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Sectional finals will answer lots of questions

South Jersey's four public-school sectional baseball championships will be played today, along with the Central Jersey Group 1 final, which includes Florence, and numerous questions will be answered:

South Jersey's four public-school sectional baseball championships will be played today, along with the Central Jersey Group 1 final, which includes Florence, and numerous questions will be answered:

Will Maple Shade win its first Group 1 title since 1982, or will Pitman ride the momentum from its stunning semifinal upset of Pennsville?

Is Buena going to capture its first sectional championship since the on-field competition started in 1959, or will Audubon continue its hot hitting and win the Group 2 crown?

Is Timber Creek, second-seeded in Group 3 and directed by rookie coach Frank Torcasio, ready to win the first sectional baseball title in its seven-year history, or will ninth-seeded Clearview - which owns the tournament's most impressive win, a shocking 3-2 triumph over top-seeded Shawnee - wear the crown for the first time since it won Group 2 in 1977?

Will new coach Phil Fiore direct second-seeded Lenape - which has specialized in late-inning heroics throughout the tournament -to its first Group 4 title since 1991, or will top-seeded Toms River North prove the seedings have merit?

Can Joe Frappolli Jr., in his first year as a head coach, guide Florence past Robbinsville in the Central Jersey Group 1 final?

Here is a look at the five finals involving area teams:

South Jersey Group 1:



(18-5) at top-seeded

Maple Shade

(17-4), 4 p.m.

Maple Shade coach Mike "Buster" Webb played for the Wildcats when they lost to Pitman in the 1998 final. Today, he's hoping for revenge.

Righthander Christian Rahman, an impressive 6-foot-3 junior, will start for Maple Shade. Rahman is 6-1 with a 2.03 ERA and has struck out 63 and walked 10 in 48 innings.

Rahman (.520 batting average), shortstop Jerry Esposito (.464, 11 doubles), and catcher C.J. Szymczak (.421, 22 RBIs) lead the offense. Bill Flagg (4-1, 2.67 ERA), a 6-5 junior righthander, is available for relief work.

Pitman, aiming for its first crown since 2000, has blossomed a year ahead of schedule. The Panthers have just two seniors on their roster.

Coach Gene Reid said he would use one of three righthanders as his starter: junior Adam Satanoff (2-2), junior Jay Pogue (2-1), or freshman Johnny Dunn (4-0).

First baseman Mike Healy (.470), second baseman/shortstop Nick Capelli (.410), catcher Kevin Gibbs (27 RBIs), and shortstop/pitcher Rob Cressman (.370) trigger Pitman's offense.


Maple Shade, 5-4.

South Jersey Group 2.



(17-8) at fifth-seeded


(15-6), 4 p.m.

Lefthander Zach Fadio (3-3) will try to pitch Audubon to its first crown since 2002 and its eighth title since 1993.

The Green Wave, coached by Rich Horan, have averaged 11.5 runs and 13 hits in their tournament wins over Overbrook and top-seeded Haddon Township. Wade Gies and Steve Rizzo key the Wave's offense.

Senior righthander Marco Carolla, who is 4-1 with a 4.46 ERA, will probably get the start for Buena, though head coach George West is also considering lefty Ryan Farabella (2-1, 2.66).

Shortstop Mike Ney (.338, 6 HRs), second baseman Wade Battelini (.423, 34 RBIs), catcher Joe Cifaloglio (.488 since returning from a knee injury), and centerfielder Ken Miles (.443, 22 SBs) spark the Chiefs' attack.

Buena escaped with a 3-2 semifinal win over Gateway in a game that ended when Rob Flem's bases-loaded grounder - between short and third - hit a Gator teammate who was scurrying to third base.

"I tell the kids that to win in the tournament, you need pitching, defense and clutch hitting - and sometimes a little luck," said West, whose team owns a win over powerful Sacred Heart this spring. "And that's what we've gotten. Things are falling well for us."


Audubon, 4-3.

South Jersey Group 3.



(14-9) at second-seeded

Timber Creek

(14-6), 4 p.m.

Senior Mike Hand (6-2, 2.90 ERA) will be attempting to help Clearview finish its Cinderella run. Hand, who is headed to Stockton, has two wins and a save in the Pioneers' three tourney victories - one-run triumphs over Delsea, Shawnee and Cumberland.

Clearview's offense has been paced by leftfielder Scott Milden (.528), Rowan-bound shortstop Ed Eisenhart (.424) and Delaware Valley College-bound centerfielder Matt Bodine (.404).

Jim Schramm (6-1, 2.19 ERA), a junior righthander who is eligible to pitch five innings, will get the starting nod for upstart Timber Creek.

The Chargers are led by a dynamic infield that features shortstop J.J. Williams (.435), second baseman Nate Floyd (.419, 13 SBs), and third baseman Andrew Mucerino (.411, 22 RBIs).


Timber Creek, 5-4.

South Jersey Group 4.



(20-4) at top-seeded

Toms River North


Senior righthander Tom Doulong (4-3, 2.79 ERA), who is eligible to pitch six innings, will get the starting assignment for streaking Lenape, which clinched the Olympic American title with Wednesday's win over Washington Township.

Shortstop Justyn Carter is hitting .551 with 29 steals and leads the Indians' attack. Centerfielder Matt Conforti (.397, 22 RBIs) and catcher Ryan Fletcher (400, 21 RBIs) are also key contributors.

Lenape is trying to win its second sectional title; it won Group 4 in 1991 as Scott Schoeneweis, now a reliever with the New York Mets, led the Indians to the crown.

Toms River North, which last won the Group 4 crown in 1997, has a productive lineup and plays solid defense.

Junior righthander Mark Leiter, the son of the former Phillie of the same name, is expected to pitch for North.


Lenape, 6-5.

Central Jersey Group 1.



(14-9) at third-seeded


(13-6), 4 p.m.

Florence's top pitcher, Steve Giambrone (7-1), is ineligible to pitch, so the Flashes will rely on junior righthander Jim Martinson (4-2).

"He has three good pitches - changeup, fastball and curve - and good location," said Frappolli, whose team has won eight of its last nine, including its last five.

Giambrone, who plays shortstop when he's not pitching, is hitting over .600, and he leads the offense, which also gets solid production from speedy centerfielder Quentin Loftin, third baseman Jim Narkun, Martinson and power-hitting leftfielder Scott Meredith.

Righthander Brian Greubel, who notched the semifinal win in relief, will start for Robbinsville.


Florence, 5-3.