North 1, Group 2 preview
16-Pascack Hills at 1-North Warren; 9-Pequannock at 8-Glen Rock; 12-Ramsey at 5-Kinnelon; 13-Wallkill Valley at 4-River Dell; 14-Kittatinny at 3-Mahwah; 11-Lodi at 6-Mountain Lakes; 10-Hopatcong at 7-Dumont; 15-Lenape Valley at 2-Hawthorne.
Defending champion: Dumont.
Team to beat: Good question. This is a wide-open field. With the rain backing everything up a day, gotta consider a team with two hammers at the top of the rotation. Top-seeded North Warren has a pair in Garret Becker and Joe Frankosky, third-seeded Mahwah can throw its hat in the ring behind junior right-hander Chris Baldi and Shane Woelfel but River Dell made hold a slight upper hand on all. Alex D’Esposito, Ryan Duran, Evan Stern and Ryan McDonough give the Golden Hawks a lot of depth on the mound and considering how closely matched this entire 16-team group is, such length on the staff could be a big intangible.
But what about Hawthorne?: Fair point. The Bears have been terrific over the last three weeks, boasting a 10-1 mark during that time and an overall record of 18-5. Junior southpaw Kenny Tousignant, Mike Tamburri, Tommy Walls and Jimmy Contrini are pitching as well as any staff in this field. And, the offense, which draws energy from LB Marte, Ricky Grofsick, Eddie Kreger, Mike Dittfield and Ryan Hollis, packs some power. The two-seed is unquestionably a team to reckon with.
Give us a high seed of which to beware: OK, Ramsey. The 12th-seed is yet another ballclub with some very good pitching. Reid Nelson and Zack Borglum can get after hitters with their stuff. If it can upset fifth-seeded Kinnelon, which will be no easy task by any means, and River Dell slips past 13th-seeded Wallkill Valley, it would set up a third meeting between the Big North, Patriot Division foes with revenge on its side. River Dell won both regular-season encounters with Ramsey, including a 2-1 decision on April 16.
Can we consider Kinnelon a darkhorse?: Absolutely. Hey, it’s the five seed so it’s obviously had a great year to merit that standing. But, after a hot 11-2 start, the Colts have gone 5-6. Yet, losses to quality teams like Mendham, Morristown-Beard, Jefferson and Westfield carry no shame. Instead, they are great building blocks on a path to this time of year. Kinnelon has some hitters worth watching, most notably senior left fielder Ben VanPut and senior catcher Chris Villante, each of whom packs some pop. And, to follow on our earlier theme, the Colts can pitch with RJ Giannetti and Ryan Price at the top of the rotation.
Hitter to watch: Tommy Zaher of Pequannock. The junior center fielder hits for average (.450), with runners in scoring position (19 RBI) and has power to the alleys (nine doubles, two homers). He has compiled six doubles in the last six games.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner