HOME NEWS TRIBUNE NOTEBOOK: WEEK 3
Some exciting changes are in store for the Greater Middlesex Conference and much credit deserves to go to baseball committee chairman Jerry Smith, the former head coach at J.F. Kennedy High School who is now the athletics director at St. Joseph. Smith has taken the responsibility of serving as GMC baseball chair to a new level, surpassing the outstanding job turned in by his predecessor, legendary former Edison baseball coach and athletics director Jim Muldowney.The GMC divisions will be realigned for a two-year cycle beginning next season.Sayreville will move up from the White Division to the Red Division. New Brunswick will drop from the White Division to the Blue Division. Cardinal McCarrick and South Amboy will leave the Gold Division for the Blue Division. GMC newcomers Timothy Christian and Wardlaw-Hartridge will debut in the Gold Division.The rest of the league members will remain in their current divisions.Smith has already set the GMC division schedule for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He has done so with an interesting twist, finally implementing a concept Muldowney first proposed several years ago.Beginning next season, division foes will always square off on consecutive days. For example, St. Joseph opens the 2011 season at home on April 1 against Old Bridge. The following day, the teams will square off in Old Bridge.The home-and-home series will ensure three things: No school can throw its ace at a division foe twice in the same season, rivalries between schools will intensify and division play will conclude in early May.The latter means the GMC Tournament may be able to start early. The fact that GMCT games are being contested during the NJSIAA Tournament has always been a bone of contention among coaches. The new division schedule also frees up schools to play more nonconference games, something Smith believes is paramount to the league's exposure.Smith would like to see the GMCT seeding criteria altered, allowing strength of schedule to become a factor. Currently, the GMCT seeding committee relies exclusively on division play and some crossover results."It's very difficult to seed a tournament when you only use the division (and conference) records," Smith said. "We should really change that. We need to start telling our teams to go out and play some of the top teams throughout the state. Give your teams the recognition and notoriety they deserve so we can start showcasing our talent."St. Joseph, Edison, J.F. Kennedy, Spotswood and South Plainfield have always done an excellent job of scheduling tough nonconference competition. Smith would like more schools to follow suit."If we are just going to play in our own backyard," Smith said, "I think we are shortchanging our athletes in Middlesex County."
Narrow defeatsAll three of Bishop Ahr's losses have come by one run. One-run defeats to Blue Division rivals Middlesex and Spotswood could cost the Trojans (6-3) a shot at defending their division title.Bishop Ahr will look to avenge a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays (11-1), who are unbeaten in the division, on Tuesday.Middlesex could see ace Dario Santangelo, who has been the area's most dominant pitcher, striking out 22 and surrendering no earned runs over 18 innings.Bishop Ahr committed just five errors in its first seven games. A defensive miscue, however, allowed the winning run to score in Thursday's 4-3 loss to Spotswood.The Trojans are batting .339 as a team and have outscored the opposition 59-17.Tyler Rossiter and Joe Post have performed well on the mound and could provide the Trojans with enough pitching depth to make a run in the GMC and NJSIAA tournaments.
Most improvedSeveral GMC schools are vastly improved including Piscataway Tech, which equaled its win total of the previous three years combined with a 3-2 victory Thursday over Perth Amboy Tech.The Raiders improved to 4-2 by erasing a 2-0 deficit against the Patriots as Billy Heditsch plated what proved to be the winning run in the fifth inning."We've had some kids come into the school that can play baseball," Piscataway Tech coach Don Surowitch said, "especially kids that pitch."The addition of a junior varsity team last year and this season has enabled Surowitch to get more players in his program experience."That means we get kids that can develop and get in more playing time instead of sitting on the bench as freshman and sophomores with the varsity," Surowitch said.Cousins Santos Zabala, a sophomore left-hander who owns a 3-0 record, and Roberto Ortiz, who leads the club with three homers, are Piscataway Tech's best players.
Top seniorAt the midpoint of the season, at least five players can stake a claim to being the GMC's top upperclassman.St. Joseph's Victor Diaz (3-1, 0.55 ERA), Bishop Ahr's Dario Santangelo (3-0, 0.00), Spotswood's Cody Pace (.524), South Brunswick's Mike Muha (.531) and Woodbridge's Zach Hopf (0.56).All five players have put up big numbers hitting and pitching.
Top juniorMonroe's Nick Dini is not only our pick as the area's top junior, but he also is the player we believe is the most difficult for any pitcher to face.Dini leads the Falcons in a host of offensive categories including hits (21), runs (17), doubles (5), triples (2), homers (5), average (.512) and slugging percentage (1.098). In addition, he is second on the team with 13 RBIs from the leadoff spot.Dini has yet to fan in 47 plate appearances. Simply put, he is not only the toughest out in the Greater Middlesex Conference, but one of the toughest outs in the state.
Top sophomoreSouth Plainfield's Stephen Petriello, who played on the junior varsity last season, is a big reason why the Tigers will contend for the GMC Tournament and White Division titles.The catcher is batting .452 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Top freshmanMiddlesex's Tommy Marcinczyk is, hands down, the area's top rookie, batting a conference-leading .667 with 18 hits, four doubles, five homers and 20 RBIs.
Join the clubJerry Smith Jr. became the third GMC coach this season to reach the 100-win plateau in the Mustangs' 10-0 victory over New Brunswick last week.Metuchen's Sean Economou and Spotswood's Glenn Fredricks also reached the milestone earlier this spring.