Friday, April 24, 2015

Baseball: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex standings

   (Through Thursday's games)

Skyland Conference
Delaware Division
Overall
Division
Bridgewater-Raritan
(11-2)
(6-0)
Hillsborough
(4-4)
(4-2)
Hunterdon Central
(8-4-1)
(4-3-1)
Immaculata
(6-6)
(4-3)
Watchung Hills
(7-4)
(1-4)
Raritan Division
Overall
Division
Ridge
(6-2-1)
(4-1-1)
North Hunterdon
(9-3)
(4-2)
Montgomery
(3-6)
(1-3)
Franklin
(2-7)
(1-5)
Phillipsburg
(3-7)
(0-6)
Valley Division
Overall
Division
Somerville
(9-2)
(6-0)
Bernards
(11-1)
(6-1)
Delaware Valley
(5-5)
(2-4)
Rutgers Prep
(3-7)
(2-4)
Warren Hills
(3-7)
(1-4)
Voorhees
(2-6)
(1-5)
Mountain Division
Overall
Division
Gill St. Bernard's
(8-4)
(5-1)
North Plainfield
(6-3)
(5-1)
Pingry
(5-3)
(3-1)
Bound Brook
(3-5)
(2-3)
South Hunterdon
(2-8)
(2-3)
Belvidere
(2-6)
(1-4)
Manville
(1-7)
(0-5)
Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Freedom Division
Overall
Division
Jefferson
(9-4)
(3-1)
Lenape Valley
(5-4)
(3-1)
Hackettstown
(7-2)
(2-1)
High Point
(5-7)
(1-3)
Sussex Tech
(6-7)
(0-3)
American Division
Overall
Division
Pope John
(7-4)
(3-1)
Morris Hills
(7-5)
(2-1)
Mount Olive
(5-6)
(2-1)
Sparta
(4-5)
(0-2)
Vernon
(5-4)
(0-2)
Colonial Division
Overall
Division
Wallkill Valley
(6-4)
(3-0)
North Warren
(5-5)
(3-1)
Newton
(4-6)
(2-1)
Hopatcong
(4-5)
(1-3)
Kittatinny
(1-6)
(0-4)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baseball: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

My apologies for the delay, but here are the season's first set of Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings.

Expect plenty of movement from Nos. 5-10 as the sixth annual tri-county tournament gets underway with four preliminary-round games on Wednesday: Belvidere at High Point, Kittatinny at Phillipsburg, South Hunterdon at Sussex Tech and Sparta at Warren Hills.

Sparta at Warren Hills seems to be the most intriguing matchup. The Spartans have been having trouble swinging the bats in the early going, while the Blue Streaks have allowed 33 runs in their last four games coming into the week.

Hunterdon Central (three-time champion) and North Hunterdon figure to be the teams to beat, but keep an eye on Pope John, which caught a huge break with those Hunterdon powers both in the upper bracket.

Pope John (5-4) features two solid pitchers atop the rotation in lefty Ethan Collins and righty Jack Nelson. Like Sparta, it's been an offensive struggle thus far, so the bats will need to produce if PJ is to win its second HWS title and first since 2011.

"Pitching is definitely the strength of our team," Nelson said after last Wednesday's win over Sparta.

Now, onto the rankings:

1. Hunterdon Central (6-3-1) -- Red Devils right back in their familiar spot at the top. but coach Mike Raymond's club has hit some bumps in the road early on. Clearly the top team in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area, Central cemented their No. 1 ranking with a 13-3 win over No. 2 North Hunterdon last Wednesday. Senior shortstop Mike Perone (.406) went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while senior outfielder Henry Hawkins finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Leadoff hitter Brett McManus is starting to heat up with five hits and three RBIs over his last four games. Matt Padre and Matt Toke share the team lead in RBIs with 12.

Up next: Phillipsburg at Diamond Nation on Tuesday; Hillsborough at home on Wednesday; Franklin at home on Thursday; Hopatcong at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

2. North Hunterdon (9-1) -- Lions have been absolutely solid sans a 13-3 loss to No. 1 Hunterdon Central, outscoring the opposition by a combined 75-20 in its nine victories. Junior ace John Wilson (4-0) and senior lefty Shayne Fontana (Kean University) are a nice 1-2 punch on the mound, while senior third baseman Tom Schumacher (Lehigh) has been on a tear at the plate, driving in a pair of runs in a 3-0 win over Montgomery in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash on April 13. With Central still in the Delaware Division, coach Mike Kane's Lions are the favorite in the Raritan.

