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South Jersey Group 1 and Group 2 Baseball Preview

South Jersey Group 1 and Group 2 Baseball Preview
The NJSIAA state tournament begins on Monday May 21 and Groups 1 and 2 might be among the most wide open in South Jersey.

Audubon is the defending South Jersey Group 1 champion, beating Pennsville, 4-3, in last year’s final. While Audubon is listed as a contender, the Green Wave won’t be among the favorites.
Gateway is expected to be the top seed, according to the latest power points from NJ.com. (At press time, official pairings have yet to be released).

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Gateway is the expected top seed and will be dangerous, although a recent 7-0 loss to Audubon, shows that nothing is far from automatic. (Gateway had beaten Audubon 9-0 in their first meeting).

The No. 2 through No. 4 seeds are expected to be Haddon Heights, Glassboro and Schalick, but it is the likely No. 5 seed that bears watching.

That would be Pennsville, which won the state Group 1 title in 2016 before falling to Audubon in last year’s sectional final.

The Eagles have one of the best players in the state in senior centerfielder Max Dineen, who began the week with a single-season school record 13 home runs.

Dineen has signed with Virginia Tech, but he may have another decision to make once the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft takes place. He is a viable candidate to be taken among the first enough rounds.

Dineen also pitched for the first time last week and could be a valuable in that role in the postseason. 

Other Group 1 teams to watch include Gloucester, which earned a berth (losing to Seneca) in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
So there should be a least a half dozen candidates to win the sectional crown, in what is considered one of the most balanced Groups in South Jersey.

 

Group 2

 

The race for the Group 2 title should be just as tight. Manasquan is the defending champion. Yet, at the beginning of the week, Manasquan was just 8-11, but the Big Blue Warriors have played a difficult Shore Conference schedule and they can’t be discounted.

The Colonial Conference will surely have a say in the Group 2 champion. Three of the top four projected seeds are from the Colonial, No. 1 West Deptford, No. 2 Haddonfield and No. 4 Sterling.

Haddonfield has beaten Sterling twice and was 1-0 vs. West Deptford with one game to play.
Led by catcher John Cristino, Haddonfield has a strong offense and righthander Jacob Small has been among the better pitchers in the area.

Nobody can count out Delran, expected to be the third seed and led by veteran coach Rich Bender, now in his 43rd season.

Two teams outside of the South Jersey area who are competing in SJ Group 2, Manchester Township and Point Pleasant Boro, also remain teams to watch in a Group that has no overwhelming favorite but plenty of contenders.
 
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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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