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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.
WOODBRIDGE — The Spotswood High School baseball team has made it a bit of habit this season to strike big in one inning. Saturday's Greater Middlesex Conference crossover at John F. Kennedy was no exception.
The Chargers scored six runs in the fifth inning to down the host Mustangs, 7-2.
Spotswood senior captain Cody Pace got things started in the sixth inning with a long single to right field. Sophomore Matt Mangarella scored Pace with a hit. Mike Liming's RBI single over the head of a J.F. Kennedy outfielder made it 3-1. Liming reached third on a stolen base and an error, then scored on a balk.
Senior Anthony Pietanza punctuated the inning fittingly with a two-run homer to put Spotswood up 7-1.
"I didn't think it was gone," Pietanza said of the first homer of his career. "I just put my head down and started sprinting. And then I was halfway to third, everyone was screaming it was gone. I slowed down and had a huge smile on my face."
Pace said, "We jumped on them early, 1-0. They answered back. But we rallied in the fifth. That's usually our inning. We usually score five or six runs in that inning. And it's usually one inning a game. And that was it today, that's what sealed it up. Our game plan was basically to come in, jump on whoever's pitching for them, get a bunch of runs and trust our defense behind us. That's basically how it went."
The big inning made a winner of freshman Kevin Martin, who allowed two hits in the complete-game effort. Martin followed Spotswood's six-run outburst with a relatively easy inning — a double play and a pop out.
"Spotswood just outhit us," J.F. Kennedy coach Jerry Smith said. "As far as our starting pitcher (junior Emil Kranz), he did everything I asked him to. I told him if you get us three innings, we'll be happy, because it was only his second start varsity-wise. From a coaching standpoint, I didn't do my job. I didn't have anybody ready.
"So all of the sudden, I thought he was cruising along. It was 1-1. It takes one big inning. I wasn't prepared. And since I wasn't prepared, the boys had to suffer. The loss is on me. In that situation, it won't happen again."
Things did not seem to go the Mustangs' way all day. Even when Spotswood outfielders collided in the sixth inning, the Chargers recorded the out.
Martin simply did his job.
"He wanted the ball against the defending Group III state champs," Spotswood coach Glenn Fredricks said. "He said, "Give me the ball.' For a freshman to come here and do that to a team of that caliber, for Kevin to settle himself down and put the pitches where he wanted, a lot of credit has to go to his catcher Shaun Weeks, too.
"They funnel what we want as coaches right out to the mound. They're not fazed by any situations. That's what playing here at Spotswood is all about."
The Chargers (5-3) ended a two-game slide, while sending J.F. Kennedy (6-3) to its second-straight loss.
"Our kids have a championship pedigree in this program," Fredricks said. "They know you're only as good as your last game. So we had to erase some doubts about ourselves and I think we did that
HNT Baseball Roundup: Pace pitches Spotswood to victory
Senior right-hander Cody Pace hurled five no-hit innings before being lifted in favor of a reliever in the Spotswood High School baseball team's 8-1 Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division victory Tuesday over Metuchen. Spotswood coach Glenn Fredricks lifted Pace so he would be eligible to throw under NJSIAA pitching regulations in Friday's pivotal division game against previously unbeaten South River, which suffered a 5-0 loss Tuesday at Middlesex.
Tim Redshaw recorded Metuchen's lone hit, leading off the seventh with a single off Chris Stout.
Anthony Feltre, who led off the game with a walk, scored Metuchen's lone run on a passed ball. The Bulldogs (4-3) had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Shawn Weeks and Anthony Pietanza each went 3-for-3 for the Chargers (4-1), who trail first-place Middlesex by a game in the division standings.
Dean Vitale's two-run homer in the first erased a 1-0 deficit. He finished 2-for-5. Spotswood built upon its 3-1 lead with a three-run rally in the fifth. Pace fanned eight and walked two.
Matt Mangarella went 2-for-4 for Spotswood.
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Spotswood 4, Edison 3
By Josh Rosenfeld
Spotswood was itching to take the field, and not just because Thursday’s season opener had been postponed due to a wet field.
``We we were anxious and amped up to play on Thursday but unfortunately, we couldn't play," Spotswood shortstop Cody Pace said. ``But we were also amped up because this would be win No. 100 for coach (Glenn) Fredricks."
Spotswood jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 4-3 victory over Edison to give Fredricks his milestone victory yesterday in Edison. The team celebrated the occasion by donning commemorative T-shirts and presenting Fredricks with an autographed bat, although the popular coach downplayed the accomplishment.
``That's secondary to the performance that (pitcher Chris) Stout had today," Fredricks said. ``To get in here, against a quality team like Edison, and do what he did to their batters for the better part of the game was amazing. It's a good start for our season."
Stout went the distance to earn the victory, scattering seven hits and striking out seven while walking two. The sophomore southpaw consistently got ahead of the Edison hitters, often with first-pitch curveballs, and battled through the sixth and seventh innings after Edison had pulled within a run of the lead.
``My team did a great job hitting and that gave me a good mind-set," said Stout, who threw five innings as a freshman in Spotswood's 3-2 decision over Edison last year. ``Shawn Weeks is a really good catcher and he knew what to call when I was pitching, when to throw a curveball or a fastball."
Pace ensured that Spotswood’s season got off to a rousing start when he led off the top of the first by drilling a triple over the right fielder’s head. Spotswood spotted Stout a 3-0 lead when John Relay and Weeks each drove in a run on a ground ball and Dean Vitale followed with an RBI single.
``The mentality that we have, especially as the away team, is that we want to score two to three runs in the top of the inning to start the game," Pace said. ``We achieved that goal today, 3-0, then we tacked on another run and the final was 4-3. It's huge to come out of the gate firing."
Thus emboldened, Stout threw strikes on his first six pitches and retired six of the first seven batters he faced, three by strikeout.
Edison scratched out a run in the third when Vinny Zanfordino singled, stole second and scored on another single by Nick Fabretti. Spotswood got that run back immediately in the top of the fourth when Anthony Pietanza drew a two-out walk, took third on Joe Cappa's double and scored on consecutive walks to Pace (intentional) and Matt Mangarella for a 4-1 lead.
That run proved to be decisive when Edison threatened in each of the last three innings but could not tie the score.
Edison added a run with its own two-out rally in the fifth when Rob Borwegan walked and scored on a double by Kyle Paganelli, who went 3-for-3. Edison closed to 4-3 in the sixth following consecutive singles by Nick Chicarilla and Bryan Duran to start the inning and a sacrifice fly by Andrew Sporer, but it failed to advance Duran after he stole second.
Stout set the tone in the bottom of the seventh by striking out lead-off batter Justin Duran after falling behind 2-0 in the count. Paganelli singled up the middle with two out, but the threat ended two pitches later when Stout induced a pop-up behind the plate to end the contest.
Mike Liming went 3-for-4 with three singles to lead Spotswood, while Cappa, batting ninth, delivered a single and a double.
Spotswood returns to action Monday when it makes up Thursday's postponement in a key Greater Middlesex Conference-Blue Division game at Bishop Ahr at 3:45 p.m.