Up next: Steinert at Diamond Nation on Tuesday; at Ridge on Wednesday; at Immaculata on Friday; Belvidere-High Point winner at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

3. Pope John (5-4) -- The Sussex County Lions finished 3-1 last week with a 2-0 win over crosstown rival Sparta on Wednesday to snap a three-game skid in that series. Coach Vin Bello's teams are 6-3 vs. the Spartans since the NJAC began play in 2009-10. Right-hander Jack Nelson (1-2) went the route for his first win, striking out six, while Ethan Collins and George Somers drove in runs. Catcher Zach Leach entered last week batting ..500, while Collins, the staff ace, improved to 3-0 with 14 K's overall in the team's 5-0 win over Randolph on Friday.

Up next: at Morris Hills on Thursday; Sparta-Warren Hills winner at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

4. Hackettstown (7-1) -- Tigers drew the No. 1 seed in the Hunterdon-Warren bracket for the tri-county tournament and coach Gary Poyer's club will be a tough out. Their only loss coming into the week was 6-4 in eight innings to No. 6 Lenape Valley last Wednesday in an NJAC Freedom Division clash. Senior catcher Jonathan Pezzato is swinging a hot bat with two doubles, one home run and six RBIs in his last three games. Junior pitcher John Franco is 3-0 with 14 K's in those wins.

Up next: at Sussex Tech on Thursday; South Hunterdon-Sussex Tech winner at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

5. Delaware Valley (5-4) -- Terriers capped a 3-2 week with a 7-5 win over No. 8 Newton on Saturday at Memory Park on the heels of a 12-2 pasting of No. 9 Voorhees on Friday. Coach Marty White's squad was dealt a blow before the season began with the loss of ace right-hander Logan Brown (possible Tommy John surgery), while also losing center fielder and No. 3 hitter Frank McHugh, who is out until May with a broken foot. Righty C.J. Schaible has assumed the role of staff ace and is 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA with 30 K's in 20 innings. Freshman Christian Hlinka is on a tear, batting .333 with 12 RBIs.

Up next: at Bernards on Wednesday; Warren Hills at home on Thursday; Vernon at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

6. Lenape Valley (4-3) -- Patriots are coming off a 2-2 week, capped by an impressive 8-1 win over No. 7 Sparta on Saturday. Junior outfielder Tom Armstrong stayed hot by belting a three-run homer, while winning pitcher Mark Lisi struck out nine and allowed just five hits in going the distance for his first victory. When ace Jim Fluke is on the mound, coach Bob Klinck's team has a shot against most teams in the area. It appears that Fluke (1-1) will start mainly in NJAC Freedom Division matchups, striking out 11 in the eight-inning win over No. 4 Hackettstown. Fluke also swings a formidable bat with a pair of hits in that one.

Up next: Newton at home on Tuesday; at Jefferson on Thursday; Voorhees at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

7. Sparta (3-4) -- Spartans dropped a pair of in-county matchups last week -- 2-0 at Pope John on Wednesday and 8-1 at Lenape Valley on Saturday. Right-hander Dillon Mendel went 5 1/3 solid innings with four strikeouts in a hard-luck loss to the Lions, while senior outfielder Tim Gondek logged a double and two RBIs in a 12-2 win over Parsippany Hills on Friday. First baseman Nick Makowitz was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in that one and he drove in a run against Lenape.

Up next: at Jefferson on Tuesday; at Warren Hills on Wednesday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round; Vernon at home on Thursday.

8. Newton (4-4) -- Braves have been a tough bunch to figure out the last few years at this point in the season. Lefty ace Nick Grant has yet to get going on the mound, but righty Cole Van Luvender (3-0), who showed flashes as a sophomore in 2014, has been solid for coach John Selitto's club. Van Luvender fanned seven in a 14-6 win over Hopatcong on Friday. Senior shortstop Jon Bernotas is absolutely raking -- .645 average (20-for-31), with five doubles, one homer and 10 RBIs. Grant is doing the job with the bat, hitting .360 with eight RBIs. Newcomers Michael Luzzi, a sophomore, (.350, nine RBIs) and freshman Chase Cramer (.281, four RBIs) are making an impact.

