Lerner: Non-Public A championship preview
NON-PUBLIC A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
At TOMS RIVER NORTH
DON BOSCO (26-3) vs. GLOUCESTER CATHOLIC (27-4), 2
PLAYERS TO WATCH
DON BOSCO: Mike Mecca (Sr. CF .338, 39 runs, 30 stolen bases); Grant Van Orden (Sr. 3B .356, 38 runs, 33 RBI); Joe Purritano (Sr. DH .432, 45 RBI, 13 doubles, 6 homers); Matt Dacey (Sr. 1B .400 33 runs, 37 RBI, 8 homers); George Iskenderian (Sr. SS .435, 26 runs, 20 RBI, 15 stolen bases); Andrew Herrera (Jr. C .434, 32 RBI, 11 doubles); Joe Manganella (Sr. LF .333); Tommy Burns (Sr. RHP 9-1); Mike Gomez (Sr. RHP 5-1).
GLOUCESTER CATHOLIC: John Brue (Sr. 1B .384, 40 RBI); Elliott McCummings (Sr. OF/C .356, 28 runs, 21 RBI); Joe Brooks (Sr. 2B .400, 15 runs, 15 RBI); Robbie Alessandrine (Sr. SS .382, 31r, 19 RBI); Giovanni Gussen (Jr. OF); Pat Kane (Sr. 2B .383, 39 runs, 34 stolen bases); Brett Tenuto (Sr. 3B .424, 39 runs, 29 RBI); John Murphy (Fr. RHP 6-2, 1.44 ERA); Danny Higgins (Sr. LHP 4-2, 2.37 ERA).
This marks the second meeting of the year between these two schools, but the first in New Jersey. The two engaged in a memorable 10-inning affair at Provident Bank Park in Pomona, New York on May 6 and, if the rematch unfolds in a fashion similar to their first encounter, fans are in for a treat.
The two were locked in a 2-2 tie after seven before Gloucester Catholic took a one-run lead in the top of the 10th when Brett Tenuto followed a single by Tim Holder with a triple. Not to be outdone, Don Bosco countered by putting two runners aboard for Dartmouth-bound designated hitter Joe Purritano, who rocked a three-run, walkoff homer to left to give the Ironmen a dramatic 5-3 victory.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
DON BOSCO: A lot was made of the Ironmen’s surprising 2-3 start. Much of the commotion revolved around pre-season expectations that were placed on the program on a national scale, where they were ranked by some outlets in the top 10 in the country.
But, those setbacks, though tough to swallow, did Don Bosco a favor in a strange kind of way. They removed the pressure of such high-profile notoriety and let the cast get back to concentrate on what was important: playing baseball. Since then, Bosco has won 24 straight behind a stellar pitching staff and the length of its offense.
Burns, who was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 34th round of the MLB First-Year Draft, has been handed the ball is just about every big game this spring and he hasn’t dropped it. His 9-1 mark includes two triumphs over St. Joseph Regional, the last in a stellar pitching duel with junior southpaw and Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year Rob Kaminsky. Gomez has been equally effortless and flexible, pitching consistently whether as a starter or out of the bullpen. He worked three quality innings of relief to pick up the win over Gloucester Catholic on May 6.
GLOUCESTER CATHOLIC: A year ago, the South Jersey powerhouse won the Non-Public B state title with a 14-2 showing against Newark Academy. Against defending state champion St. Augustine, the Rams got at least one hit from every batter in their order yet that aggressiveness didn’t take precedence over a patience that worked out 10 walks in a 12-4 victory for the program’s 30th sectional title.
The Rams, who come in riding a 10-game win streak, have welcomed back senior second baseman Joe Brooks, who missed 12 games nursing a torn ligament in his right thumb. Brooks, who is heading to East Carolina, was out when Gloucester Catholic met Don Bosco back on May 6. Just his presence near the top of an order that already features the power and consistency of Brue and Cummings, make this an incredibly difficult lineup to handle. And, don’t anticipate Gloucester Catholic to buckle under the pressure of the circumstances. This is a veteran-laden cast that features seven seniors.
This is a team that is extremely aggressive on the bases (126 of 148 on stole-base attempts).
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner