Friday, April 29, 2011

NFL Draft brings out the crazies to Radio City

For anyone who has attended the NFL Draft, and I have been to several now, it can be the best and worst of experiences. But, boring is one thing it is not. It's great to mingle with fans who show a true passion for their team and the game of football.

I have been a draftnik since high school. Some of my best memories are skipping school that day, something my friends have labeled me for eternity and every time I missed a day back then they said "Mike isn't here. Must be the NFL Draft today."

But, by far my fondest memory is watching the 1983 draft and wishing and hoping that Dan Marino would fall to No. 27. Sure enough he did and the rest as they say is history.

So, I made the trek to Radio City Music Hall on Thursday and ran smack into NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on my way in. He said hello and we shook hands. That may have been the highlight of his night as the commish was booed and hissed relentlessly all evening.

Here are five observations from Day 1:

1. The fans came out despite the recent labor dispute and showed their love for the NFL. No sport can match its popularity.

2. Radio City continues to be a great host, hopefully it stays here and doesn't move to the West coast.

3. There were a lot more Carolina Panthers fans in attendance this season. Makes sense since the team with the No. 1 overall pick is usually well represented.

4. Love that teams only have 10 minutes to make a selection and the clock starts as soon as the pick is made, not when it's announced. Might have been a big reason why the Ravens didn't get their pick in on time, it goes fast and when you're locked in trade talks it's easy to lose sight of the time.

5. Goodell got an awful lot of hugs on stage from the players and he certainly needed a few on this night. The fans let the commish know just how they feel about this whole lockout nonsense with a rousing chorus of "We want football" as Goodell tried to open the proceedings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weather, Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex shaping up

We finally got some nice weather earlier this week, until the rains came again on Thursday. At least we got a good smattering of baseball games in before then, including the preliminary round games in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament on Wednesday.

Kittatinny was the only lower seed to win, snapping an eight-game skid with a 10-0 blowout of Belvidere. Winning pitcher Rory McArdle had seven strikeouts and Jordan Murch belted a homer and had three RBIs.

In other HWS action:

Wallkill Valley 10, Delaware Valley 7 -- Ian Endres went 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs to lead Wallkill Valley.

North Warren 20, Sussex Tech 5 -- Pat Dolan was 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs to lead North Warren.

Newton 6, South Hunterdon 2 -- Winning pitcher Eric Dillard was backed by Derek Smith going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

Saturday's first-round matchups are set. Here's a closer look at all eight games:

9-Kittatinny (2-8) at 1-Pope John (9-1) -- Cougars' reward is a date with the once-beaten Lions, who have won four straight and outscored their opponents 42-8 during that stretch.

5-Lenape Valley (6-2) at 4-North Hunterdon (4-5) -- Patriots can certainly score as they average just over 12 runs per game. However, they also surrender just over seven per game. Lions will provide a stiff test with red-hot outfielder Andrew Westlin and ace pitcher Asa Whitaker.

6-Warren Hills (4-5) at 3-Sparta (7-3) -- Probably the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Blue Streaks have lost three straight, but all to quality opponents. Spartans, who are very tough at home, are rolling having won six of seven, including a 10-0 win over Roxbury on Wednesday.

7-Wallkill Valley (5-9) at 2-Voorhees (7-0) -- Rangers feature first baseman Ian Endres who had a big game against Del Val. But the Vikings feature one of the top arms around in Virgina Tech recruit Sean Keselica, a power lefty who is 4-0 with 45 K's in those wins. He will be on the hill on Saturday.

7-North Warren (7-3) at 2-High Point (6-3) -- Patriots are hitting their stride having won five straight and scoring 46 runs in their last three. But they haven't faced many quality teams this season, like the Wildcats. Shortstop Jared Musilli (10 hits in last three games) and pitcher Brett Fundell are having outstanding seasons for the Sussex County squad.

