Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Baseball: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

Welcome to the wild and wacky world of high school baseball in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area.

Among last week's head-scratching results was High Point's 12-8 win over previous No. 1 Pope John, while Phillipsburg posted a 9-6 win at Warren Hills on Monday to bounce the Blue Streaks out of the rankings. The Stateliners are 3-12 and had just ended a seven-game skid with a 17-2 win over Sussex Tech last Wednesday.

It's been that kind of season, folks. Don't even get us started on the NJAC.

Sparta loses to Newton, 7-6, then beats Pope John, 2-1. Speaking of Newton, coach John Selitto's Braves have seemed to get it together after a 2-4 start. Monday's 4-2 win over Delaware Valley may be the one that gets them going moving forward.

"We're just getting back to basics [at the plate]," said left fielder Justin Smith, who drove in the go-ahead runs with a single in a three-run sixth that erased Del Val's 2-1 lead.

"We're just not letting the game come to us some times," Selitto said. "I was happy for Justin. He works as hard as anyone on the team."

Wallkill Valley, which was 1-4 to start the season, has suddenly won six in a row, including Monday's 7-3 win at Hackettstown in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex contest. That sets up an All-Sussex quarterfinal clash with Vernon, a No. 10 seed, which advanced by beating Lenape Valley, 5-1, on Saturday.

Sussex County is making a strong showing in the tri-county tournament with five teams in the quarters for the second straight year. From 2010-12, the county put a combined total of six teams in the Round of 8.

Now onto this week's set of what have become very fluid rankings:

1. Hunterdon Central (13-1) -- Red Devils are the hottest team around right now as they enter the week riding a 12-game winning streak following a 4-0 week, capped by Saturday's 5-0 victory over High Point in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament contest. Winning pitcher Pat Clare improved to 4-1 by tossing a seven-inning no-hitter with four strikeouts. Mike Pfenninger went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Matt Toke was 2-for-3 with a double. Pfenninger has been red-hot at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in a 15-10 slugfest with Watchung Hills last Thursday in a Skyland Conference Delaware Division clash. Coach Mike Raymond's club also hammered Bridgewater, 11-1, in a battle of division title contenders.

Up next: North Hunterdon at home on Tuesday; Immaculata at home on Thursday; Sparta at home on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

2. North Hunterdon (10-7) -- Lions continued their roller coaster ride by winning four in a row until Monday's 5-3 loss to Steinert. Coach Mike Kane's team opened last week with a 1-0 loss to Ridge before reeling off four straight wins, including a 13-4 pasting of Bridgewater last Thursday in a Skyland Conference Delaware Division showdown. Shayne Fontana belted a two-run homer and Marc Monks hit a solo shot, while Tom Schumacher also went deep and had five RBIs. Schumacher continued his torrid hitting by going 2-for-4 with a double, triple and an RBI in Saturday's 7-0 win over Belvidere in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex contest. Later that day, Schumacher hit a two-run homer in 10-8 win over Memorial (N.Y.).

Up next: at Hunterdon Central on Tuesday; at Montgomery on Thursday; Newton at home on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

3. Sparta (10-4) -- Spartans are on the rise having won five of their last six, including four in a row with Monday's 5-1 victory over North Warren in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex clash. Coach Sam Slobodzian's teams have reached the quarterfinals every season in the tourney's five-year history. Matt Chemis went 2-for-4 and Thomas Ruddy was 2-for-4 in the win, while Dillon Mendel finished 2-for-3 with an RBI. Chemis also had a pair of hits in first-place Sparta's 10-0 win over Morris Knolls last Friday in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference American Division matchup. Last Wednesday, Mendel belted an RBI triple and Kevin Foulds fanned five for the win in a 2-1 victory over Pope John.

Up next: at Vernon on Tuesday; Morris Hills at home on Thursday; Watchung Hills at home on Friday; at Hunterdon Central on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

4. Pope John (8-4) -- Lions fall a couple of spots following a 2-1 loss to Sparta last Wednesday and a stunning 12-8 loss at unranked High Point on Thursday after opening the week with a 13-2 loss to Roxbury. Coach Vin Bello's team, which last lost three of four, snapped a three-game skid with Saturday's 3-1 win over Phillipsburg. Ethan Collins, PJ's No. 2 on the mound, had a nice week at the plate -- with a triple and two RBIs vs. Roxbury and going 2-for-4 with an RBI vs. High Point. Ace Dan Cunico (4-1) went 1-1 on the hill, taking the loss against Roxbury and striking out six to beat P'burg. Zach Leach went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs against High Point.

