E.B. Legion team on to Southern District playoffs

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

The East Brunswick Junior American Legion team is headed south this weekend to participate in the Southern District portion of the state tournament.

The Bears earned their ticket with an upset of the No. 2 seed in the county, Father and Sons of Edison, on Friday, 12-2. It was an impressive performance from a team that head coach Joe Cruz said is better than people think.

"I think people may have underestimated both our hitting and our pitching a little bit, based on the regular season," he said. "The first time we played Father and Sons, we had to use outfielders to pitch because of the crazy schedule. But this time, we were rested and ready to go with our top guys."

Nick Meyers was the top guy on Friday, pitching all six innings of the 10-run shortened contest, and shutting down the potent Father and Sons line-up.

"They got two runs off him in the third inning, but the rest of the way he was really superb," Cruz said. "And the rest of the guys played flawlessly behind him. We had no errors and just played a dynamite game in the field."

Offensively, East Brunswick was firing on all cylinders from the very start. The Bears got three runs in the first inning as left fielder Eric Zimmerman drove in Angel Sotomayer and Anthony Viani with triple, before scoring on a passed ball.

The Bears got another three runs in the fourth, when David Cruz knocked in Richard Auteri, before scoring himself on a passed ball after advancing to third on a Joseph Giaquinto double. Giaquinto then scored the inning’s final run on yet another passed ball.

In the fifth, Auteri put the game out of reach with a three-run home run to left-center field. The Bears then tacked on three more in the sixth to end the game.

"The kids really played a perfect game, and are excited about this weekend," Cruz said.

East Brunswick heads down to Tabernacle for a Southern District opening-round game against Gloucester Township at 7 p.m. With a win, the Bears would play again on Sunday, while a loss would mean a Monday game in the opening-round of the loser’s bracket.

On Saturday, Cruz expects to go with Justin Kaplan on the mound, and hopes his team can continue its hot hitting. The Bears have a number of players hitting well above the .300 mark this summer, led by Viani (.585), Robert Drako (.475), Sotomayer (.463) and Zimmerman (.449). Some of the other top averages belong to Meyers (.427), Giaquinto (.410), Cruz (.377), Kaplan (.400), Zach Tardiff (.375), and Frank Steinhauser (.351).