RBIs. Zega is next in RBIs with 19, and Dave Mangarelli and Markmann each have 14. Markmann is batting .337.The Hightstown victory was a solid rebound from a 6-5 loss to division rival Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in eight innings May 20 in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. Brandon Martorano belted two home runs and drilled a walk-off single in the eighth inning for CBA. Middletown South had split two division games with CBA during the season, winning the second one, 9-5, to put the Eagles in a commanding position for the division title.DeRocco said that affirmed his belief that Middletown South could contend for championship glory.“But I felt before the season the team could go all the way,” he said.Prior to that CBA loss, Middletown South pulled out a 5-4 over Middletown High School North in the state tournament May 18. Zega hit a two-out, walk-off single in the 11th inning and also threw the last four innings of scoreless relief for his fourth victory. Jeff Lewandowski started the winning rally with a walk, and Pereless beat out an infield single. Spillane said he could not remember the last time a Middletown South player got a walk-off hit.Middletown North had a chance to take the lead in the fifth inning when it scored three runs but lost that chance when an illegal runner was called out with runners on second and third because it was the second time Middletown North used the same runner in pinch-runner situations. Middletown South retired the next batter to end the threat. “That was the most dramatic game I’ve been involved with,” Spillane said. “We have to take care of our defense and do the little things to manufacture runs. We have to execute the fundamentals and make no mental mistakes and move runners and drive them in with base hits.”“Defense is the key and, if we play our game, we can beat anybody,” deRocco said. “That includes good baserunning because we have a lot of fast guys.”Middletown South had its 14-game win streak ended in an 11-1 loss to Wall High School May 9 in the Monmouth County Tournament.Middletown South softball, likewise, is on a tear of late in a 24-4 season, winning 10 straight and clinching the A North title since a 6-4 loss to Middletown North as it headed into its NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinal game May 26 at Wall.Middletown South advanced to the semifinals when Maddie McMahon scattered eight hits with 11 strikeouts and Tiffani Lambert hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Nicki Curran for a 1-0 victory over Ewing High School May 19. By WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent