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NJSIAA Tournament

Group Championships

At DeMeo Field, Veterans Park, Hamilton

Group III

Middletown North 5, Cranford 4 (8 Innings)

Senior Mike Weinbel scored the winning run after a throwing error at first base with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the the Lions walked off with a state-championship-clinching win over the Cougars -- the first overall group championship in program history.

Middletown North loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning on a leadoff error, a single by Weinbel and a one-out intentional walk to senior Andrew Lombardi. Sophomore Jason Quardt then hit a comebacker to Cranford pitcher Sean Woodruff, who threw home for the second. The throw to first by catcher Lucca Limeira, however, was low and got past first baseman Tony Silva. Weinbel came churning around third base and scored standing up to win the game for Middletown North.

Lombardi was the offensive star for Middletown North. The senior designated hitter launched a tiebreaking solo home run to dead centerfield to put the Lions ahead, 3-2, in the bottom of the fourth and tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single just inside the third-base bag.

Cranford jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a home run by rightfielder Shane Van Dam in the top of the first, but Middletown North responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Senior Matt Adamson singled, junior shortstop Ryan Frontera walked and starting pitcher Colin Dowlen got Middletown North on the board by smacking an RBI single down the first-base line. Frontera went to third on Dowlen's single and scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-1.

The Cougars evened the score in the top of the third thanks to leadoff hitter Jake Carter, who walked, stole second and went to third on an overthrow to second base on the steal. Third baseman and Georgia Tech commit Ryan Jaros then drove him in with a line-drive, sacrifice fly to left to make it 2-2.

After Lombardi's homer, Cranford seized the lead back in the top of the sixth inning, with starting pitcher Will Gallagher tying the game with an RBI single and Jack Conley scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

The game took a strange turn in the top of the seventh, when Dowlen got the second out of the inning and was at 112 pitches according to the scoreboard and multiple journalists keeping unofficial count, including Shore Sports Network. The official pitch counter, however, had Dowlen with 104 pitches, which enabled him to face another batter in the seventh with two runners on. Dowlen struck out Shea Grady for the final out of the inning with an official count of 108.

Dowlen faced the first batter of the top of the eighth and retired Silva on a foul-out to first to end his game on the mound with an official pitch count of 112. Adamson came on and, after hitting the first batter he faced, induced back-to-back flyouts to send the game to the bottom of the eighth.

Middletown North ended its season on a 12-game winning streak, turning itself from a 9-10 team that missed the Shore Conference Tournament into the school's first overall state champion in baseball.

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Cranford (25-5)101002004113
Midd North (21-10)20010101560

Pitching

CranfordIPHRERBBSOPC
Will Gallagher (L, 9-2)765323107
Sean Woodruff0.2000109
Middletown NorthIPHRERBBSOPC
Colin Dowlen7.164444112
Matt Adamson (W, 3-2)0.2000007

Top Hitters

CranfordGame Stats
Shane Van Dam2-3, 2B, HR, R, RBI
Jake Carter3-3, 2B, R, 2 SB
Will Gallagher1-4, RBI
Shea Grady2-4
Tony Silva1-3, BB
Jack Conley1-3, HBP, R
Middletown NorthGame Stats
Andrew Lombardi2-3, HR, BB, R, 2 RBI
Colin Dowlen1-4, RBI
Matt Adamson1-4, R
Dylan Briggs1-2, BB
Mike Weinbel1-3, HBP, 2 R

 

Group IV

Howell 9, Hunterdon Central 8

Senior Thomas Strauch hit a record-tying home run in the first inning, junior Russell Halvorsen made huge plays with his bat and glove, and senior Ryan Bilello closed out the game on the mound as the Rebels pulled out a wild win over the Red Devils to capture the program's first ever NJSIAA Group IV championship.

Howell stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, sparked by a two-run bomb by Strauch to open the scoring. Not only did the homer tie a single-season program record, but it was the first earned run of the season allowed by Hunterdon Central senior left-hander and Maryland commit Kyle McCoy. Chris Ellison set the home run record just one year ago.

The Rebels stretched the lead to 4-0 on a two-run double by senior second baseman Nick Gallo.

Strauch struck again with an RBI double in the top of the fourth and a second run scored on a throwing error to stretch the Rebels lead to 6-2. Hunterdon Central cut its deficit in half with two runs off Howell starter Nick Barracato in the bottom of the the third.

The runs allowed by Barracato ended a scoreless run of 14 innings by Howell's "bullpen" duo of Barracato and classmate Jason Pace.

Hunterdon Central surged in front with five runs in the bottom of the fourth against both Barracato and Pace. No. 9 hitter and second baseman Chase Masokowitz made it 6-4 with an RBI double off the fence and third baseman Mike Contiliano tied the game with a two-run double to left that got past a diving Bilello, who started the game as the leftfielder.

The Red Devils took a 7-6 lead on a pop-up fielder's choice RBI by first baseman Chase Fischer, with Howell's infield losing the ball in the wind with runners on first and third and one out, settling for the force out at second base.

Howell came right back with three runs in the top of the fifth to regain the lead. After a pair of walks, Bilello delivered a one-out single through the middle on a 1-2 count to load the bases. Halvorsen then came through with a two-run single to left to put Howell back in front, 8-7.

The Rebels tacked on a crucial insurance run when Strauch hit a one-hopper to shortstop hole and Ryan Facinelli made an errant throw to a moving target at third base, allowing Bilello to score on the play.

Hunterdon Central drew a run closer on a one-out solo home run by leadoff hitter and centerfielder Christian Petino. A throwing error by Strauch on the next batter gave Hunterdon Central the tying run in scoring position. Logan Mason followed with a dangerous line drive toward the leftfield corner, but Halvorsen -- who shifted from rightfield to left when Bilello left to warm up -- made a running, sliding, back-handed catch for the second out.

Bilello then induced a flyball to centerfielder Devon Smith for the championship-clinching out.

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Howell (25-6)40023009101
Hunterdon Cent (25-5)0025001962

Pitching

HowellIPHRERBBSOPC
Nick Barracato3.12552157
Jason Pace0.11224031
Aidan Bauer (W, 1-0)12001019
Ryan Bilello2.11111339
Hunterdon CentralIPHRERBBSOPC
Kyle Mason3.16655695
James Scott (L, 5-2)11222330
Logan Mason2.23100444

Top Hitters

HowellGame Stats
Thomas Strauch2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI
Russell Halvorsen2-4, BB, R, 2 RBI, SB
Nick Gallo1-3, BB, R, 2 RBI
Ryan Bilello2-4, R
Braden Walsh1-3, BB, R
Hunterdon CentralGame Stats
Christian Petino1-3, HR, 2 BB, 2 R, RBI
Chase Moskowitz1-2, 2B, BB, HBP, 2 R, RBI
Mike Contiliano2-4, 2B, HBP, R, 3 RBI
Jared Cassella1-3, BB, R, RBI