Brookdale baseball team No. 2 seed in Region

Jersey Blues won GSAC co-championship

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Johnny Johnson has had an entire season to digest what his Brookdale Community College baseball team does best, and what it doesn’t do so well.

This week, it will be back to training camp for the Jersey Blues as they prepare for the Region XIX Tournament in Gloucester/Camden. The Blues go into the tourney as the No. 2 seed behind Burlington.

Brookdale and Burlington shared the Garden State Athletic Conference championship with identical 16-2 records during the regular season. The two teams split their regular season series 1-1 leaving it up to a coin toss to determine the top seed. Burlington won the coin flip.

Johnson’s concern this week wasn’t the team’s seeding, but the fact that when they play Gloucester on Friday, it will be their first game in almost two weeks. The long layoff is a worry.

“It hurts hitting the most,” said Johnson. “It will help our pitching. We’ve been relying on a couple of guys and this will give them some rest.”

As a result on the layoff between the end of the regular season and the playoffs, Johnson will be using the practice time to keep his team sharp and work on the things that the team hasn’t done that well this year. That translates into a lot of ground balls for the infielders.

The infield defense hasn’t had the consistency that Johnson expected. It hasn’t been making the routine plays that should be automatic. The Blues will be working on that over and over this week. Despite the flaws, Johnson sees a defense that has the potential to be very good. It has been just that at times, but just not consistently enough. Johnson will be looking for the team to find its defensive rhythm this week.

To keep his team sharp, Johnson will have the Blues play intra-squad scrimmages. The hitters will do more than just take batting practice. Johnson will be stressing situational hitting to keep hitters from falling into the bad habits that can come from BP, where they try to hit home runs. The strength of this year’s offense hasn’t been its power hitting, but clutch, situational hitting: getting the key two-out hit, or advancing runners into scoring position with outs.

The pitching is set with Lex Wolfe (4-2) getting the start in the first game.

Joe Behan (6-2), Anthony Angarano (3-1) and Jed Rehfuss (5-2) round out the starting rotation. Cory Hawes (five saves) has been the team’s closer.

Paddy Matera has been the clutch hitter on an offense that is batting .336 as a team. He is batting .400 on the season and leads the team in RBIs (38). Of his 50 hits, he has 16 doubles, two triples and a home run.

Jimmy Principe has 33 RBIs and leads the team with four home runs. He has 10 doubles and five triples and leads the team with 65 hits while batting .417.

Jordan Marsch leads the team with a .423 average and has had 20 RBIs.

Ryan Smith (.345) with 27 RBIs and Melvin Perez (.297) with 23 have been very productive as well.

All the pieces are there, Johnson believes, for his team to win the Region title for a second straight year and go on to the World Series.

“I feel confident, but I still want us to play the perfect game,” said Johnson. “If we do, I know we can win. If we don’t play well, we could be home after two games.”

Brookdale was 29-12 during the regular season and is ranked No. 6 in the country among Division III junior college teams. The Region XIX tournament runs through Sunday (for the if-necessary game). There will be a doubleheader Friday morning with the winners advancing to play each another later in the afternoon. The first game’s losers will play in the p.m. with the loser out.

Saturday, the survivor of that afternoon game between the first-round losers will play the loser of the afternoon game between the first-round winners.

The team that went 2-0 Friday will wait to see who they play Saturday afternoon. If it goes 3-0, they are the champions. If they lose, there is the if-necessary game on Sunday that will determine the winner in the double-elimination format.