By CHRIS CHRISTOPHER
Four local high school teams will compete in the first Last Dance Baseball Tournament, which will begin July 14.
The spring season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event serves as a replacement for the season. High school sports have not been played in New Jersey since march.
The local teams in the tournament are Monmouth Regional, St. Rose, Ocean Township and Neptune.
In the first round of Pool Play 6B, Monmouth’s Falcons will meet the Blue and Grey team of Howell on July 14 at 3 p.m. in the Belmar Regional at the Edward I. Brown Athletic Complex in Wall Township.
The Falcons’ head coach is Paul Crivello, who coaches the team during the spring season.
“I feel our seniors and underclassmen deserved an opportunity to play together for one last time so I put the team together,” Crivello said.
The club’s captains are pitcher-shortstop Alex Alonso, outfielder-pitcher Michael Bateman and third baseman-pitcher Nick Bogan, all seniors.
“They were chosen by myself at the end of last season because of their leadership qualities,” Crivello said. “The tournament is great because it gives the players, especially the seniors, to get one last opportunity that they thought could never happen this year.”
The remainder of the team consists of senior second baseman Brett Delutis, senior designated hitter-pitcher Starion Martin, senior outfielder Jeffrey Meyer, junior pitcher-infielder Michael Cavalluzzi, junior pitcher-infielder Dominick Santaniello, junior pitcher-first baseman Brian Yadlon, sophomore pitcher-shortstop Aiden Denton, sophomore pitcher-outfielder James Kelly, sophomore pitcher-second baseman Zach Lopes, sophomore catcher Andrew McKinley, sophomore infielder Chris Theobald, sophomore outfielder-pitcher Christian Zito and freshman catcher Joe Esposito.
“I believe we can compete with anyone on any given day,” Crivello said. “We will rely on pitching, defense and our ability to manufacture runs. We are optimistic of success. Our seniors have accepted all of the challenges placed in front of them and are eager to get out there one last time and compete with their teammates.”
Crivello said teams began practicing for the tournament June 22. He said scouts from the New Jersey Athletic Conference, an NCAA Division III circuit, will attend games.
St. Rose’s roster consists of senior catcher Nolan Dacey, junior first baseman-pitcher Tommy Turnbach, sophomore second baseman-catcher Matt Gowen, sophomore outfielder-pitcher Ryan Rogers, junior pitcher-third baseman-outfielder Jack Crawford and junior outfielder-pitcher Shane Killeen.
The Purple Roses also hope to receive contributions from junior second baseman Lucas Hope, junior catcher Logan Boag, freshman shortstop-pitcher Jack Lomerson, junior infielder-pitcher Brandon Levy, freshman outfielder-pitcher Ryan Murray, freshman third baseman-pitcher Joseph Sesito, freshman pitcher-third baseman Joe Lomerson, sophomore pitcher-outfielder Thomas Clays, junior shortstop-catcher Jules Conte, junior outfielder-first baseman Nate Jennings, sophomore pitcher Thomas Schmidt and sophomore pitcher-outfielder Chris Tallarcio.
St. Rose’s coach is Rich Lanko, who guides the Purple Roses during the spring season. His assistant coaches are Tom Magrini, Jim Pinkert, Rob Weiss and Brody Maypother.
The tournament was originated by high school coaches and others. A pseudo state champion will be crowned July 23. Pool Play was set up geographically to keep travel at a minimum during the early rounds. In Pool Play, 10-11 hitters may be in the lineup. There will be free defensive substitutions.
The North and South Final Fours will take place July 21. The North and South finals will take place July 22.
Social distancing must be practiced by coaches and players in the dugouts and fans. Masks are recommended for all players and coaches in dugouts. Fans are urged not to spread themselves out around every field and to not bunch up around dugouts or the backstop.
Paid athletic trainers will be stationed at every site. They will take the temperature of all players and coaches. Anyone with a temperature of either 101.1 or higher will be sent home. The tournament will supply personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer for all games.
Teams may or not be coached by high school coaches depending on the rules of a respective school district. Team names may refer more to a geographic area rather than a particular high school. Players are not permitted to wear school issued uniforms.
A total of 228 teams representing each of 21 counties at 54 sites across the state will compete. Four to six teams will play at a site. Each team is guaranteed three games in Pool Play. FirstEnergy Park, the home of the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Philadelphia Phillies’ low Class A affiliate of the South Atlantic League, will host 13 South games. There will be 106 teams in 27 South Regionals and 116 clubs in 29 North Regionals. The tournament will consist of as many as 5,500 players.
Teams with either undefeated records or winning tie-breakers after Pool Play will meet in one single-elimination game. The winner of the game will advance to the Round of 16 in the North and South tournaments. At most sites, two games will be played on each of the three Pool Play days.
The championship game will be played July 23 at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, the home of the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees’ Double A farm team in the Eastern League.
The tournament director is Mike Murray, the baseball coach and athletics director at St. Joseph in Metuchen.