Up next: at Lenape Valley on Tuesday; at Wallkill Valley on Wednesday; North Warren at home on Thursday; North Warren at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

9. Vernon (5-3) -- Vikings have won three of their last four, including a bizarre 7-0 win over High Point, a game that coach Scott Berge's club actually lost 7-6. The Wildcats had to forfeit due to having one of their pitcher go over the 10-inning maximum for the week. Junior ace Christian Capuano (2-0) gives this team a chance most times out, while catcher Connor Fitzsimmons kept swinging a red-hot bat by going 3-for-6 with two RBIs in Saturday's 12-10 win at Blair Academy, following a 2-for-3 day with a homer and two RBIs in a 5-4 win over Warwick Valley (N.Y.).

Up next: at Sparta on Thursday; High Point at home on Friday; at Delaware Valley on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

10. Wallkill Valley (4-4) -- Rangers won three in a row before a 13-0 loss to No. 4 Hackettstown on Thursday. Coach Kevin Lukich's team rebounded with a 10-0 win over Kittatinny that preceded a 3-2 loss to High Point on Saturday. This spot was a tough call, but Wallkill did beat No. 6 Lenape Valley
earlier last week -- 8-3 on April 13. Lefty ace Joe Colosimo (2-1) fanned five in the win over Kittatinny, while senior shortstop Michael Armstrong went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI. Colosimo helped himself by going 2-for-3 with an RBI double.

Up next: Sussex Tech at home on Tuesday; Newton at home on Wednesday; at Hopatcong on Thursday; Kittatinny-Phillipsburg winner at home on Saturday in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex first round.

On the bubble: High Point (4-7), North Warren (3-5), Voorhees (2-5), Warren Hills (2-7).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Baseball: HWS schedule for April 20-26

Monday, April 20


(All games 4 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Kittatinny at Hackettstown, ppd. to May 7
North Warren at High Point, ppd. to May 7
Newton at Lenape Valley, ppd. to Tuesday
Hopatcong at Jefferson, ppd. to April 24
Pope John at Morristown, ppd. to May 5
Sparta at Delbarton, ppd. to May 12
Wallkill Valley at Sussex Tech, ppd. to Tuesday

Skyland Conference

Hunterdon Central at Phillipsburg, ppd. to Tuesday
Manville at Belvidere, ppd. TBA

Tuesday, April 21


(All games 3:45 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Sparta at Jefferson, 4 p.m.
Chatham at Vernon, cancelled
Newton at Lenape Valley, 4 p.m.
Sussex Tech at Wallkill Valley
Mountain Lakes at Hackettstown, ppd. TBA

Skyland Conference

Hunterdon Central vs. Phillipsburg at Diamond Nation, 3:30 p.m.
South Hunterdon at Gill St. Bernard’s
Somerville at Voorhees, ppd. TBA
Rutgers Prep at Warren Hills, ppd. TBA
Belvidere at North Plainfield, 6 p.m.

Independent

Steinert vs. North Hunterdon at Diamond Nation, 6 p.m.
North Warren at Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg (Pa.), 4 p.m.

Wednesday, April 22


(All games 4 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Newton at Wallkill Valley, cancelled

Skyland Conference

Hillsborough at Hunterdon Central, 3:45 p.m.
Delaware Valley at Bernards, 4:15 p.m.
North Hunterdon at Ridge

Thursday, April 23


(All games 4 p.m., unless noted)

Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament

Preliminary round

Belvidere at High Point
Kittatinny at Phillipsburg
South Hunterdon at Sussex Tech
Sparta at Warren Hills

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

High Point at Mountain Lakes, ppd. TBA
Lenape Valley at Jefferson
North Warren at Newton
Pope John at Morris Hills
Vernon at Sparta, ppd. to May 20
Wallkill Valley at Hopatcong
Kittatinny at Boonton, ppd. to April 25

Skyland Conference

Warren Hills at Delaware Valley, ppd. to May 20
Franklin at Hunterdon Central, 3:45 p.m.
Voorhees at Bernards, 3:45 p.m.

Independent

Hackettstown at Lakeland, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, April 24


(All games 4 p.m., unless noted)

Independent

Minisink Valley (N.Y.) at Sparta, ppd. to May 1
Boonton at Sussex Tech
Stroudsburg (Pa.) at Phillipsburg

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

High Point at Vernon
Hopatcong at Jefferson

Skyland Conference

North Hunterdon at Immaculata, 3:45 p.m.

