NOTEBOOK - WEEK 3
Posted by Glenn Fredricks on Apr 22 2005 at 05:00PM PDT
All-GMC teams thing of past? Published in the Home News Tribune 04/23/05 GREG TUFARO Baseball Coaches and athletics directors have been formally and informally discussing some proposed changes that could impact the future of high school baseball in the Greater Middlesex Conference. Athletics directors will vote next month on doing away with all-conference selections in all sports, not just baseball. Under the proposal, coaches will continue to select all-division teams, but will no longer choose an all-GMC squad. Edison High School Athletics Director Jim Muldowney, who chairs the GMC Baseball Tournament Seeding Committee, said it is difficult for coaches to vote on all-conference selections because, for example, most of the Red Division mentors never see Gold Division players, and vice versa. As a result, when it comes time for all-conference selections, coaches are voting for players based solely on statistics and recommendations from other coaches. Still, Muldowney said he is not a proponent of shelving all-conference picks. "I would hope we don't do away with all-conference totally," he said. "Some way, the kids should be recognized as all-conference." Muldowney and St. Joseph Athletics Director Jerry Smith said coaches and athletics directors have informally discussed new ways to realign the conference for baseball and new ways to seed the GMC Baseball Tournament. "More than 50 percent of coaches want the seeding process changed," said Smith, who previously coached at J.F. Kennedy, where he built the Mustangs into a perennial power. Smith said he would like nonconference schedule strength to be factored into the seeding process. Currently, a team's division and league record take precedence over nonconference victories. East Brunswick (7-3), which currently leads St. Joseph (12-2) by one victory in the Red Division standings, for example, would be seeded ahead of the Falcons, even though St. Joseph beat the Bears head-to-head and even though the Falcons have played a brutal nonconference schedule that includes victories over Montgomery and Cranford. The Bears would receive a higher seed because GMC bylaws state that a school can't be seeded ahead of a team it trails in the division standings. "Teams don't have any need to play a strong schedule because the seeding takes place in Middlesex County," Smith said. "Everything is predicated upon your division. Jim (Muldowney) and myself feel that we should promote competition and reward teams for playing a demanding schedule." In addition, Smith said he and others have discussed new ways to ensure competitive balance throughout the league. One suggestion, which has pros and cons, is to move division winners up a level and to move last-place finishers in a division down a level at the completion of each season. For example, should Perth Amboy finish last in the Red Division and Colonia finish first in the White Division this year, they would trade places beginning in 2006. A drawback to that suggestion is that the Patriots start eight seniors and will be decimated by graduation. BACK ON TRACK: Bishop Ahr (4-3) got off to a slow start this season for a variety of reasons. But the Trojans, who took a three-game winning streak into yesterday's game against Metuchen, appear to have righted their ship. The combination of inclement weather, construction on campus and the spring musical overtaking the gymnasium trimmed Bishop Ahr's practice time in the preseason. "Basically we had no place to practice," head coach Scott Runkel said. "We had several scrimmages and that was about it. It really wasn't until a week before the season that we were able to get ourselves a little bit more space around the school grounds." As a result, Bishop Ahr lost three of its first four games, two of them by one run. "Without question," Runkel said, "our hitting was really behind the first week, week-and-a-half. We are starting to pick it up now. We've had quite a number of practices. We are now where we wanted to be the first week of the season." As of late, Runkel said, "Almost everybody has been hot," especially Chris Ciardiello and Ryan Van Name, who are both batting over .400. Justin Taylor, Lee Cavico, Eric Douglas and Dave Slater have also been hitting well. "I think the potential was there offensively," Runkel said, "but our pitching was unproven." Bishop Ahr graduated ace Jim Penn and has tried to fill his shoes by committee. Taylor and Slater have come on of late, but Runkel's top two pitchers have been juniors Eric Avila and Steve Montalbano. "Now that the pitching and hitting are coming together," Runkel said, "I think we are going to be the type of team that we had hoped to be early on." Bishop Ahr opened the year ranked No. 6 in the Home News Tribune Preseason Top 10. The Trojans fell out of the rankings after their slow start but return to the Top 10 this week. GLITTERING GOLD: South Amboy remained unbeaten in the Gold Division with Monday's 6-5 victory over previously unbeaten Cardinal McCarrick. Those teams meet in a rematch on May 7. "I thought it was one of the better high school games that I've coached in," said Cardinal McCarrick's Frank Notaro, who previously coached at St. Joseph and Colonia. "I thought both teams played very well. There was a large crowd there and a lot of enthusiasm." Notaro sang the praises of South Amboy sophomore right-hander Joe Bartlinski, who struck out seven and scattered three hits over seven innings. "He throws the ball hard," Notaro said. "He's got movement on his fastball and he has a sharp breaking curve. I thought he pitched outstanding." FELIZ BREAKS OUT: Luis Feliz, who led the GMC with 11 homers last season, belted his first round-tripper of the season. New Brunswick's center fielder clubbed a two-run homer off Carteret's Willie Negron on Tuesday. The highly touted senior, who has had major-league scouts at virtually every game, said the pressure of performing has not gotten to him. "I'm just learning to deal with it and play for my team and New Brunswick and not for the scouts," he said. A known quantity, Feliz has been pitched around for some of the season. He has been walked a team-high 10 times. Feliz is still batting .404 with seven doubles, three triples and one homer. He has driven in 12 runs and scored a team-high 20. "I started off slow, as you could see," he said. "The numbers don't lie." Feliz led the GMC in virtually every offensive category last season. GMC TOURNAMENT UPDATE: The GMC Tournament will be seeded May 9 (7:30 p.m.) at Edison High School. Preliminary-round games will be contested May 10 and May 12. The first round will be played May 14 with four doubleheaders at four separate sites. Depending on how the seeds shake out, those sites may be neutral. The quarterfinals are slated for May 18 as twinight doubleheaders. One site will be Memorial Stadium in New Brunswick. The other site has yet to be determined. HOLD THAT TIGER: Since returning from an arm injury, Delaware-bound catcher Bill Merkler is batting .714 with a homer, two doubles, five RBI and eight walks. Merkler and teammate Mike Benak led South Plainfield to the championship of the Greater North Plainfield Tournament last weekend. Benak was named the tournament's MVP. COMMANDER'S CUP: In today's GMC crossover battle, Spotswood and East Brunswick will compete for the Commander's Cup trophy, which was purchased by and will be presented by members of Milltown American Legion Post 25. Players from both high schools represented the Milltown Post in last summer's Senior American Legion State Tournament. Milltown finished fourth in the state.
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