Up next: at Morris Hills on Tuesday; Montville at home on Thursday; at Mount Olive on Friday; Warren Hills at home on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

5. Lenape Valley (9-2) -- Patriots suffered their first two losses last week -- 8-7 at Mount Olive on Monday and 5-1 at home against Vernon on Saturday in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex contest. In between, coach Bob Klinck's club posted wins over Kittatinny (14-1 on Thursday) and Jefferson (2-1 on Friday) to stay atop the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division standings. Ace Jim Fluke ran his record to 5-0 with nine strikeouts against a young and talented Jefferson squad, which knocked off Sparta earlier in the week. Fluke has 47 K's in his five victories. Pat Togno continued to swing a red-hot bat by going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs vs. Kittatinny.

Up next: North Warren at home on Tuesday; at Newton on Thursday; at North Plainfield on Saturday.

6. Vernon (3-8) -- Don't be fooled by their record, the Vikings have shown themselves to be a dangerous club this season as evidenced by Saturday's 5-1 win over Lenape Valley in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex upset. Coach Scott Berge's Vikes, a No. 10 seed, advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight season -- winning just one HWS game the first three years of the tourney -- after making a Cinderella run to the final last year as a No. 6 seed. Center fielder Chris Pontus is on fire at the plate -- going 2-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBIs vs. Lenape, while ace Anthony Germinario (3-1) struck out 10 for the win. Germinario and Mike Harboy each went 2-for-4 in that one. Pontus went 3-for-4 with a double in last Thursday's 10-1 loss to Morris Knolls.

Up next: Sparta at home on Tuesday; at Montville on Wednesday; at High Point on Thursday; at Wallkill Valley on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

7. Wallkill Valley (7-4) -- Break up the Rangers, who won their sixth straight game with Monday's 7-3 victory at Hackettstown in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex showdown at Art Dimiceli Field. Sean Endres went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while Rich Stecher was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles. Winning pitcher Joe Colosimo got his first win with four strikeouts. Colosimo had a big week offensively with two RBIs in a 5-4 win over North Warren last Monday and a 2-for-3 day with a double and an RBI in the team's 16-6 win over High Point last Tuesday. Shortstop Kyle Rosencranz went 4-for-4 with a double in the Rangers' 6-4 win over Newton last Thursday.

Up next: at Kittatinny on Tuesday; Hopatcong at home on Thursday; Vernon at home on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

8. Newton (7-5) -- Braves have turned things around after a 2-4 start, winning five of their last six including Monday's 4-2 come-from-behind win against Delaware Valley in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex showdown at Memory Park. Left fielder Justin Smith delivered the go-ahead RBIs with a single and later scored on a passed ball to cap a three-run sixth inning. Ace Nick Grant (3-0) had eight strikeouts. Coach John Selitto's team went 1-1 in Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division games -- beating North Warren, 16-4, last Wednesday before a 6-4 loss to red-hot Wallkill Valley on Thursday. Smith was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a stolen base vs. North Warren and was 3-for-4 with an RBI and three steals vs. Wallkill. In his last five games, Smith went 8-for-20 (.400) with seven RBIs and six steals.

Up next: at Hackettstown on Tuesday; Lenape Valley at home on Thursday; at North Hunterdon on Saturday in HWS quarterfinals.

9. Delaware Valley (6-5) -- Terriers dropped a heartbreaker on Monday -- 4-2 to Newton in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex clash at Memory Park. Coach Marty White's team took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but ace pitcher Logan Brown labored in a three-run frame. Brown struck out eight in taking his first loss of the season. Third baseman Joe Chiarino went 2-for-3, including an RBI single in the first. Jake Brogan and Adam Novotny drove in runs to support winning pitcher Chris Fiaschetti, who had eight strikeouts, in a 3-0 win over Voorhees last Tuesday in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash.

Up next: at Franklin on Tuesday; at Warren Hills on Thursday; Hopatcong at home on Friday.

10. North Warren (5-5) -- Patriots are hanging on here after dropping their fourth straight -- 5-1 at Sparta on Monday in a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex contest. John Vuz had an RBI double in a 5-4 loss at Wallkill Valley last Monday and had a double and three RBIs in last Thursday's 10-7 loss at Jefferson in a pair of Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division matchups.

Up next: at Lenape Valley on Tuesday; Kittatinny at home on Thursday.

On the bubble: Hackettstown (6-5); Warren Hills (9-6)

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