Saturday, April 25


Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament

(All first-round games 11 a.m., unless noted)

High Point at North Hunterdon
North Warren at Newton
Phillipsburg at Wallkill Valley, 10:30 a.m.
Hopatcong at Hunterdon Central, 10:30 a.m.
Sussex Tech at Hackettstown, 10 a.m.
Voorhees at Lenape Valley
Warren Hills at Pope John
Vernon at Delaware Valley

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Kittatinny at Boonton, noon

Independent

Memorial (N.Y.) vs. North Hunterdon at Bundt Park, 3 p.m.
Sussex Tech at Dover, 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 26


Independent

North Hunterdon at Edison

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Baseball: Pope John ends skid in crosstown rivalry

SPARTA -- Jack Nelson and his Pope John teammates were very aware of the recent series history against their crosstown rivals.

Suffice it to say, the senior right-hander wasn't interested in repeating it, spinning a seven-inning gem in leading the Lions to a 2-0 win over Sparta in an NJAC American Division clash on Wednesday at Pope John XXIII High School.

Nelson (1-2) allowed just five hits and three walks to go with six strikeouts in the shutout, which helped Pope John (4-3, 2-1 division) snap a three-game skid vs. Sparta (2-3, 0-2) dating to 2013.

"We haven't beaten them since my sophomore year and they swept up [in two division meetings] last year," said Nelson, who worked out of jams in the first and second innings before breezing through the next four frames. "I wasn't going to let us lose again."

Both offenses have struggled early on as the teams combined for eight hits in this one. Pope John, which had just three hits on the day, scored both runs in the third off a fielder's choice grounder and a sacrifice fly.

Sparta ace Dillon Mendel (1-1) certainly deserved a better fate, logging 5 1/3 solid innings in which he allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The right-hander fanned 10 in an opening day win over Wallkill Valley.

"Dillon pitched outstanding. It was all we could ask for," said veteran Spartans coach Sam Slobodzian, who lifted the right-hander in the sixth with a pitch count in the mid-80s. "I'm proud of our guys. It was a well-played game on both sides. They got the key hit and we didn't, and we made some mistakes that cost us."

After Trevor Backman's leadoff walk was erased with Jay Sanford's fielder's choice grounder, Pope John designated hitter Justin Provost reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second. Zach Leach walked to load the bases and Sanford trotted home on Ethan Collins' roller to first. Provost scored on George Somers' fly ball to right to cap the scoring.

With a two-run lead, Nelson was able to work with some breathing room. He retired nine of 11 from the third inning until a two-out single in the sixth by Connor Coyle, who went 2-for-3 in the loss. Coyle was then erased on a 1-3-6-1 caught stealing.

The Spartans threatened in the seventh when catcher Mike Vocaturo reached on an error leading off the frame. With one out, Paul DeAquino singled up the middle to put the potential tying runs on first and second. But Cameron Estanislau struck out and crossed home plate in the process, and batter's interference was called when Pope John catcher Leach tried to throw down to second base.

Earlier in the sixth, batter's interference was called on Pope John to end the inning.

"I've been coaching [for 16 seasons] and I can't remember seeing one, let alone two [interference calls]," Lions coach Vin Bello said.

Sparta's struggles at the plate continued in the early going. Slobodzian's club managed just five hits and missed a golden chance in the first after Tim Gondek's leadoff single and stolen base. Nelson struck out Nick Makowitz and Coyle to strand Gondek at third. Overall, the Nos. 1-4 hitters went a combined 1-for-11.

"Definitely my fastball [was working]. I didn't have great control of my curveball," Nelson said. "Once we got two runs, we knew we were going to win. We know if we can get three, four or five runs, we can beat anyone. Pitching is always a strength of our team."

"He stuck to scouting report and settled in two through six," Bello said. "We're confident with Jack. You can't let a well-coached team hang around. Hopefully the offense will come around. I saw some good things the last few games."

Now 0-2 in the division after an 8-1 loss to front-running Mount Olive on Monday, Sparta will need to get the bats going if it is to repeat as the American champion.

"I thought we hit the ball hard against one of the best pitchers [in the area]," Slobodzian said. "The hits will come. [Pope John] made some nice plays in the infield."

