By Rich Fisher
July 24: Once again, Hamilton Township will comprise 25 percent of the field in the New Jersey American Legion State Baseball Tournament finals, as Hamilton Post 31 and defending state champion Broad Street Park Post 313 are both in the Elite 8.
The tournament has been moved from Moody Park in Ewing, where it was held the past several years, to Kean University in Union, and pool play begins Friday. It is unfortunate timing for the tournament to move north, as five of the eight participants are from the Mercer County league, including Lawrence, Hopewell and Bordentown.
Broad Street had to battle back and win two straight in District 1 after falling to Wood-Ridge, 7-2. BSP came back to beat Creskill, 12-2, and Wood-Ridge 19-4 to claim a state berth.
Jason Diaz made sure Post 313 would have enough pitching in its final game by throwing five innings of one-run ball in relief in the win over Creskill. In the revenge game with Wood-Ridge, Nick Diaz threw a complete game while Andy Jacquez and Mason “I’m Not Sean” Fitzpatrick each had four hits, and Zac Brown and Travis “I’m Not Trevor” Holonics had two hits apiece.
BSP is in the National Division pool and will play Brooklawn at 10 a.m. Friday; Bordentown at 10 a.m. Saturday; and Hopewell at 12:30 a.m. Sunday. The latter game is a match-up of the last two state champions, and BSP manager Mike Petrowski feels his team has a shot to repeat if it plays up to its potential.
“If we execute, make the routine plays and throw strikes we have a shot in every game, if not, we will not make it out of pool play,” said Petrowski, who is in his final legion season before diving headlong into his new job at Rider. “You can’t teach big game experience, which I think will help some of our guys. It’s baseball. As Tom Coughlin always said, when you get in the tournament anyone has a chance.”
Hamilton was also extended to the maximum three games in District 2 play at DeMeo Field.
Post 31 started with a 1-0 win over Toms River as Tommy Gater threw a complete-game shutout and Ryan Beczo drove in the game’s lone run with an RBI single.
After falling to Hopewell, 10-2, Hamilton scored nine runs in the final two innings for a 13-4 victory over Clinton. Beczo threw three innings of one-hit, scoreless relief while Danny Melnick had two doubles and two RBI, Brady Plunkett had three hits and three RBI, and Jordan Nitti and Matt Sangillo had two hits and two runs scored apiece.
Post 31 opens American Division pool play at 12:30 p.m. Friday against Lawrence, which is in the state finals for the first time in program history. Hamilton plays West Deptford at 12:30 Saturday and meets Whitehouse at 10 a.m. Sunday. Monday is an off day or a make-up day in case of rain. On Tuesday, the National Division winner will meet the American runner-up at 4 p.m., and the American winner takes on the National runner-up at 6:30. The championship game is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday.