Raiders great spring continues this week

By TOM WILLIAMS

The Ocean City High School sports teams have had a terrific spring – and it continues this week with Raiders competing for six championships.

It all starts today when the girls lacrosse, baseball and softball teams play in NJSIAA tournaments.

Tomorrow, the baseball team is back in action against Absegami seeking a share of the Cape-Atlantic League’s National Conference championship.

The boys lacrosse team plays in an NJSIAA game on Wednesday. And, on Friday and Saturday, the boys and girls track teams will compete in the South Jersey Group 3 championship meets at Delsea Regional High School and the crew teams will head to the Buckeye State.

OCHS girls lacrosse is enters today’s game with an 18-2 record, tying the school record for wins in a season and assuring themselves of having the best won-lost percentage in school history. The Raiders spanked Central Regional, 19-3, in the first round on Group 3 with senior Danielle Donoghue scoring three goals and adding seven assists, setting a new school record for most career assists. She topped the old mark of 167 set by Tess Solazzo six years ago. Ashley Devlin scored five times and Emily DiMarino added four.

The Raiders will host Seneca (14-3) tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Carey Stadium. Ocean City will enter the game ranked No. 10 in the state by NJ.com (No. 3 among South Jersey teams). The winner will face the winner between Moorestown and Cherry Hill West on Thursday in the South Jersey final. Moorestown is the top-ranked team in South Jersey and No. 5 in the state. The Quakers defeated the Raiders, 19-11, in the season-opener two months ago.

The baseball team is 18-3 with a 13-game win streak as it opens Group 3 play on Monday against Gloucester Tech (6-12-1). The Raiders notched that 13th straight win last week over Middle Township, 10-0, with Jaden Millstein and Tom Breazeale each delivering two hits. The winner of the OCHS-Gloucester Tech game will play the winner between Highland and Toms River East on Thursday.

But, even if that Thursday Group 3 game materializes, the Raiders have a challenge before that. Andrew Bristol’s team will host Absegami (14-5) on Tuesday seeking a share of the conference title. Mainland clinched half of the National Conference championship on Friday when the Mustangs defeated Absegami. The winner of Tuesday’s game will finish tied with the Mustangs for the crown.

Of course, with key games grouped so closely together within a week, Bristol has pitching decisions to make. And he has plenty of options. Senior Brandon Lashley is 6-0 with a 0.48 earned run average. Sophomore Gannon Brady (5-0, 1.56), senior A.J. Campbell (1-2, 2.52), freshman Tom Finnegan (4-1, 1.04) and sophomore Matt Nunan (2-0, 1.22) give Bristol a smorgasbord of choices.

Ocean City’s boys lacrosse team (19-2) is having the greatest season in the history of the program. The Raiders opened Group 3 play with an 18-2 win over Toms River South and followed with a 13-3 win over West Windsor-Plainsboro North. Christian Kuhn had five goals and Trent Laveson and Noam Levy-Smith four each in the win over South. Against WW-P North, Levy-Smith scored six times with Ted Grimley and Jake Schneider each getting two goals. Anthony Inserra, who leads all CAL teams in assists, had six in the two games. It also marked the first time the OCHS boys lacrosse team has won two NJSIAA tournament games in a season.

The Raiders will play Shawnee (14-3) on Wednesday at Carey Stadium. OCHS is ranked No. 12 in the state and Shawnee is No. 13. The winner will face the Moorestown-Clearview winner in the South Jersey final on Saturday. Moorestown, despite its 8-9 record, is ranked No. 11 in the state.

This spring reflects the outstanding job being done by Joe LaTorre and Alyssa-Rae Morrison with Ocean City’s lacrosse programs. Both teams were undefeated conference champions, the girls winning for the third straight year and the boys for the fourth time in five years. And both coaches have the most wins in the history of the Ocean City programs. Lacrosse has become a big sport at OCHS and LaTorre and Morrison are the big reasons.

Another program making history is in softball. The Raiders are 15-5, the most wins in John Bruno’s 20 seasons at the helm. And, last week, the Raiders defeated Highland, 4-3, in eight innings on a walk-off walk with the bases loaded for his first NJSIAA victory. Christina Barbarella had two hits for Ocean City and Hailey Neville scattered eight hits for the win.

Bruno, who is stepping down as OCHS softball coach at the end of the season, will take the team to Hammonton on Monday for a second round Group 3 game. The winner of that game will play the Mainland-Moorestown winner on Thursday. The last time OCHS softball won as many as 15 games in a season was in 1989 – also the last time the team won two NJSIAA games in a season.

This weekend the track teams will seek South Jersey titles. The favorite in the boys meet is probably Delsea and Timber Creek is likely the girls team to beat. Kevin King and Lane Owens have had record-setting seasons in boys track and both Luke Kramer and Mike Rhodes have been strong. Casey McLees, Sophia Gresham and Emma Sacco are among the top contenders for medals on the girls team. Sophomore distance champion Alexa Palmieri has been unavailable because of injury this spring.

A half-dozen or so boats from the OCHS crew program will also be in action this weekend about 500 miles to the west at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America’s National Championship Regatta in Ohio. The girls junior eight recently gained national attention by winning at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuykill River in Philadelphia. In the boat were Ryleigh Mack, Alexis O’Keefe, Vanessa Karayiannis, Michaela Carroll, Juliana Giardina, Maggie Clunn, Carly Dougherty, Alexia Schmidt and coxswain Mackenzie Thurlow.

There have been other big weeks for OCHS sports but this one could be really big. And it all starts today.