Pope John moved over the .500 mark just in time with games against Randolph (Friday) and Don Bosco Prep (Saturday) on tap.

"This was a good win against a division opponent and we needed it," said Bello, whose teams are 6-3 vs. Sparta in the six-year history of the NJAC.

SPARTA (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Gondek rf 3-0-1-0, Jack Simon 2b-p 3-0-0-0, Mendel p-ss 2-0-0-0, Makowitz 1b 3-0-0-0, Coyle lf 3-0-2-0, Vocaturo c 2-0-0-0, Sean Young cr 0-0-0-0, Jack Kulik cf 3-0-0-0, DeAquino ss-3b 2-0-1-0, Estanislau 3b-2b 2-0-0-0. Totals: 24-0-5-0.

POPE JOHN (ab-r-h-rbi) -- Sanford ss 3-1-1-0, Provost dh/Nelson p 3-1-1-0, Leach c 1-0-0-0, Cyrus Ahmadi cr 0-0-0-0, Collins 1b 3-0-0-1, Somers 2b 2-0-0-1, Kyle Malejko cf 3-0-0-0, Hunter Silvernail lf 2-0-0-0, Ryan Casey lf 1-0-1-0, Connor Van Kampen 3b 3-0-0-0, Backman rf 0-0-0-0. Totals: 21-2-3-2.

Sparta (2-3, 0-2)                 000       000       0 --  0   5   2
Pope John (4-3, 2-1)          002       000       x--   2   3   1

E -- DeAquino 2; Collins. DP -- Sparta 1 (Simon-Vocaturo, 6th); Pope John 2 (Somers-Sanford-Collins, 2nd; Nelson-Leach, 7th). LOB -- Sparta 5, Pope John 6. 2B -- Coyle. SB -- Gondek, Mendel; Casey. CS -- Coyle; Leach. SF -- Somers.

Mendel, Simon (6) and Vocaturo. Nelson and Leach. W -- Nelson (1-2). L -- Mendel (1-1). SO-BB -- Mendel 4-2; Simon 1-0; Nelson 6-3. PB -- Vocaturo 2. HBP -- Leach, Backman (by Mendel).

Baseball: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex standings

   (Through Tuesday's games)

Skyland Conference
Delaware Division
Overall
Division
Bridgewater-Raritan
(7-0)
(2-0)
Hillsborough
(2-3)
(2-1)
Hunterdon Central
(4-1-1)
(1-1)
Immaculata
(4-4)
(1-1)
Watchung Hills
(3-3)
(0-3)
Raritan Division
Overall
Division
North Hunterdon
(7-0)
(3-0)
Ridge
(4-0-1)
(2-0)
Franklin
(1-3)
(0-1)
Phillipsburg
(2-4)
(0-2)
Montgomery
(0-6)
(0-2)
Valley Division
Overall
Division
Somerville
(5-1)
(3-0)
Bernards
(7-1)
(3-1)
Rutgers Prep
(2-5)
(2-2)
Delaware Valley
(3-3)
(1-2)
Voorhees
(2-3)
(1-3)
Warren Hills
(2-4)
(1-3)
Mountain Division
Overall
Division
Pingry
(5-1)
(3-0)
Gill St. Bernard's
(4-4)
(3-1)
Bound Brook
(3-2)
(2-1)
North Plainfield
(2-3)
(2-1)
South Hunterdon
(1-5)
(1-2)
Belvidere
(1-3)
(1-3)
Manville
(1-5)
(0-4)
Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Freedom Division
Overall
Division
Lenape Valley
(2-2)
(2-0)
Hackettstown
(4-0)
(1-0)
Jefferson
(6-3)
(1-1)
Sussex Tech
(5-4)
(0-1)
High Point
(3-5)
(0-2)
American Division
Overall
Division
Mount Olive
(3-4)
(2-0)
Morris Hills
(5-3)
(1-0)
Pope John
(3-3)
(1-1)
Sparta
(2-2)
(0-1)
Vernon
(2-3)
(0-2)
Colonial Division
Overall
Division
North Warren
(3-2)
(2-0)
Newton
(2-3)
(1-0)
Wallkill Valley
(2-2)
(0-0)
Hopatcong
(2-3)
(0-1)
Kittatinny
(1-4)
(0-2)