West Essex Tournament innings

Drama in the Late Innings Headline Exciting Section 1 Group 3 Quarterfinals

Late innings magic! The Section 1 Group 3 Quarterfinal concluded late Wednesday afternoon, leaving us with the final four teams. Having battled their way through the group stage, these top four teams are now just one win away from the ultimate glory- a spot in Monday’s Group Final and a chance to advance to the Sectional round. With only a day's gap between the Quarters and Semis, let's dive into the action and preview both rounds in one exciting update.

4 Wayne Hills at 1 Morris Knolls

Morris Knolls Baseball

This will be a unique matchup as it's the first time these two schools, Wayne Hills from the Big North Conference and Knolls from the NJAC, will meet. The Patriots enter Friday’s matchup winning two of their last five games (both state games), while the Golden Eagles are 3-5 in that stretch. The intrigue of this clash adds another layer of excitement to the tournament.  

Morris Knolls showed why they are the 10th-ranked team in the state against Old Tappan. A 10-run 5th inning paved the way for a 13-1 win, with Dylan Fitzsimmons leading the charge for the Golden Eagles. The Junior went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, and four RBIs. Luke Dickerson belted his 16th long ball of the year, and Billy Wingren drove in three runs to add to the tally. Their stellar performance is a testament to the team's strength. 

The Patriots strung together six hits on Tuesday and walked it off to beat Roxbury to advance. Andrew Lynch went deep, and Gavin DeNardo was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs in the thrilling finish in Wayne. Chris Cundari got the win in relief, tossing 2.1 innings of shutout ball. 

Pitching Probables

Dean Qira and James Kahn started on Wednesday, with Qira throwing 96 pitches and Kahn throwing 64, making both pitchers ineligible for Friday.

In the Semifinal game, Senior Joe O’Toole would be my choice as the starter for Knolls. While his ERA sits at 4.60, O’Toole has only allowed nine walks in the 35 innings pitched. While he has given up 41 hits so far this year, he is a poised starter and will get the ball over the plate, giving his defense a chance to make plays.

The Patriots should look to Chris Cudari, who only threw 32 pitches Wednesday, making him eligible to throw on Friday. On the year, Cudari’s ERA sits at 1.31 allowing only seven earned runs in his 3.71 innings pitched. Senior Corey Mulholland is also a strong candidate to take the ball for Wayne Hills. The two hurlers have combined for 80 strikeouts on the year making them a tough tandem to face.

3 West Essex at 2 Ramapo

This matchup may very well be the best semifinal game we see throughout the entire state. The tale of the tape for this couldn’t be more intriguing. The Knights enter the Semifinals as the road team for the first time in the tournament. Despite being ranked lower, they have the better record at 23-4 and come in riding a six-game winning streak. Ramapo will take the field winners of back-to-back games behind impressive pitching.

West Essex pulled off a late come-from-behind win and walked it off against Montville Wednesday afternoon. Junior Chris Murano tossed five strong innings of shutout ball, but his seven walks raised his pitch count, and he exited the game heading into the 6th inning. 

After grabbing a 2-0 lead, the Knights could not close things out in the 7th and fell behind 4-2, putting their season on the line. West Essex tied the game with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, and Shaun Bertonaschi walked it off with a game-winning single in the 8th.

Charlie Wingfield showed why he is the ace of the Raiders staff, shutting down the Mount Olive offense Wednesday in Franklin Lakes. The Junior allowed three hits over his six strong innings, limiting the Marauders to only one run. Wingfield later scored the game-winning run after Robert Hubbard’s pickoff attempt got past 3rd base. 

Pitching Probables

West Essex will send out a combination of Tyler Gordan and Drew Feuerstein to take the mound on Friday. The pair each have a sub-3.00 ERA and have a combined 62 strikeouts entering the Semifinals.

Senior Kenton Grosfelt is in line to start for the Raiders, the team's number-two starter behind Wingfield. In 37.2 innings this year, Grosfelt has a 2.42 ERA, tallying 40 strikeouts. The Raiders have it set up for Wingfield to throw in the Finals if they can get past West Essex.

Follow me on Twitter @bsantoro112 and JSN @JSNSPORTINGNEWS

Will the Semifinals feature more drama in the late innings?

Be sure to check out JerseySportingNews.com for State Tournament updates!

Bridgewater Panthers County Tournament Final

Photo by Mick Haupt 

About The Author