County Baseball

GNT County Semifinals Preview: Top 2 Seeds Take Exciting Center Stage

The Greater Newark Baseball County Tournament semifinals are here, and we have some big-time matchups. Second-seed Seton Hall Prep will take on sixth-seed Caldwell, and fourth-seed Montclair High School will try to take down number one-seeded Livingston. Both sets of teams are familiar with one another, dating back just weeks ago to the regular season, which only adds to the drama that will unfold at Seton Hall Prep on May 11. Let's dive into the county matchups.

4 Montclair at 1 Livingston

These two teams faced each other twice during the regular season, and both times, the Lancers came away with a victory in tightly contested affairs. Montclair comes in sporting a 14-6-1 record while Livingston come in with a 15-4-1 record.

Back on April 21, Benjamin St. Pierre took the mound against Livingston’s ace Max Peri.  St. Pierre struck out seven batters but walked four in 4 2/3 innings pitched. Luca van Hamburg went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Sam Dorian had an RBI for Montclair, but the Mounties still lost 4-2.

Coming into this county game, who has the stronger batting order? That’s a close one, but the edge goes to Montclair. Montclair has had a higher team batting average this season than Livingston by almost twenty points (.308 to .326). That team's batting average is buoyed by seniors Derek Lacey and van Hamburg and juniors St. Pierre and Sam Dorian. Lacey and Dorian both contributed 19 runs-batted-in while St. Pierre led the team with 29, and van Hamburg chipped in 16. Montclair can really drive in runs, but against strong pitching, what good is good hitting?

Livingston has had solid pitching all around, but it’s a bit top-heavy. Their ace, Max Peri, led the team with a 1.83 ERA, but all of their other pitchers except one had ERAs over 3.00. If Montclair can get Peri out of the game and get into Livingston’s bullpen, it will probably turn the game in Montclair’s favor.  

Montclair will go into this county game with four pitchers who had ERAs below 3.00 this season. They are seniors Shea Goel and Owen Snyder, sophomore David Aishton, and freshman Asher Seawell. They will have to navigate a Livingston lineup that scored 127 runs this season and had a team batting average of .312. The Lancer lineup is led by Junior E.J. Frayne, who led the team with 25 hits and 26 RBI this season, but in addition to Frayne, they also have juniors Julian Schultz and John Marco Maiello, who finished with a team second-best 15 RBI this season.

Final Thoughts:

Livingston topped Montclair twice this season by keeping the Mounties' batting lineup in check. The scores of those two games were 4-3 and 4-2. Montclair needs to try and get into Livingston’s bullpen early in order to get some runs across the board because scoring against Livingston’s ace, Max Peri, will be hard. Livingston will want to navigate Montclair’s potent lineup carefully and use the game plan from the first two games they played against Montclair.

County Tournament

Photo by Mick Haupt 

6 Caldwell at 2 Seton Hall Prep 

The seeding may not place these two teams far apart, but this matchup resembles David vs Goliath based on the two regular-season meetings these two had. Caldwell comes in with a 11-12 record and having won three games in a row since the start of this week, while Seton Hall come in with a dominant 17-2-1 record that included going 8-1-1 against the SEC.

This season, the Prep has had the highest team batting average of .331 of the four teams left in the county tournament, while Caldwell’s team batting average is .274. Seton Hall’s hitting was on display in both of the previous games in which these two teams have met. The first game ended 12-1 in favor of Seton Hall, while the second game ended 8-1 in favor of the Pirates.

In the first game, Seton Hall had 13 hits to Caldwell’s one, and four players had two RBI, which included Michael Bravette and JJ Drennan. The second county game was not much different as Seton Hall out-hit Caldwell 11-to-2, and two players led the way in the RBI department with two, Henry Ayers and William Garrett for Seton Hall.

In both games, Caldwell didn’t start its ace starting pitcher, Marco Sozio, while on both occasions, Caldwell faced Seton Hall’s ace, Marcelo Harsch. In the first game, Harsch dominated Caldwell over six innings of one hit, no-run ball. Then, in meeting number two, the Pirate ace threw for five innings, gave up one run on two hits, and struck out eight. Caldwell’s lone RBI came from senior infielder Julian Casale. Dom Velardi and Nick Arvanites contributed one hit apiece, which were the only two hits Caldwell had on the day.

For Caldwell, Nick Monterosa took to the mound and pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up six runs. However, he did strike out seven. Monterosa wasn’t even Caldwell’s best pitcher this season. That honor belongs to Marco Sozio, who, over 25 2/3 innings this season, had a team-best 1.64 ERA and struck out 30 batters. Sozio is on a shortlist of pitchers whom Caldwell should use in this game, along with Daniel Vybihal.

Vybihal has thrown only 14 1/3 innings this season but has looked strong in them, striking out 12 and pitching to a 1.95 ERA. Look for Caldwell to lean on their two best arms in this semifinal matchup, to try and stay close and get into Seton Hall's bullpen.

Final Thoughts

As much as it pains me to say, Seton Hall has a huge edge going into this county game. If Seton Hall starts their ace, the mountain becomes even steeper to climb for Caldwell because he held them to just three hits and one run over two starts during the regular season. Seton Hall's batting lineup has also been the best, most consistent of the teams left in the tournament.

Their game plan should mimic what they've done all season against teams like Caldwell-- get after it. For Caldwell to have a shot in this game, they have to start their best pitcher and that's Marco Sozio. If he does, who knows, we may have an upset on our hands.

Keep it with JSN for continuing coverage of the Greater Newark County Tournament and high school baseball.

County Baseball Tournament

Photo by Mark Tegethoff 

Anthony Paradiso
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