Leadoff hitter Brian Longo provided the spark, slapping four hits and igniting Ocean City's 6-4 win over Hopewell Valley in the NJSIAA state Group 1 baseball tournament semifinals at the College of New Jersey on Wednesday.
The Red Raiders (20-8) trailed by 3-2 after four innings before chasing Hopewell Valley (19-10) starter James Harrity with a two-run fifth inning, and adding two insurance runs in the sixth.
Longo went 4 for 4 at the plate with a double, scored twice and drove in two runs. Tyler Reich added three hits in three at-bats and crossed the plate twice.
"I've been saying all season," Ocean City coach Craig Mensinger said, "Brian's the best second baseman in South Jersey no one's ever heard of. He's hitting in the high .300's, he's 21 for 22 in stolen bases, he makes all the tough defensive plays, and he got two of the last outs in the game on popups on plays going away from the infield."
Longo, who will attend St. Joseph's University on a soccer scholarship, started the game with a double, and helped pick up the slack for Connor Ortolf, who is hitting .450 this spring but went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt.
"Longo and Reich picked up Connor, and that's what we've been doing all season, picking each other up," Mensinger said.
Ocean City will meet Cranford at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Toms River North, trying to become the first public school from the Cape-Atlantic League to win a state baseball crown.
Hopewell Valley 0003010 - 4103
Ocean City 020022x - 6101
WP: Nicholas Stephen. LP: Alex Mottle. 2B: OC-Brian Longo. HV-Alex Mottle, Travis Gerstacker. 3B: HV-Ben Meer.
State Group 1. Pitman (21-4) scored in the top of the seventh inning and made it stand up as the winning run in a 7-6 state semifinal triumph over Robbinsville (25-5) at Monmouth University.
The Panthers, who gave up three runs in the bottom of the seventh before Mike McIlvaine ended the threat with a strikeout and a ground out, rapped nine hits, including two each by Nick Capelli and Roy Langlois, and put together a four-run third inning.
Capelli also doubled and drove in two runs, helping put Pitman in the state championship game against Whippany Park at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Toms River East.
Robbinsville 0003003 - 6101
Pitman 0042001 - 794
WP: Mike McIlvaine. LP: Sam Burum. 2B: P-Nick Capelli, Dan McAteer. R-Fred Ulisse, Cory Karagjozi.
New Egypt posted its fourth consecutive NJSIAA tournament shutout, blanking Roselle Park, 9-0, in the state Group 1 semifinals at Rancocas Valley.
Emily Bausher scattered three hits, walked one and struck out 15 Panthers (17-6) in a dominating performance that put the Warriors (27-2) in the state final against Wood-Ridge at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Toms River East.
Erika Tucker singled, doubled, scored twice and drove in two runs.
New Egypt 0030402 - 961
Roselle Park 0000000 - 034
WP: Emily Bausher. LP: Taylor Zengewa. 2B: NE-Erika Tucker.