6-Hopatcong (6-2) at 3-Hackettstown (7-0) -- Chiefs have pulled it together after an 0-2 start and have scored a ridiculous 41 runs in their last three contests. Catcher DJ Ross is outstanding and is 4-for-6 with three homers and six RBIs in his last two games. Tigers have won four straight in this series dating to last season, including a 6-2 win on April 4. Ace Matt Reynolds (4-0) beat Perth Amboy on Tuesday and he may throw in this one. If not, Justin Knight (2-0) is solid as well.

5-Phillipsburg (7-4) at 4-Vernon (4-4) -- Long bus ride for the Stateliners, who have won two straight including a 15-6 win over North Hunterdon on Tuesday. Third baseman Mike Murray is heating up, going 6-for-8 with two doubles, two triples, a homer and six RBIs in that stretch. Vikings have yet to play this week.

8-Newton (2-5) at 1-Hunterdon Central (6-4) -- Braves also have a long ride to Flemington and will face a Central squad that has been uncharacteristically up-and-down. Red Devils shortstop Josh Ake is a solid all-around player and pitcher Greg Scassera (2-0) is capable of shutting down the opposing bats.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New wrestling weight classes for 2011-12

The National Federation for High School Athletics has adopted new weight classes for the 2011-12 season.

The 14 weights will now be: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. The three middle classes -- 145, 152 and 160 -- are unchanged, but are now 7-8-9 in order rather than 8-9-10. In addition, 285 remains unchanged.

Monday, April 25, 2011

West Jersey baseball: Stateliners rally past Streaks

Outstanding third baseman Mike Murray went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and Phillipsburg used a four-run sixth inning to rally for an 8-5 win over Warren Hills in a Skyland Conference non-divisional matchup on Monday at the Phillipsburg Athletic Complex.

Phillipsburg (6-4), which split a pair of games with Warren Hills last season, has scored six or more runs seven times this season. Ryan Luke and Robert Howell each scored three times in this one and Sean Corman (3-0) was the winning pitcher.

Warren Hills (4-4) hosts another Hunterdon County rival on Tuesday when it takes on unbeaten Voorhees (6-0) at Joseph Steinhardt Field in Washington.

Here is the rest of Monday's action:

Pope John 16, Mount Olive 4 -- Matt Ackerman was 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs and winning pitcher Connor McGlynn improved to 2-0 for the Lions (7-1). Alex DeBellis was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Brendan Mayers belted a two-run homer in the win.

Wallkill Valley 9, Kittatinny 8 -- Mike Berado's RBI double in the bottom of the seventh gave Wallkill Valley a walk-off victory in Hardyston. Tyler Grabkowski went 3-for-4 and Ian Endres was 2-for-4 for the Rangers (4-8), who avenged a 4-3 loss to Kittatinny on April 4.

Cory Zervas was 4-for-4 and both Dan Chrernati and David Coombs had three hits for the Cougars (1-8), who have lost eight straight since beating Wallkill in their opener.

North Warren 16, Belvidere 1 -- Winning pitcher Nick Macaione had 10 strikeouts and was 2-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs, while Ryan McCarthy was 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs for the Patriots (5-3), who are unbeaten in the Skyland Conference Valley Division.

West Jersey Baseball rankings

1. Pope John (6-1) -- Lions rebounded from their first loss with an 11-0 win at home against Morris Hills on Wednesday. Center fielder Matt Ackerman was 4-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs in team's last two games. Connor McGlynn had five RBIs in the win over Morris Hills.

Up next: Monday at Mount Olive, Wednesday at home against Delbarton, Friday at Vernon, Saturday at home in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

2. Voorhees (6-0) -- Vikings earned a big 2-1 win over Hunterdon Central on Wednesday. Left-hander Sean Keselica is one of the top pitchers around with 34 K's in his three wins.

Up next: Tuesday at Warren Hills, Thursday at North Plainfield, Saturday at home in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

3. Hackettstown (6-0) -- Tigers own wins over Warren Hills and Lenape Valley this season. Coach Gary Poyer's team features right-hander Matt Reynolds, who is 3-0 this season and 16-1 for his career.

