Blues in World Series for third straight year

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

The power of positive thinking has Brookdale Community College in the Junior College World Series.

In the near two-week layoff the Jersey Blues had between the end of the regular season and the start of the Region XIX tournament, coach Johnny Johnson took his team back to spring training mode, and let them know there was no reason why they couldn’t win the Region title and go onto the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in Tyler, Texas.

“It [the layoff] was good for us,” said Johnson, whose team has now won three consecutive Region championships. “We had a great week of practice. We worked on the things we needed to work on.

“We kept preaching to them we were the best team in the Region and that we hadn’t played a perfect game this year,” he added.

The Blues (35-12) got that message and played like they were the Region’s best team, going 3-0 in the double-elimination tournament, saving their best baseball of the season for when it counted the most.

“We played three perfect games,” said Johnson.

Brookdale beat Gloucester in extra innings, 9-8, and host Camden twice, 4-1 and 15-3, to punch its ticket to Tyler.

It all started with that come-from-behind win in extra innings, the type of win that always seems to be the launching pad for a championship run.

Trailing Gloucester 8-4 into the eighth inning, the Blues would eventually tie it in the bottom of the ninth on tournament Most Valuable Player Paddy Matera’s two-RBI double.

The Blues then won it in the bottom of the 10th on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Melvin Perez (the Bronx, N.Y.), which plated Jordan Marsch (Brick Township) with the game-winner.

“When we beat Gloucester in the bottom of the 10th, they knew they weren’t losing,” Johnson said of his team.

They didn’t.

Great pitching highlighted the 4-1 win over Camden. Joe Behan (Old Bridge) and Jed Rehfuss (Lakewood) teamed up to limit Camden to just a single run over nine innings and put the Blues in the May 12 final.

Camden would bounce back (beating Gloucester in the losers’ bracket final) to meet Brookdale in the final, only to be flattened by the Blues power.

Brookdale slammed six home runs, two by Artie Kaylor (Middletown North) and another by Jimmy Principie (Toms River East), as everything clicked for the Blues. Matera went 5-for-5 with five RBIs and a home run.

“We just came out swinging,” said Johnson. “We had 57 hits in the tournament.”

MVP Matera (Toms River North) was 8-for-14 in the tournament with nine RBIs, a home run and five doubles as the shortstop seemed to be in the middle of every Brookdale rally.