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NJSIAA baseball tourney builds to finale

During an NJSIAA state baseball tournament that has been anything but predictable, Bishop Eustace and St. Joseph of Metuchen have brought some normalcy to the field.

Bishop Eustace righthander Kenny Fetchko. (Photo by Marc Narducci)
Bishop Eustace righthander Kenny Fetchko. (Photo by Marc Narducci)Read more

During an NJSIAA state baseball tournament that has been anything but predictable, Bishop Eustace and St. Joseph of Metuchen have brought some normalcy to the field.

No. 1-seeded St. Joseph (20-7) will host No. 2 Eustace (22-7) in Tuesday's 4 p.m. South Jersey Non-Public A championship game.

On Tuesday, the four public-school South Jersey champions will play in state semifinals, while the Non-Public A and B will hold South Jersey title games.

The winners of all six games will advance to Saturday's state championship games to be staged at either Toms River North, South or East High Schools.

Of the six South Jersey sections, Non-Public A is the only one where the No. 1 and No. 2 seed have reached the sectional final.

None of the four public school South Jersey championships was won by a No. 1 seed and the top seed has also been eliminated in Non-Public B.

Yet in Non-Public A, the top two seeds have surfaced and this will be billed as a pitching vs. hitting matchup, with St. Joe having the better mound depth.

"They are extremely deep in pitching," Eustace coach Sam Tropiano said. "Our guy is no slouch either."

His guy is senior righthander Kenny Fetchko, who threw 49 pitches in the Crusaders' 14-0 win in five innings in Friday's semifinal over Red Bank Catholic. He is 8-1 with a 1.76 ERA.

St. Joseph coach Paul Esposito said he would likely start one of two Division I recruits, righthander Victor Diaz (6-3, 1.64 ERA), who is headed to Mississippi State, or lefthander Anthony Parenti (4-2, 3.03 ERA), who will attend the Naval Academy.

Centerfielder and leadoff hitter Shane Alvarez, who will attend Kean, is the offensive catalyst. He is batting .414 with 36 runs scored, three home runs, and 24 RBIs.

The Falcons' pitching staff will be tested by a Eustace offense that is averaging 10.9 runs per game.

Here is a look at the other Non-Public sectional final and the other public-school state semifinals.

South Jersey Non-Public B

St. Rose Belmar (17-7) at Gloucester Catholic (22-7), 4 p.m.

Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth said he is leaning toward pitching junior lefthander Cody Brown, who threw four innings and 56 pitches in Friday's 15-2 semifinal win over Sacred Heart. Brown is 7-1 with a 1.45 ERA. He is also hitting .368 with 3 homers and 27 RBIs. Sophomore infielder Joe Brooks is batting .449 with 28 RBIs and has a .569 on-base percentage.

Brown was the winning pitcher in the Rams' 4-0 quarterfinal victory over Mater Dei.

"He's throwing three pitches, curve, fastball and change for strikes and that has made him so effective," Barth said.

St. Rose, which beat top-seeded Holy Cross, 2-1 in Friday's semifinal, is the two-time and defending state champion. First-year coach Jerry Frulio said he will start senior righthander Kyle Kennett, who is headed to Rider. Kennett last pitched on May 25, throwing four innings.

The offense is led by senior centerfielder Chris Hueth, a St. Joseph's recruit.

State Semifinals

Group 4: Washington Township (18-11) vs. Jackson (24-5), 4 p.m. at Rider. Washington Township senior shortstop Nick Favatella, who was a starter on the school's first state title team in 2007, has been an offensive force.

Favatella is batting .591 with 18 doubles, eight home runs, and 33 RBIs.

Coach Bill Alvaro said ace lefthander Adam Warburton (9-2) will pitch. Warburton is 4-0 in the tournament.

Junior infielder Mark Jankowski is batting .370 with five home runs and 35 RBIs.

Jackson is led by third baseman/pitcher Bryan Soloman, an Eastern Kentucky recruit who earlier this season hit home runs in nine consecutive games. He is hitting .462 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. The Jaguars have hit 42 home runs.

"They are solid up and down the lineup," Alvaro said. "It sounds like another Olympic American team."

Washington Township had to beat three fellow American teams in the postseason - Eastern, Cherokee, and Lenape, 7-4, in the South Jersey Group 4 final.

Group 3: Ocean City (19-8) vs. Hopewell Valley (21-9), 4 p.m. at the College of New Jersey. Ocean City coach Craig Mensinger said he would likely pitch either senior lefthander Connor Ortolf (7-2) or junior righthander John Huff (4-2). The preference would be Ortolf, a Lafayette recruit who has pitched three complete games in the tournament.

Ortolf is also among the Red Raiders' top hitters, along with second baseman Brian Longo, infielder and Villanova recruit Tyler Reich, and catcher Andrew Fiorentino.

Hopewell Valley defeated West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 12-2, in five innings to capture the Central Jersey title.

Alex Mottle, a Delaware recruit, earned the win to improve to 6-3. Mottle is also among the top hitters for the Bulldogs.

Group 2: Audubon (20-5) vs. Spotswood (14-12), 4 p.m. at Rutgers (Piscataway). Audubon has shown an ability to win the close games, beating Haddon Township, 4-2, in eight innings in a South Jersey Group 2 semifinal and Buena, 4-3 in Friday's sectional final. Righthander Wade Gies (8-2) was the winning pitcher in the last two playoff games, pitching two innings in relief against Haddon Township and throwing a complete game against Buena.

Sophomore lefthander Kevin Kraemer (4-1) allowed two runs in six innings in the Haddon Township game and is also available for mound duty.

Audubon has won three in a row and 15 of 16.

Spotswood, the No. 11 seed in Central Jersey, wasn't expected to be a contender.

Montclair State recruit Cody Pace, who was a starter on Spotswood's 2007 state title team, is 5-2 after pitching a complete game in the Chargers' 7-5 Central Jersey title win over Governor Livingston. Besides Pace, other candidates to pitch are sophomore righthander Anthony Berg (3-1), freshman righhander Kevin Martin (3-3), or sophomore lefthander Chris Stout (1-3).

Group 1: Pitman (21-4) vs. Robbinsville (24-4), 4 p.m. at Monmouth. Pitman coach Gene Reid said he would go with senior lefthander Steve Schuler (9-1). Schuler pitched four innings during Friday's 12-0 win over New Egypt in the sectional final. He threw just one inning in Pitman's 10-2 semifinal win over Gloucester on May 25.

The offense has been balanced with three seniors - shortstop Nick Capelli, outfielder Ryan Dill, and Schuler, who also plays center field - providing great production, according to Reid.

Robbinsville scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Henry Hudson, 5-4, in a wild Central Jersey Group 1 final.