Up next: Monday at Hopatcong, Wednesday at Kinnelon, Friday home against Wallkill Valley, Saturday at home against Hopatcong in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

4. North Hunterdon (4-4) -- Lions have quality wins over Immaculata, Hunterdon Central and Montgomery, but have lost two of three, including 7-6 at Warren Hills last Wednesday. Outfielder Andrew Westlin is on fire, going 10-for-15 with four homers and nine RBIs in his last four games. He enters the week with five homers.

Up next: Monday at home against Piscataway, Tuesday at home against Phillipsburg, Saturday at home against Lenape Valley.

5. Hunterdon Central (5-4) -- Up and down season for the Red Devils with wins over Phillipsburg, Montgomery and Randolph and losses to Voorhees and North Hunterdon. Chris Suseck (.520 average) and Kenny Wilson (.400) have been red-hot at the plate. Greg Scassera is 4-2 on the mound.

Up next: Tuesday at Phillipsburg, Thursday at home against Bridgewater, Saturday at home in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

6. Warren Hills (4-3) -- Blue Streaks beat North Hunterdon, 7-6, on Wednesday and lost 4-3 to North Plainfield on Thursday. Go figure. Pitcher Kevin Kunzmann got the win over North and took the loss despite eight strikeouts against the Canucks.

Up next: Tuesday at home against Voorhees, Thursday at Somerville, Saturday at Sparta in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

7. Phillipsburg (5-4) -- Stateliners have played a brutal schedule, losing to Voorhees, Hunterdon Central, Montgomery and Immaculata. Coach Dave Hunkle's team had a nice 7-3 win at Bridgewater last Wednesday. Ryan Luke was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in the victory.

Up next: Tuesday at North Hunterdon, Thursday at home against Ridge, Saturday at Vernon in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

8. High Point (5-3) -- Wildcats have won three of four, including 10-6 win over Sussex County rival Vernon that ended the Vikings' four-game win streak last Monday. Pitcher Brett Fundell and shortstop Jared Musilli are enjoying fast starts.

Up next: Monday home against Jefferson, Friday at Sparta, Saturday at home in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

9. Sparta (6-3) -- Spartans have won five of six and scored 26 runs during that stretch. Pitcher Tommy Roche had nine strikeouts in a 4-3 win over North Bergen on Thursday. Big week coming up with High Point and Warren Hills.

Up next: Monday at Morris Hills, Tuesday at home against Queen of Peace, Wednesday home against Roxbury, Friday at home against High Point, Saturday at home against Warren Hills.

10. Lenape Valley (5-2) -- Patriots are averaging 11 runs per game, but have allowed 27 in their last four contests. First baseman Anthony D'Aiuto entered last week 15-of-19 and has four homers to start the season.

Up next: Monday at Newton, Wednesday at Mountain Lakes, Friday at Hopatcong, Saturday at North Hunterdon in Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Campolattano chooses Ohio State

Bound Brook senior Andrew Campolattano has decided to continue his wrestling and academic careers at Ohio State University. The prized recruit made an official announcement on Monday at the high school.

Campolattano, a four-time New Jersey state champion, won the 215-pound crown in March to become only the second wrestler in state history to win four titles. Campolattano, who won his previous three championships at 189, reportedly chose Ohio State over Lehigh, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. He rescinded a verbal commitment for a football scholarship to Rutgers in January.

Campolattano captured Bound Brook's 18th state title in thrilling fashion, decking Cherokee's Mike Zeuli in 47 seconds in the final bout of the 2011 NJSIAA State Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He received the Ringler Award as the tourney's outstanding wrestler.

Campolattano, who was 44-0 this season, finished his outstanding career with a 175-1 mark, as New Jersey's all-time victories leader. He had 116 pins, 10 technical falls, 12 majors, 17 forfeits and 20 decisions. He finished a perfect 16-0 in the state tournament with seven decisions, five falls, two technical falls, one injury default and one major decision. He also won four District 18 and four Region 5 titles.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter or Passover to everyone

Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday weekend. Thank you all for reading and making my blog a success in its first week.

