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A Field with Great Depth: South Jersey Group 3 Baseball Preview

A Field with Great Depth: South Jersey Group 3 Baseball Preview
There is so much depth in the South Jersey Group 3 baseball field and a number of top seeds could emerge on top.

The NJSIAA state tournament begins on May 20. Here is a look at Group 3…
 
Defending Champion: Seneca beat Cherry Hill West, 6-0 in the SJ final. Even though Seneca was the No. 10 seed, the Golden Eagles were considered dangerous with pitcher-outfielder Nick Decker, now a member of the Boston Red Sox after being selected in the second round of last year’s draft.
Favorite: Cherry Hill West. The Lions were the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey before losing 7-0 to Haddonfield on Saturday in a Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic second-round game.
Other Contenders: Triton, Ocean City, Highland, Hammonton, Mainland.
Dark Horse: Moorestown. The Quakers began the week 11-5 and have two outstanding pitchers, senior Brian McMonagle, who is headed to Boston College on a baseball scholarship and junior Evan Francisco. McMonagle had a 1.52 ERA entering the week and Francisco was at 1.42. While the offense has been up and down, the pitching of these two has kept the Quakers in games.
Outlook: Despite the loss to Haddonfield, Cherry Hill West still looks like the team to beat. Senior lefthander Eli Atiya began the week 5-0 with an 0.64 ERA. Senior Ryan Widmeier had a 1.91 ERA. One of the offensive leaders is outfielder Scott Shaw, who will attend Rider. Ocean City began the week 16-3 and had won 11 in a row. Shortstop Brandon Lashley is the leader of the potent offense. He began the week hitting .452. He also was 5-0 with a microscopic 0.27 ERA.
 
Triton (15-3 to start the week) lost two in a row to end last week to Clearview and Bishop Eustace, but those teams are South Jersey title contenders so playing that type of competition will help the Mustangs. Triton is also the only team to have defeated Haddonfield, which was scheduled to face Shawnee in the Diamond Classic championship.
 
Like Triton, Highland earned a berth in the Diamond Classic and lost 3-2 to Shawnee in the first round. That showed that the Tartans can compete with virtually any team in South Jersey. Mark Cotton (3-1, 0.29) is among the leaders of an impressive pitching staff.
 
Hammonton has had its ups and downs but the Blue Devils also have a deep staff and should be a tough out in Group 3. Senior Michael Walter, who will attend Stockton, was 5-0 with a 1.42 ERA to begin the week. Senior Stephen Restuccio, a Virginia Tech recruit, is rounding into form on the mound as well.
 
Mainland, which has split its two regular season games with Ocean City, is another serious contender. Don’t be surprised if another team or two not mentions surfaces in this deep Group 3 field. For instance Toms River East, which began the week 6-11, just beat defending Group 4 champion Jackson, among the favorites this season in the Ocean County Tournament.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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