By TOM WILLIAMS
The Ocean City High School baseball team seeks to make history on Saturday night.
Andrew Bristol’s Raiders (19-7) will face Pascack Valley (24-5) to decide the NJSIAA State Group 3 championship and hopes to add their name to this list.
The Raiders have been to the state championship game before. They lost to Cranford, 15-3, in 2010 and to Northern Highlands, 7-2, in 2016. Both games were played at Toms River High School North.
Saturday’s game (7pm) will be played at Bob DeMeo Field located in Veterans Park in Hamilton, just outside Trenton. If you are going, set you GPS for Klockner Road. The field is named in memory of DeMeo, an outstanding high school baseball player from the area who was working his way through the Phillies’ minor league system when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1981. The game will be live-streamed HERE.
Gannon Brady, who was named the winner of the Billy Schoppy Memorial Award as the best athlete in the Cape-Atlantic League’s Class of 2021 on Wednesday, will get the start in the game. In his two playoff games (wins over Lacey & Mainland) Brady has a 0.50 ERA, 22 strikeouts & 3 hits in 14 innings. He is 10th in the state with 77 strikeouts this year.
The Raiders have prepared for this game with a tough schedule that included the state’s No. 1 ranked team – Mainland (the rankings haven’t changed yet since the Raiders beat the Mustangs). OCHS also played No. 5 Bishop Eustace; No. 6 Williamstown; No. 7 Gloucester Catholic; No. 14 St. Augustine; and No. 20 Holy Spirit. The Raiders are ranked No. 9 in New Jersey.
Pascack Valley, which will be playing its first state final, is ranked No. 19 and has won five straight. Like Ocean City, the Indians played a tough schedule. Among their losses were St. Joseph-Montvale, ranked No. 3 in the state and the team that beat St. Augustine in Wednesday’s state final; and No. 8 Don Bosco Prep.
After scoring in double figures 10 times during the regular season, the Indians have won four of their Group 3 Tournament games by one run and have not generated a lot of offense. Their top pitcher is senior righthander Cole Porter, who threw 112 pitches on Monday but is available Saturday. Sophomore lefthander Anthony Sodano pitched well in the North Jersey championship game last week, though Porter got the last two outs. Infielder Joe Cilea, outfielder Brad Salamone and designated hitter Dave Cohen – all juniors – are key hitters for Pascack Valley.
Last week in Linwood, the 2021 OCHS baseball team became the 29th Ocean City team to win a South Jersey title in the last 10 years.
But these Raiders already earned their spot on that list. Saturday night, in the final NJSIAA sports event of the 2020-21 school year, they will be trying to become something no OCHS baseball team ever has – State Champions!