Plenty more to come this spring season in the world of high school sports and starting this week I will feature a Player of the Week and West Jersey team rankings, along with standings. I hope to get out to a few games this week as well.

Enjoy everyone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sussex County wrestlers headed to N.C. State

High Point seniors Nick Francavilla and Joe Gaccione recently gave verbal commitments to continue their academic and wrestling careers at North Carolina State.

Francavilla, who had N.C. State as his No. 1 choice all season, projects as a 125- or 133-pounder. The three-time New Jersey state champion is one of the most decorated wrestlers ever to come out of Sussex County.

Francavilla finished 40-3 this past season and became only the 25th wrestler to win three or more state titles with a 3-0 win over Southern's Kyle Casaletto in the 125-pound final in Atlantic City. Francavilla is Sussex County's all-time wins leader with a career mark of 156-12 and is only one of three wrestlers to capture four Region 1 titles and among three at High Point to capture four District 3 titles.

Gaccione also had an outstanding career for the Wildcats. The nephew of High Point coach John Gardner finished third in the state at 145 pounds this season and captured his third district and third region titles. Gaccione finished 39-4 and was 132-31 overall in four seasons.

Lenape Valley senior Mike LaBell also committed to Bloomsburg. LaBell was 38-4 at 171 pounds this season and won the District 2 title. He finished second to High Point state champ Ethan Orr in the Region 1 finals to earn his first trip to Atlantic City. LaBell was 109-41 overall in four seasons.

West Jersey baseball: Hopatcong keeps rolling

It was only a matter of time until the Hopatcong baseball team got things going in the right direction. The Chiefs simply have too much talent.

Thursday's 12-5 victory over Vernon in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference non-divisional clash at The Homer Dome in Hopatcong is evidence that the tide has indeed turned for coach Chris Buglovsky's team. Hopatcong (5-2) has now won five straight since an 0-2 start.

Catcher D.J. Ross and center fielder Joe Lobue, both seniors, led the offense as each finished with identical stat sheets -- 2-for-3 with a double, a homer and two RBIs.

Vernon (4-4) has now lost three straight after its four-game win streak. Coach Scott Berge's Vikings lost 10-6 to High Point on Monday and 6-5 to Jefferson on Wednesday, in a game where Vernon led heading into the bottom of the seventh before giving up four runs.

Elsewhere in West Jersey on Thursday:

High Point 11, Newton 1 -- Joe Drossel was 2-for-4 with a homer, Kevin Fasano went 3-for-4 and Jared Musilli, who was 4-for-4 in a loss to Mount Olive on Wednesday, had two hits and two RBIs for the Wildcats (5-3). Brett Fundell (2-1) struck out six to pick up the win.

Sparta 4, North Bergen 3 -- Winning pitcher Tommy Roche struck out nine and both Devon Livingston and Ryan Magid had RBI singles in the sixth to give the Spartans, who have won five of six, a lead they would not relinquish.

Gill St. Bernard's 8, Belvidere 1 -- Jake Sarson, Tyler Grogan and Jake Carlson had the only hits, all singles, and losing pitcher Nelson Abrams fanned eight for the County Seaters, who have lost three straight.

North Warren 5, Bernards 2 -- Winning pitcher Nick Macaione's double in the top of the sixth snapped a 1-1 tie and he later scored on Garret Becker's two-out triple as the Patriots improved to 4-3.

Morris Hills 6, Wallkill Valley 4 -- Tyler Grabkowski walked four and allowed six hits in taking the loss as Rangers fell to 3-8.

Watchung Hills 9, Hunterdon Central 8 -- Kenny Wilson went 2-for-4, including a two-run homer, with four RBIs in the loss for Central (5-4), which has lost three of four.

North Plainfield 4, Warren Hills 3 -- Streaks' Kevin Kunzmann went 2-for-3 with a triple and struck out eight in taking the loss on the mound.

Somerville 14, Delaware Valley 4 -- Terriers have lost four straight and have scored four runs in all of those losses.

Bound Brook 2, South Hunterdon 0 -- Grant Jensen went 2-for-3 in the loss and is 6-for-9 in the Eagles' last three games. Robert Albanir was the hard-luck loser, going six innings and allowing two runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

Immaculata 16, Phillipsburg 4 -- Stateliners have given up 37 runs in their last two losses and have won five of seven.

North Hunterdon 7, Montgomery 5 -- Andrew Westlin went 2-for-3 and Nick Plinio went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and four RBIs to power the Lions. Mike Foster went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs and winning pitcher Steve Bloodworth (3-0) struck out three.

Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex baseball pairings

The official pairings and seeds for the second annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Baseball Tournament were released Thursday afternoon. Preliminary round games are scheduled for Wednesday, April 27 and the winners advance to first-round action on Saturday, April 30.

Quarterfinals will be played Saturday, May 7 and the semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, May 14. The championship game will be contested at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Hunterdon Central, which is the No. 1 seed for Hunterdon-Warren, is the defending champion. The Red Devils beat Sparta, 10-0, in the first-ever HWS final in 2010.

Pope John is the top seed for Sussex. The Lions dropped a 6-1 decision to Voorhees in a first-round game last year.

Here are the pairings and seeds.


Preliminary round

9A-Kittatinny at 8B-Belvidere

10B-Delaware Valley at 7A-Wallkill Valley

10A-Sussex Tech at 7B-North Warren

9B-South Hunterdon at 8B-Newton

First-round games

Kittatinny-Belvidere, winner at 1A-Pope John

5A-Lenape Valley at 4B-North Hunterdon

6B-Warren Hills at 3A-Sparta

Delaware Valley-Wallkill Valley winner at 2B-Voorhees

Sussex Tech-North Warren winner at 2A-High Point

6A-Hopatcong at 3B-Hackettstown

5B-Phillipsburg at 4A-Vernon

Newton-South Hunterdon winner at 1B-Hunterdon Central


Kittatinny-Belvidere-Pope John winner vs. Lenape Valley-North Hunterdon winner

Sparta-Warren Hills winner vs. Voorhees-Delaware Valley-Wallkill Valley winner

Sussex Tech-North Warren-High Point winner vs. Hackettstown-Hopatcong winner

Vernon-Phillipsburg winner vs. South Hunterdon-Newton-Hunterdon Central winner

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dinner to honor Lehigh champ Zach Rey

A dinner to honor national wrestling champion Zach Rey will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at Pavinci's Italian Grill in Lake Hopatcong, N.J.

Price is $25 for adults and $10 for kids under 12.  Cost includes buffet dinner, dessert, coffee and soda and gift for the champion.

For more information, contact Tom Vara at 973-770-8970 or Checks can be made payable to HHS wrestling. Please respond no later than Thursday, May 12.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

West Jersey wrestling wins leaders entering 2011-12

Minimum 50 wins
Dylan Thorsen
Clarke Moynihan
Joe Cruz
Ronnie Honickel
Beau Vrancken
North Hunterdon
Steven Churchill
x-Mike Pongracz
Delaware Valley
Jake Connelly
Nathan Dow
Derek Zehnbauer
Delaware Valley
Brandon Hull
Joe Emering
Pope John
x-Jadaen Bernstein
Avelino Jacinto
Chris Greenwald
Warren Hills
Kevin Gocklin
Jon Gemeinhardt
x-denotes underclassman

West Jersey Baseball standings

Through April 18, 2011

Skyland Conference
Delaware Division
North Hunterdon
Hunterdon Central
Watchung Hills
Raritan Division
Warren Hills
Delaware Valley
North Plainfield
Valley Division
North Warren
Gill St. Bernard's
Bound Brook
South Hunterdon
Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Freedom Division
Lenape Valley
Wallkill Valley
American Division
Pope John
High Point
Mount Olive
Morris Hills